Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Nine: Episode 8, Proof

Nine: Episode 8

Sun-woo appears in his 2012 car, hyperventilating. 1992 hyung looks up, amazed that the madman has disappeared. Sun-woo drives straight to the restaurant where hyung is and procedes to beat the crap out of him, and then collapses again.

Min-young reads the news. They say again that it's the 31st and the last show of the year. That doesn't really fit with being the night of Dad's death, which was the 30th. Usually. She gets permission to read Sun-woo's prewritten closing because it was his last show. It says, “History of mankind proves that the arrogance of a man, of believing he is the only one who could change the world, has led many heroes to their doom.” If that's not a comment on the drama I don't know what is. And I loved it when the two staffers complained that Park Sun-woo was their boss' favorite and could get away with anything. Hahaha!

They take Sun-woo away in an ambulance but he pulls the drama trick of ripping out the IV and running off. He calls hyung and yells at him for lying for 20 years. Hyung says that Mom would not let him take the blame. Tears.

Sun-woo retrieves his car and drives to the hospital again to light an incense stick for the third time that night. [eleventh time travel - 15:45] At 1:30 he walks into the office, empty except for Dad lying on the floor in a pool of blood. More tears. He retreats to the break room to review the recordings, and watches Dad accuse Choi of being hyung's father. Mom slaps Dad, Dad slaps Mom, Dad strangles Mom, Mom shouts. Sun-woo can't look, and we don't see it either.

Choi comes in to start the cover-up. Hyung goes back to his girlfriend's house, lets himself in, and crawls under the blanket with her and her daughter as they sleep. 2012 Hyung staggers into his office for more propofol. 1992 Evil Henchman comes in with gasoline and starts the fire as Sun-woo watches on his screen. He suddenly recollects his teen self should be showing up soon and is outside by the time the kid arrives. We see him blown back by the blast again.

Back in 2012, Sun-woo visits Dr. Choi to apologize for suspecting him of murder and accuse him of arson and blackmail. He gives Choi a thumbdrive and warns that he hasn't hit the bottom of the sea yet. We view that remark through a panel of glass with a wavy mark cut in it. Nice. Choi watches the video, the one of himself threatening hyung, incredulous.

December 31, 1992. Teen Dr. Han tries to call Sun-woo but can't get him. He suggests to the girls they cancel the train trip, and one of them leaves, but Future Mrs. H. won't let him off. She totally makes the two-fingered curse gesture she makes in 2012 and drags him off with a grin on her face. Ha. She's already got him around her little finger.

Presumably the same day, 2012. A distracted Dr. Han drops his kids off at school. He gets a message purporting to be “the last message” from Sun-woo, acknowledging the incense is a curse and refusing to tell what happened. We are shown the cops in the burned-out room and then the scene from the end of episode 7 as Sun-woo walked into the office to see his dad on the floor. The message cuts off and Dr. Han leaves his wife on the sidewalk and races off to Sun-woo's house. No one answers at the gate, so he totally scales the wall. Go Dr. Han! And then he can't bring himself to jump down so he walks the wall to a better spot up the hill, lol. Inside, he finds Sun-woo passed out on the floor again, with pieces of his phone around him. Why? Despair? Dr. Han puts him to bed and gets the news that the incense sticks have been left in the past. Aww...

Min-young shows up and Dr. Han lets her go upstairs. That white sculpture looks like it was made hastily of mat-board. He calls Dr. Yoon's office, who I assume is a brain cancer specialist, while she goes in and puts the room to rights (because Dr. Han had made a mess looking for the incense). Sun-woo wakes up and we get another famous conversation.

“Can I ask you a question? Will you answer me?”
“I will do my best.”
“Why did you desert the news?”
“That's a secret.”
“Why did you beat up Dad?”
“That's a secret too.”
“Are you sick?”
“That's a secret.”
“You said that you would try your best.”
“Don't you have an easier question?”

I love that. It strikes me as hilarious.

There is a last shot of the incense case in the fire. Everything around it is burning but it isn't because guess what? It's made of metal. And it's fireproof. There was a new time travel but it caused no changes, although Dr. Choi is getting some ideas. But no decisions have been made yet, so it's still the same time stream.

Running count – time travels: 11; remaining incense sticks: 2; Timelines: Past4, Present3

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Nine Episode 7, The disappearing man

Nine Episode 7

December 30, 1992, 10:30 pm. After a quick view of Dad at his hospital office saying goodnight to the nurse, we pick up where we left off at Sun-woo appearing in his younger self's room. He pulls out his ID for proof of who he is, and asks teen self to call Dad and get him to come home. Originally Dad had been killed in a fire in his office and he wants him to get out of there. Here we get a new time line, because the intervention changes something. Teen self yells to Dad for help but gets knocked out (and a cut) in the resulting scuffle, and Dad heads for home. I would have called the cops. I guess it's not far though, because adult Sun-woo takes the family car and they pass each other on the road.

Sun-woo sets up the cameras in Dad's office and calls teen self to get him to keep Dad at home. They need to meet the next day and he'll explain how to save someone's life. Then he watches on his computer as hyung walks into the office. He's completely shocked.

Dr. Han in 2012 waits impatiently, looking at an article on his computer about Dr. Dad dying in the fire. It dissolves in smoke and reappears unchanged except with a time four hours later. Now we have Present3. Sun-woo reappears in his own time in his bedroom again. Interesting. He doesn't reappear in the place he was at, but in the place he left from. Min-young had gotten a lock-smith to get the door open. Sun-woo is curt with them and heads to work.

Teen Sun-woo remembers suddenly that he was supposed to keep Dad home but Dad has gone back. He rides his bike over to the hospital, opens the office door, and is blown back by the flames.

2012 Sun-woo at work walks past a clock showing 11:30. He calls hyung to ask what he was doing the night Dad died but hyung doesn't admit anything. In 1992 we see medics bringing Dad's body out of the hospital in the daylight the next morning. Back in 2012 Sun-woo broadcasts the news for December 31. Dr. Choi texts that when he got to the hospital on that fateful night at 12:30, Dad was already dead. The fire was at 2 am.

This is bad news for Sun-woo because if Dad died before 12:30 he doesn't have much time to fix it. He deserts the anchor desk and beats it over to the hospital. At 12:20 Dad of 1992 walks into his office and argues with hyung and then with Mom when she arrives. He drops the bombshell that hyung is someone else's son.

Sun-woo arrives in front of the hospital, lights incense, and disappears into 1992. [tenth time travel: 41:09] It's 12:28. He hears Mom scream and runs into the office to see Dad dead on the floor with hyung kneeling next to him. Mom claims it's an accident as hyung hightails it out of there. He nearly gets run down by Dr. Choi, who sees the blood on him. Sun-woo chases hyung down, and catching up to him in an alley, grabs him by the shirt, ready to do mayhem, but disappears into 2012 as his time runs out.

Running count – time travels: 10; remaining incense sticks: 3; Timeline: Past4, Present3.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Two Years of Kdrama

Happy Ides of March! It was two years ago today that Nampyeon and I started watching Korean Dramas. At the one-year mark I reviewed everything I had seen that year. Mostly they were older classic dramas that had finished airing. I looked on lists of people's favorite shows, and chose the ones with more fans and that seemed to have happy endings. Sometimes we agreed with the popular lists, sometimes not. Not until the end of the year did we branch out into some that were new and still airing. And then it was one that was heavily publicized. It really didn't make the grade, but by then we had discovered discussion groups. Bashing a bad show and sympathizing with everyones' remarks was almost as fun as watching a good show. Almost.

We saw an amazing lot of shows that year. Maybe because we hadn't been watching tv for a long time and were surprised that there was a long list of shows that actually interested us. We inhaled two or three episodes a night, more on weekends. Until we decided we were spending way-y-y too much time on this and cut down to one episode a day.

That first year we watched about 40 dramas. That is 40 mini-series, not episodes. This year we watched about half that. We also started a lot that we didn't finish. Some we only gave time for one episode before dropping, some we gave 10. But we learned not to watch something thinking it would get better, if we just didn't like it. There are too many out there for you to give your evening to one that bores or annoys you.

We have been clued in to which dramas and actors were popular, which got buzz, which tanked. Yes, we discovered that we weren't the only people that thought dramas tended to go downhill half way through. We started getting favorite actors and even remembering the names of some of them. Which is something when you consider how alien they seemed to us at first, just a collection of odd syllables recycled and interchanged randomly. We have kept an eye on new dramas coming out and had some catch our interest before they even aired. Some of these were because of an actor, some because of storyline. Some justified our interest and some were disappointing but we definitely had our own opinions.

It's time to post reviews of the last year's dramas. Luckily Nampyon kept a list of them all.

1. Scent of a Woman - A woman with a diagnosis of terminal cancer decides to go ahead and do all the things she had always wanted to do but was too hesitant to do. It is quite entertaining to watch, and not too depressing considering that diagnosis. ***

2. Dalja's Spring -  A career woman passes a younger guy off as her boyfriend and then begins to get fond of him. Full of silly escapades. It's well done, and I especially liked the way some of our first impressions of a major rival and an antagonistic boss get turned on their heads. Don't miss the wonderful solo at the ending party. ***

3. Secret Love Affair - A 40-year-old married woman falls in love with a 20-year-old piano prodigy. His sincerity causes her to reassess her messy life of power plays and unethical behavior. I was originally put off by the topic and the steamy promotional pictures, but was pulled in by the wonderful classical music and Yoo Ah In's believable piano playing. This drama was really well done and artistically shot, and is one of my favorites. *****

4. Lovers in Prague - A diplomat in Prague who happens to be the president's daughter meets a middle class detective. The love story is a bumpy ride due to ex-boy- and girlfriends and to their very different social classes, but both the main leads are endearing. An enjoyable watch. ***

5. Three Days - The Korean secret service has three days to find their missing president. It takes a lot longer than that but they don't point it out. Yoochun is good as a rookie agent and it's quite watchable despite a lot of plot holes. ***

6. Doctor Stranger - In what must be the worst hospital in the world they had a contest for best doctor; involving all kinds of shenanigans and coverups, including refusing surgery to patients. This is the most awful mess of a drama ever. It was however entertaining to watch the catfight between fans of the two female leads. Kang Sora's acting was so much better and her scenes with Lee Jong Suk were so cute, that people wanted them to end up together. *

7. Sly and Single Again - This was one of a rash of stories about exes getting together again. A woman divorces her nerd husband and then gets a job at his company when he strikes it big. His business partner likes him and the partner's brother likes the ex-wife. ***

8. King of High School - A high school hockey star stands in for his brother as an executive in a big company. There are lots of great secondary characters like the high school pals and the grandpa; and Seo In Guk is hilarious. My only problem is the idea of an adult dating a high school kid. It's a very cute show anyway and my 10-year-old granddaughter loved it. *****

9. Reply 1997 - Watched this partly for its reputation and partly for In Guk. It's a high schooler show where he and his older brother both like the same girl. She is crazy for kpop idols and pretty annoying. I was not won over. **

10. Marriage Not Dating - A salesgirl and a surgeon fake an engagement to keep his mother from pestering him to get married. It's pretty cute with a lot of great slapstick, but falls prey to the second-half slowdown. ***

11. Pasta - The new head chef in a posh restaurant turns the place upside down, changing things and yelling at everyone. A kitchen helper tries to make perfect spaghetti and get promoted to chef.  Lee Sun Gyun has a wonderful, resonant voice. ***

12. My Secret Hotel - Started watching this because of Yoo In Ah (not to be confused with Yoo Ah In) and the storyline of a body falling through the ceiling onto a wedding. It tanked pretty fast and became a very dull story of indecision. The only ray of light was the detective. *

13. Surplus Princess - A mermaid falls in love with a tv chef and kisses him when he falls overboard. She gets a potion from the sea witch to turn her tail into legs and has 100 days to get the chef to love her. This was a cute show, especially the sea witch, who was played by the same guy as the detective in Secret Hotel. Unfortunately it was not liked in Korea and got cut to 10 episodes when they had 9 already filmed. The storyline was supposed to have the mermaid chase after the chef only to fall in love with another man. Consequently the last episode is a hurried up affair. ***

14. The Three Musketeers - A cross between the famous novel and Korean history during the time of King Injo, written and produced by the people who gave us Nine Time Travels. The crown prince (Lee Jin wook, also from Nine) with his two pals tries to improve Korea's relations with foreign powers while his father the king continually messes things up. Into this walks Jung Yong Hwa as D'Artagnan, the newbie but excellent swordfighter, impressing everyone by his improved acting skills. This was intended to be the first of three parts, but the other two got cancelled. The drama was good except for some big plot holes in the latter third. ****

15. Blade Man - Promoted as the story of a superhero who sprouts knife blades when angry, this morphed into a melodrama where the female lead helps him control his anger, and then the whole thing was hijacked by The-Return-of-the-Not-Dead-Wife like The Prime Minister and I. It was cute until then. ***

16. When a Man Loves - A melodrama about a man who rises from a gangster background to become a successful businessman. He and his protege both fall for the same girl, who strings them both along. I don't actually know why either of them would like her. **

17. Misaeng - Interns in a large trading company struggle for success and acceptance in a hostile business culture and against their bosses' prejudices. I picked the show up because of Kang Sora and the opening scenes in Jordan. It was taken from a popular webtoon and really struck a chord with Koreans for being so true to life. One of the best shows ever! *****

18. IRIS - Two friends are recruited together as secret agents. They work sometimes together and sometimes at odds, falling in love with (you guessed it) the same woman. One of them is injured on a mission to Hungary. He is betrayed and pursued, and finds help where he least expects it. Suspenseful and enthralling with a tragic ending. *****

19. Bride of the Century - A woman becomes engaged to the oldest son of a wealthy family and then finds out about a curse that the first wife of the oldest son will die young. Her brother finds a girl who looks just like her, and they plot to substitute this girl to beat the curse. The best part of the drama is the ghost who shows up from time to time to help or scare people or otherwise move things along. Engaging leads, very cute. *****

20. Pinocchio - A fireman is killed in a factory explosion and a female reporter pins the blame on him and ruins his family. Later, her daughter becomes a reporter and helps the son of the fireman to uncover the secrets behind the fire and restore the fireman's good name. ***

21. Ghost - A genius computer hacker and his policeman friend, both investigating a murder, are injured in an explosion. The policeman dies, but a policewoman helps the hacker get reconstructive plastic surgery to look like the dead man. Together they track down a web of murders and bribes. Extremely well done and engrossing. *****

22. The King's Face - Set during the time of King Seonjo, face reading is like astrology and the king has been told his face is not propitious. Maneuvering for power, he kills the family of the girl Prince Gwanghae loves, and she spends the rest of the show with a sour face.  It gets interesting during the Japanese invasion of 1592 and we get to enjoy all the beautiful sets of armor. After that, more jockeying for power. ***

23. Healer - A night courier who does any job short of  murder for a price, steals DNA samples from young women until he locates the target. He rescues her a couple of times and then fall for her. They find that their lives are linked in a tragic past which his manager, Ahjumma, helps them discover and overcome. She is the coolest female geek ever. This show has heart and was SO FUN to watch. *****

24. Kill Me, Heal Me - A man with a split personality meets a psychiatry resident whose brother writes mystery novels. They both have childhood amnesia. The brother has researched their secret pasts, which seem connected, and arranges a meeting. They unravel things together as they regain their memories. This drama seemed like it would be a real bomb at first, since two other lead actors turned it down. But Ji Sung did an absolutely wonderful job of bringing the personalities to life, and captivated the audience. Fascinating! *****

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Nine: Episode 6, The most common disease

Nine: Episode 6

While Sun-woo and Min-young are eating, young Dr. Boyfriend shows up with a fruit basket. He is so cheerful and cute I can't hate him. He just isn't Sun-woo, and he makes Sun-woo jealous. Ah well, I guess we have to have a love triangle. Sun-woo sends them out to dinner and when Min-young returns we get the famous conversation where she gives him the innocent kitten look and he admits that he had a girlfriend but she has amnesia and can't remember him. She objects and he says it's in dramas all the time and is the most common disease in the world. Hahaha.

December 30, 2012. Dr. and Mrs. Han sit outside and argue about whether he is acting weird or not. (He is.) He asks about the girlfriend Sun-woo had as a teenager. She says that girl has been married three times and the second divorce was because of alcoholism. She doesn't say who was doing the drinking, but maybe Old Girlfriend was not such a bargain.

December 30, 1992. Teen Sun-woo plans a train trip with said Old Girlfriend. He drags Dr. Han along and she talks her friend, the future Mrs. Han into coming, even though she thinks Dr. Han is smart but dull. Teen Dr. Han queries Sun-woo about the mysterious Christmas card, but he can't explain it. He can't explain his mother thinking he gave her a necklace either. She had asked him about his injured friend (which was his excuse for standing her up to see a movie with Old Girlfriend) and thanked him for the necklace. It was adult Sun-woo who had done those things.

Dec 30. 2012. The family visits Mom at the care center and she still wears that necklace. Sun-woo feels strange because it's his first time to see his brother alive again. When hyung pulls up a sleeve to wipe a spill he exposes needle marks. He claims they are vitamin shots but Sun-woo is suspicious, especially when he finds a drug bottle in the car. They visit Dad at the charnel house and we see the urn labeled with the death date, December 30, 1992. Sun-woo gets his sister-in-law to admit that hyung has a drug problem; she tells him that he's bipolar and has insomnia. She also tells him that Dad had not liked her and told her to break up.

Still December 30, 2012. Dr. Choi holds a press conference to refute the allegations against his research facility. Then he calls Sun-woo and out of nowhere says that he is not the person who killed his father; it was someone else. He admits he had misused funds and forged documents and was suspected of the murder, but was found innocent. Sun-woo floors Choi by saying his father died at 11pm on that day twenty years ago, and there are two hours to go. He will find out for himself and call Choi back. He borrows some camcorders from the studio.

10:00 pm, December 30, 1992. Dr. Choi argues with some investors over the phone and then with Dad to try to get him to invest in his research. Dad is as harsh with Choi as with his son.

10:10 pm, December 30, 2012. Dr. Han going over paperwork recalls Sun-woo saying he couldn't resist time travel. We see Sun-woo throwing up and then calling Dr. Han. “You told me I had three months,” he says, “but it's gotten a lot worse over the last week.” He feels like the incense shortens his life. 10:20 pm. Dr. Han pacing his office recalls Sun-woo telling him that Hyung is addicted to Propofol and is still unhappy because their father died. He wants to go save their father. Young Dr. Boyfriend walks in with something for him to sign and scares him half to death. He asks Y. Dr. B. who his girlfriend is and when he affirms, “Min-young,” Dr. Han says, “It hasn't changed yet.” Hahaha. Poor guy.

10:40 pm. Secret agent Park Sun-woo, in his black trench coat with the collar turned up, interfaces the mini-cams with his laptop and packs them up. He sets the timer on his watch for thirty minutes and lights the incense. Then he hears the doorbell. It's Min-young. She sees the light on in his room and lets herself in, but his door is locked. [ninth time travel: 46:25] He's still in his room, but he's shifted twenty years back. He turns on the light and looks calculatingly at his younger self sleeping peacefully. Not for long. He taps him gently on the cheek. Young Self wakes with a start and tries to shout. Old Self sits down on the bed beside him and claps his hand on his mouth. He says, “It's been a long time,” and lowers his hand as he registers a friendly look and decides not to yell. You getting all these pronouns? “Nice to meet you,” he says with a smile, “my name is Park Sun-woo.”

Running count – time travels: 9; remaining incense sticks: 4; Timeline: Past4, Present2

Monday, March 9, 2015

Nine: Episode 5, Memories that do not exist

 Nine: Episode 5

We pick up with Sun-woo and Dr. Han talking about the possible consequences of interfering with the past, since Sun-woo gave his brother's phone number to child Min-young. Neither of them detects any changed memories. But when Dr. Han goes into surgery, we see parallel clocks as child Min-young makes the call. Nothing happens until young hyung answers and then Dr. Han is flooded with new memories. [4:44] He is so shocked he drops his forceps. He pulls himself together enough to finish, and then we see him sprinting down the hall, our view alternating with one of hyung sprinting down other hospital halls to the ER to see his girl. Dr. Han finds an office door with hyung's name marked Chief. And up walks mature hyung, with his doctor's coat and a smile, alive and well. This is the scene that made my day in the preview.

Sun-woo sits bemused at the restaurant as alternate memories cascade in [8:01] and is so shaken that he drops his glass. He asks the waiter if he came in alone, because in the other time line he had been with Min-young. He collapses and relives a memory of hyung's wedding, which is new, and one labeled December 30, 1992 of walking into his father's office and being blown back by the explosion, which is the same as before. The 30 conflicts with the 31 we were told in episode 3. Hmm.

Min-young sits by Sun-woo's bed wiping his brow, which might have been helpful if the towel had been wet. He is remembering summer 2007 when she first came to work as a reporter. She now tells him she just returned from Nepal and calls him Uncle. It hits him that he has turned his wife into his niece, which makes him pretty much grumpypants the rest of the series. He goes to find Dr. Han, who is at the church praying but getting no answers. Sun-woo quips that the incense is from the Himalayas so they need to pray in a Hindu temple. Haha. They notice a conundrum. Hyung did not die in the Himalayas so Sun-woo didn't go to retrieve his belongings. Nevertheless, he still has the record and the case of incense sticks. For whatever reason items you bring back will remain. Also, even though both our guys remember the other timeline, Min-young does not. Remembering alternate timelines must hinge on whether you know about time traveling or not.

Young Dr. Kang, the resident, refers to Dr. Han as his attending physician. Since I have a daughter in med school, I now know what that is, hehe. Dr. Han asks,“Did I set you up with Min-young last summer?” Kang replies, “You said you wouldn't ask!” but has to admit he still sees her. A flash-back to summer 2012 shows them being introduced. Dr. Han now hilariously whines, “Can't you break up with her?” He is totally having a cow at the whole situation, in contrast with Sun-woo who is somewhat non-responsive.

Sun-woo gets a call from Min-young which he doesn't answer. His phone still shows the picture of her with the fur hood. It seems like he's still in shock to see her at his house cooking for him, and even more to hear his brother's voice on the phone. Hyung is on vacation, hears Sun-woo is not well, and says to let Min-young help him.

Poor Dr. Han taking his wife and daughters out to dinner is too spaced-out to function. His wife gets after him like a shrew and we wonder how serious was the joke he made last episode to save an incense stick for him so he can change his wife. He skips out to the hwajangsil and calls Sun-woo to suggest changing things back. They have time because the marriage was a year after their father died. Dr. Han says he shouldn't have used the incense lightly. But Sun-woo thinks it's more important that hyung is doing well and didn't die in the Himalayas. He eats Min-young's dinner, and her chatter and playing the Record from the Past gets him thinking about their honeymoon. [42:48] Enjoy it, because it's your only chance to see him happy. They go shopping and sightseeing and ride a flatboat on the lake. These are all scenes I've seen screencaps of, but forgotten where they belonged. The honeymoon that we didn't see from between episodes 3 and 4 gets shown in episode 5. We even see him taking that picture of her with the fur hood. So it should not have been on his phone in episode 1. (Unless it indicates multiple time loops?)

We revisit Sun-woo's conversation with Dr. Han outside the church about memories that do not exist in this world. The problem is that neither memories of changed events or things you bring from the past disappear. Han asks, “How is it possible?” and he answers, “It's pointless to ask that. None of it is possible.” Maybe the point is that the whole story is a fantasy and not to expect it to make any sense. Too bad. I want it to have rules. At this stage we know that items you bring back and injuries you sustain will remain. You move exactly 20 years (to the minute) into the past, appear in the same physical space you were in, and stay there for 30 minutes. You remember events that get erased, and acquire memories of the new version when exactly 20 years to the instant has rolled around.

Running count – time travels: 8 (no new); remaining incense sticks: 5; Timelines Past3, Present2