What Happened in Bali

(SBS 2004; alternative titles: Memories of Bali, Something Happened in Bali)

First, a big Ni Hao shout-out to all my chingus in dramaland (and a warning that what you are about to read may contain snippets of a newly discovered language I hereby dub KorChinGlish – trademark pending). Second, a happy wave to Thundie for allowing me a return trip to her blog. And finally, I’m back with a follow-up attempt to entertain you, with a K-drama review which I hope answers the age-old question everyone has been dying to know.

What the heck happened in Bali?

And why won’t anyone say anything about this drama other than the ominous “you should watch and find out.” Should you cue up the music of dread and ask your best friend to come over and watch with you, preferably with your eyes hidden behind your fingers? Heh, of course not, silly! [Unless your best friend happens to look EXACTLY like Lee Min Ho from Personal Taste, then the answer is a yesyesyesyesyes, and if I have to tell you why, you need a smack upside the head].

What Happened in Bali is a story about love. There, doesn’t that just calm you down considerably. You like dramas about love, right? [If you don’t, please exit stage left and keep walking – you’ll see the giant neon sign that says “Enter Here Ye All Who Have No Heart” and walk right on in - the Scarecrow from the Wizard of Oz, Stalin and the Stepmom from Brilliant Legacy will be waiting for you].

If you like dramas about love, and like even more dramas that treat you like an adult with a functioning brain, then have I got the drama for you! So strap on your seat belt, and let’s go for a Mr. Frog’s Wild Ride-esque trip through the deepest, darkest, recesses of “love” with a gang of strapping, young things.

Hey, wait a Lostie minute! On second thought, you may want to have your best friend on speed dial (even if he doesn’t look like Lee Min Ho, he still has some value). And a reminder to hold that cell phone tightly in your hand, because you may accidentally throw it at the screen. I don’t want to owe you a new cell phone (and/or a new screen).

Hey, K-dramas can buck convention, who woulda thunk it? (or better yet, let’s watch a K-drama throw convention under a bus and then stomp on it a few times to make sure it’s good and dead):

What Happened in Bali (“WHIB”) was a drama I decided to watch on a whim. I had not heard anything substantive about it, it was not recommended to me, and I had never seen any of the four leads in any drama prior to watching them in WHIB. I think I may have glanced a passing reference to WHIB in the blogosphere, and subconsciously stored this drama title away in my little pea brain.

Until one day I randomly decided to check out one episode. Ladies and gentlemen, checking out one episode of WHIB is like following the White Rabbit down the rabbit hole. Are you ready to have your worldview on K-dramas challenged, and perhaps changed irrevocably? If so, welcome to WHIB Wonderland, a place full of shiny pretty things with dark and dirty desires.

WHIB is a character drama that explores the very foundations of what many seminal K-romance melodramas have been built upon: the Cinderella story. WHIB strips the Cinderella story bare to look at social constructs that have been hidden away by the screenwriter in order to create the illusion of happily ever after.

WHIB asks you to make a judgment about whether a poor kind-hearted girl meeting a rich, eligible or successful man is akin to winning the lottery, i.e. hitting the jackpot of eternal happiness. Or is it really just a chance to play a round of Russian roulette.

Your judgment will be yours and yours alone. Some may share in your conclusion, others likely will not. But WHIB never once tells you what the right answer is, because there is little that is black and white in the drama. WHIB is draped completely in shades of gray. [If you like easy answers, I’ll be more than happy give you some, I like telling people what to think, some call it brainwashing, I like to think of it as doing the OPW].

WHIB merely tells you what happened, hence the extremely apropos title. You may scream “What the *&^% just happened?!?” when you reach the conclusion of the drama. But you’ll be faced with silence and either a TV or computer screen. Then you’ll sit back, knock down a few shots of soju, and maybe stagger here to the comments section of this review to vent (or ask me to hold your hand and brainwash you). I’ll be waiting for you. :-)

These four kids are about to get bush-wacked and they don’t even know it:

WHIB stars Ha Ji Won as Lee Soo Jung, a hard-scrabble orphaned girl with a loser older brother. We first meet Soo Jung in the idyllic Shangri-la that is Bali, Indonesia. She’s working there as a tour guide, cobbling together enough money so that she can begin living a normal life. [Caveat, I make no judgment as to whether a tour guide in a vacation paradise is or is not a normal life, merely that Soo Jung wants to settle down, preferably back in her native Korea].

She’s neither a dreamer nor a hardened pragmatist. She lives day to day, and doesn’t dream that her life will change for the better other than through her own two hands. But she’s not (yet) bitter. She’s a decent person, and a refreshing change from the parade of innocent young female leads in dramas. You know, those paragons of virtue who are full of can-do spirit and an unending river of generosity and forgiveness. [Or as I like to think, a ride on It’s a Small World: B-oring, as opposed to a ride on Space Mountain: Wheeeee].

Street-wise and engaging Soo Jung is hired to be the tour guide for the world’s most awkward touring trio. Let’s meet the threesome, shall we?

So Ji Sub is Kang In Wook, a smart, handsome, ambitious young man climbing the corporate ladder. His rich college girlfriend, Park Ye Jin as Choi Young-joo, broke up with him because his poor birth made him unsuitable marriage material. In Wook has transferred to the Indonesia office to get away and move on. But said college girlfriend is not so sure she made the right choice now that she’s engaged to a rich second son of a corporate scion.

In a moment of rebellion, armed with a smidgeon of hope, Young-joo hightails it to Indonesia to maybe reconcile with In Wook. The uncertain couple travel to Bali for one last hurrah. [I like that, who says a girl can’t sow her wild oats before she gets leg-shackled in an arranged marriage – feminism means women can and should do the same crappy shit men can do].

And look who shows up to get the party (really) started, none other than the newly acquired fiancée himself. Jung Jae Min, played by Jo In Sung, has followed Young Joo to Bali out of a mixture of curiousity and boredom.

Young Joo is annoyed her churlish new fiancée has come to interrupt her secret getaway with her ex-boyfriend. Jae Min is amused he’s interjected himself into an awkward situation, though he’s not opposed to exercising some fiancée rights. And In Wook maintains a poker face (but since I can read So Ji Sub, let me tell you, he’s not happy that he has to meet the new fiancée and deal with ending things for good with his ex-girlfriend). Commence the three-way death glare staredown!

And lest we forget, little Soo Jung is driving the dysfunctional threesome around Bali and unwittingly buying herself a seat on the bus ride to crazytown. By the end of episode one, all the wheels have been set in motion. Our four leads have drawn the beginning lines to create four concentric circles which overlap amongst each other. That, my chingus, is a recipe for disaster, or as succinctly put in KorChinGlish, omo crap aiya! [For reference, please see “Book of Recipes for Shit You Never Want to Make”, not yet available on the IPad].

What happened in Bali apparently follows you back to Seoul:

The fated foursome make the connections in Bali that will forever alter their lives. [Man, I’m sure they each wish someone missed a plane, train, green light somewhere, huh?] Then they hightail it back to Seoul for one reason or another.

Once everyone gets back to Seoul, they discover that (here comes the pretzel that’s going to make a Gordian knot): In Wook and Jae Min work at the same company owned by Jae Min’s dad. Soo Jung and In Wook take the same plane back to Seoul. Soo Jung crashes at the apartment of her friend who just so happens to lives next to In Wook. Soo Jung goes to work at the same above-mentioned company to repay the money she borrowed from Jae Min to help bail out her no-good brother. And Young Joo is all “I want a hot sexy So Ji Sub for a boyfriend AND marry a rich buffoon like Jae Min, and this no-nothing girl is starting to look like a genuine threat for my plan for world domination to have my cake and eat it too.”

To everyone’s somewhat surprise, both In Wook and Jae Min start to fall for Soo Jung. And to no one’s surprise, neither guy wants Young Joo.

So there you go, I’ve set up for you the outline of WHIB. Let me use this moment to say that I will go no further in elucidating the plot beyond what I have written so far. Why? Because the plot of WHIB is inconsequential. What I mean is that each event happens in order to facilitate a character to make a choice: Door 1 or Door 2. But the event itself is not important, we can substitute any variety of scenarios that can create an impasse for the character in question. What is vital is that the character MUST make a choice. And that choice is a domino that has a ripple effect, on and on it goes.

Too bad WHIB is not a situational Three’s Company type of slapstick comedy, because I already see the genius in this set-up. Alas, WHIB is as dark as You’re Beautiful is light and airy and fluffy (oooh, I see Lee Hong Ki as a fairy over there!). Rather than the choices in WHIB all leading to happy rainbow-filled places, each choice invariably leads somewhere painful and impossible for a do-over. [One can even argue that each Door 1 and Door 2 contains only bad choices, i.e the drama is built upon a fatalistic premise – I won’t even dare to argue this point in the body of this review, but I will say that I’ve considered the possibility that the deck is stacked with only joker cards].

So what entails is nineteen more episodes of the ever more convoluted foursome simultaneously trying to get what each wants in life, while screwing the other same gender competitor over. It’s impossible to look away. No wonder it’s a fact etched in stone (probably next to that what’s-its-name sword stuck in the same stone) that the ride to crazytown always ends in a giant wreck.

Let’s play a game of musical chairs:

The crucial element in WHIB’s subversion of the Cinderella Story is that these are cookie-cutter K-drama cliche characters behaving in ways K-dramas wouldn’t dare tread.

Jae Min is The Rich Guy. But instead of being an arrogant ass suffering from childhood trauma with a soft center waiting for a kind-hearted maiden to melt his icy exterior, Jae Min is a clown. He has neither the depth to have a soft center nor strong enough to sport a commanding bearing. He’s a thoroughly ordinary, somewhat meaningless man, who happens to have a lot of money.

In Wook is The Poor Guy. But instead of being the hardworking straight shooter, In Wook is a mercenary. He has neither the purity of soul we require of our poor guy attains success story nor the benevolence and resignation to forgive life’s infractions against him. He’s simply a naturally gifted guy, with no connections but an understandable thirst for success and respect.

Young-joo is The Rich Girl. But instead of being a clueless princess desperately clinging on to fairy tales, Young-joo is a realist. She has neither the strength to fight not to sacrifice her happiness for money nor the courage to make the right decisions because she understands the consequences of such decisions. She’s a discerning pampered girl who has knowingly and willingly given up love for security.

And last, but never least, Soo Jung is The Poor Girl. But instead of a humble, shy girl with a heart of gold, Soo Jung is a skeptic. She has neither the temerity to believe she’ll chance upon a Cinderella opportunity nor the teflon exterior required to refuse hopes and dreams when it does fall upon her. When faced with a once-in-a-lifetime choice, she nevertheless struggles at whether to trade a hard-knock life for the possibility of taking an easier journey.

Each of them knows that they have to pay a dear price to get what they want (memo to crazy foursome: there is no such thing as a free ride). But no one truly comprehends how steep the price is to pay when you dare to reach across the aisle and pair up the wrong way. If Rich Guy and Rich Girl fell in love, and Poor Guy and Poor Girl found their happily ever after, then we would have no story to tell.

Alas, Rich Guy wants Poor Girl, Rich Girl wants Poor Guy, then Rich Girl wants Rich Guy when Poor Guy doesn’t want her, Poor Guy wants Poor Girl, and Poor Girl just wants to get her hardworking money back but keeps bumping into Rich Guy, Poor Guy and Rich Girl jostling for power and love (also known as musical love chairs), until Poor Girl becomes the ultimate prize to be won. And then Poor Girl has to decide who (Rich Guy or Poor Guy) and what (security or love) she wants the most. [Btw, Soo Jung may be able to get both security and love from the same guy, so don't think there is only one or the other choice for this little orphaned Poor Girl]. Phew, whose head is spinning with me here? No wonder Soo Jung has this expression.

Cut it with the hyperbole, are you sure I’ve never seen this before?:

Despite the unconventional set-up, the premise of WHIB may still appear rather uninteresting (people can’t be together because of money and social conventions). I grant you that. What is hard to describe in any review are the intangibles. The intangible elements in WHIB happen to all converge at the right place and time, blending together seamlessly to create a memorable drama.

The single most outstanding element of WHIB’s success is the acting. Hands down, the four leads performed like whirling dervishes of desire, hunger, jealousy, hope, regret and despair. Jo In Sung won both the acting award from SBS and the Baeksang for his performance as Jung Jae Min. He created a living, breathing, fully-formed replica of a man who has everything money can buy but only wants the one thing he does not know how to give or receive: love. [And folks, you ain’t ever seen a man “cry” like Jo In Sung does cry in WHIB, I mean, his meltdowns have attained legendary status in the K-drama world – maybe as legendary as Choi Ji Woo’s ability to produce giant rolling perfectly formed tear drops on demand].

So Ji Sub was (slightly) overshadowed by the flamboyance of Jo In Sung’s Jae Min, but In Wook is a deeper, darker character to play. So Ji Sub made In wook a man who has all that money cannot buy (looks and intelligence), but is frustrated by social constraints and wonders if having money can plug whatever is missing in his life.

Ha Ji Won’s Soo Jung is a love or hate type of character (for the record, I like Soo Jung, her decisions, her reactions, her internal conflicts, feel real to me). She represents the embodiment of desire and despair, which makes her unlikeable since most folks prefer our heroines to be relatable and soulfully pure (when people say that Ha Ji Won is like a walking ball of sex, I believe that statement). Though Soo Jung is calculating, she never feels manipulative or trashy. She keeps clawing to get out of needing anyone, but fate keeps jerking her around and into the arms of both men.

Park Ye Jin got stuck with the unfortunate short end of the stick, in that she plays the lone fourth wheel. But she produced a sterling performance as a woman wrestling with tightly coiled anger and bitchiness, used to cloak vulnerability and resentment at her own self-selected imprisonment in a gilded cage.

Love is not just a four-letter word, it might just be a four-letter word that starts with “F” and ends with “k”:

WHIB challenges the long held drama hogwash that love cures all, saves all, conquers all. Much as I like to roll my eyes at such maudlin sentiments, each time a gorgeously constructed K-romance comes along, I happily drink the Kool Aid. [Please, PD sir, may I have some more? - only a few K-romance dramas have earned my ire for being so relentlessly brain dead in plot and chemistry].

But WHIB deconstructs the romance and dares to ask these questions: (1) if two people are in love, will they live happily ever after?, (2) what would a real person do when asked to choose between love or money?, and (3) can falling in love be a person’s downfall rather than the salvation?

Soo Jung is torn between two men, both of whom “love” her (I’ll leave it up to you to discern whether that is even true, and what loving her even means to each of these guys). She can choose Jae Min, who is rich but too weak-willed to fight his family in order to marry her. Or she can choose In Wook, who is smart, but full of calculating ambition while lacking the means to break free from his low-born circumstances.

WHIB has a undisputed leading lady, Ha Ji Won, but no leading man. Both Jae Min and In Wook get equal screen time and interaction with Soo Jung, so you can’t use convention to guess which guy gets the girl. The kissing test also doesn’t work here (you know, the first guy who kisses the girl is almost always the leading man). Everyone kisses the other two persons of the opposite sex, so it’s a melange of trading partners, except its still pretty chaste, so don’t worry about covering the kids’ eyes.

By now are you are probably thinking: “Choose the guy you love, Soo Jung.” Normally I would have been screaming this at the screen. But the relationships in WHIB are knotted so tight, so impossible to extricate, I can safely say that there is no consensus answer as to which guy Soo Jung loves.

I have my interpretation because I picked up on one set of cues. On a subsequent re-watch of WHIB, I picked up on another set of cues. WHIB is a masterful manipulator of human interaction, and creates a Rorschach-like tableau where you see what you want to see. Poor Girl loves Rich Guy or Poor Guy depending on whether YOU would pick Rich Guy or Poor Guy (trust me, it’s a reflection of our own experience and prejudices).

Oh yeah, there is all that other stuff:

Much as I want to keep talking about Jo In Sung crying or Ha Ji Won driving men mad, I should devote a few sentences to other things that might interest you. The screenwriter of WHIB should be commended for writing a barebones story (four people keep running into each other and lo and behold, complications of the heart [and other lower regions] arise) in a compelling way.

All the Cinderella clichés are employed: the awkward first meet, the misunderstanding, the initial dislike, the fated to keep running into each other, the unwitting attraction, the disparate circumstances, the disapproving parents, the third wheel that wants to break the couple up, and so on and so forth.

Except in WHIB, Soo Jung pretty much has the exact same Cinderella experience with BOTH guys. Prince Charming doesn’t necessary mean the rich guy, it could also mean the good-looking smart guy with a promising future, i.e. I believe the term should be applied to a guy that is considered a “great catch”, whatever that means. Both Jae Min and In Wook are quite possibly Soo Jung’s Prince Charming.

So fate plays a twisted joke on our girl. How’s a girl supposed to pick a guy when she can’t go by the Cinderella playbook. No wonder poor Soo Jung is so confused and torn, and literally drives both guys into varying states of insanity (or groiny discomfort, which I profess to know nothing about).

The PD of WHIB was competent, providing a steady and uncomplicated hand in framing the scenes. WHIB is all about the acting, so while the background has a very ordinary feel, you hardly notice it because your eyes can’t leave the death or desire glares that each of the four leads keeps shooting at one another. [Seriously, some of the most awesome scenes are the ones when all four leads are interacting at the same time, I’m all like “eeeek, omo, please drama god or PD, pour some mud in that room and all that tension will be released through a nice bout of wrestling”].

Sadly, most of the scenes in Bali fail to elicit any of the culture or tropical feel of the lush setting (and no, having everyone either go swimming and/or fall into the swimming pool doesn’t count – but see the sexy below anyways). Which is a shame, but has no negative effect on the drama as a whole. Bali represents either heaven or a haven, and it’s that metaphorical representation of Bali that is crucial to this story, and not capturing the dreamy mood of Bali is regrettable but not a dealbreaker.

While the PD isn’t going to win any awards for the directing in WHIB, he nevertheless keeps the drama moving at a very steady pace. Watching WHIB is like watching someone wring a towel. Each wring more water is excised, the towel is knotted tighter, and the pressure builds. As our four hapless leads spin around and around into each other’s orbit, colliding at odd times and ever more uncomfortable situations, the tension grows thicker and thicker, and pretty soon you can cut it with a knife. The PD effectively allows the tension to accumulate by keeping the scenes and setting simple and spare.

There are no fancy cars, pretty McMansions, and cute outfits to distract us. While some of Jae Min’s outfits were the opposite of cute, and would have made me cringe (except for the fact that I had watched Goong by then and after Prince Shin’s outfits, nothing ever seemed so cringeworthy anymore), it did have an ulterior purpose of showing his character to be part buffoon and part playboy.

In Wook could use a new hairstyle, but So Ji Sub managed to exude charisma despite wearing a broom weave on his head. The ladies wear the fashion befitting their station in life: Young Joo is all haughty-bitch Chanel and Soo Jung is all working-girl Fashion 21. If you want a pretty-to-look-at drama, sorry, WHIB Is not pretty in the least. On the other hand, the dullness of the visuals is counterbalanced by the actors in WHIB, who are collectively too pretty for words.

The soundtrack is suitable and appropriate at setting the mood, yet wholly forgettable. You’re not going to log on and download the music anytime soon. But you will not likely forget many key scenes in the drama even as time dims the memory of what the actors were wearing or where they were standing. What’s best about the directing and music in WHIB is that it never overwhelms a scene or overshadows the acting (Paradise ain’t touching this with a ten-foot pole). And sometimes that is to be commended, to be un-obstructionist and just allow your fantastic actors to command the screen and deliver the goods, in all its poker face and/or fist-in-mouth-angsty glory.

The ending (this is what you came here for, right?):

So, I’ve finally reached the good stuff, didn’t I? Sorry for making you wade through all the melo and all the drama to get to The Ending To End All Endings. Heh, that was a tad dramatic. But it wouldn’t be too far off for me to surmise that some (many) of you have heard whispers in the night about the ending of WHIB. So you’re curious, what could be so Dramatic and Shocking that people who have watched WHIB will only tell you that its Dramatic and Shocking but refuse to elaborate. Maybe it’s because we’re just mean like that. :-P

Or really it’s because knowing the ending of WHIB without watching the drama has no impact. So no one wants to give it away. I don’t find WHIB’s ending in any way, shape, or form something like the end of The Crying Game or the end of The Sixth Sense (shocking for the sake of shocking).

WHIB’s ending is impactful because, up until the very end, you really have no clue how it will all end. Really, how many times have you watched a drama, and from the very first frame you know how it was going to end? Yeah, pretty much all the time. So here is a drama that is twisty, turny, angsty and has a cannot-be-100%-guessed ending. So why would we want to ruin it for you? And why would you want to ruin it for yourself? Don’t go Google it, please, I beg of you.

I personally was satisfied with the ending. Well, okay, that’s stretching the truth a little. After the final frame ended, first I sat dumbstruck for about ten minutes, then I screamed at my computer screen, then I called my poor sister and screamed at her for no reason (and probably ruined any desire for her to ever watch WHIB, I is a bad bad sister, I know), then I rolled around the floor like a himono onna and scared the bejesus out of my entire befuddled family, and then finally, finally, after many many weeks, I came to realization that the ending was just right. Not too hot, not too cold, but just right.

I did not feel the ending came out of left field or was a giant WTF moment. I mentioned how WHIB as a drama continues to build the tension, and like a balloon being pumped full of too much air, the ending of WHIB was inevitable. Except for at the very beginning, when any one of the four players could have said “time out, I don’t want to play this game anymore.” Once they started intruding into each other’s lives, there was only one way for this drama to end. And kudos to WHIB for having the balls to end it that way.

A look at WHIB from a big picture perspective:

What’s shocking for me was that WHIB’s ending broke the 30% mark in ratings, and during its entire run the ratings averaged in the mid-to-late twenties. I cannot imagine how ahjummas and veteran drama watchers alike would countenance this sacrilege of their K-drama conventions, and yet it appeared that I am the close-minded one. WHIB was widely considered a success, both critically and ratings-wise.

The public was indeed ready to dismantle some of its tried and true beliefs that love can overcome all obstacles. And to confront the scary possibility that “What if love is the obstacle?” I wonder if everyone would have been much happier had they stayed in their respective roles rather than falling in love and sinking the House of Sand (or an even better analogy would be the game of Jenga, for those who have not played it, the rules are players take turns to remove a block from a tower and balance it on top, creating a taller and increasingly unstable structure as the game progresses, and one mistaken pull, the entire tower crumbles).

WHIB tackled the dark side of the themes of love, desire, money, and power, and did so in a way that had me riveted to the screen. When I finished WHIB, I immediately re-watched it again. Right away. My mind and heart was so absorbed by these characters and their maddening situation. The funny thing is, on my second watch, I went from shipping one male lead to shipping the other male lead. But I stand firm in my own conclusion that while Soo Jung liked both men, she ultimately only loved one of them. Which is why the ending is so epic and yet so “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter.”

While the public may have embraced the deconstruction of the Cinderella Story, part of me wonders if they really got to the deep, tortured heart of why money, riches, pure hearts, transformed souls, all of that may not be enough to overcome the tragedy wrought by the weakness in human nature.

After WHIB, Jo In Sung and Ha Ji Won become a CM darling couple (and I for one loved their CMs, they definitely have chemistry to spare).

But it rather negated the take home lesson of WHIB. If even after WHIB, all the public wanted was to see this toxic couple, who granted lit up the screen, re-enact the public couple dance that many classic K-drama couplings did, then this coupling was no different than the publicly lauded golden couples in Winter Sonata or Beautiful Days.

So this was a destructive relationship, and yet we swoon over them in real life? Eh, I’m one of those lemmings, so I am merely pondering the possibility that the conventions were upended but ultimately the lesson not learned. And the Ha Ji Won/So Ji Sub pairing was no less toxic, just less flamboyant and splashy.

Even though WHIB takes a chainsaw to K-drama Cinderella clichés, it delivered the message firmly within the construct of a K-drama. You can deconstruct and challenge a subject matter, but it needs to be done in a way that engages the viewer, and WHIB does this. Each episode ends with the requisite humdinger of a cliffhanger or the pause right before The Big Dramatic Moment. There are no shortage of drinking at street stalls, the stretching of possibility type coincidences, getting piggybacked drunk, fistfights between our leading men, bitch showdowns between our leading women, and some seriously carnal moments of tension-filled will-they-or-won’t-they suspense.

Even the sidekicks get in on the act. Jae Min’s parents are responsible for some of the most unforgettable acts of K-drama parental beatdown on the youngsters I have ever witnessed. [Speaking of Jae Min's parents, never have I seen actors playing the parents and sibling of a handsome leading actor/actress look so MONUMENTALLY different than said lead - Jae Min's parents and brother are like Orcs who sired a Human, part of me kept waiting for the "You're adopted!!" shoe to fall, but alas, that twist is but a figment of my imagination].

How can something so messed up be so good?:

WHIB is drama of the most exquisite torturous kind. I felt emotionally dirty afterwards. Then took a long hard look at my own life, and let out a giant breath of relief. Whew, man, for once am I glad to be me. Normally we all wish to be a Shin Chae Kyung (who gets plucked from her commoner life and becomes a princess married to a rock and pursued by a block of wood) or a Geum Jan Di (who goes from being a commoner to the object of desire for an adorably socially inept rich boy with a perm and a block of wood for a “soulmate”).

No one, I repeat, no one, will want to be any of the four characters in WHIB. Because these characters are so real in their flaws and their desires, it shatters the illusion that being any one of them would magically make us happy. [I like my illusions, most days I dream that I am sitting on the beach in New Caledonia watching My I Lub You, Junki and Lee Min Ho swimming and smiling at me, and taking turns bringing me juice].

But its worth watching WHIB to remind us that sometimes meeting a rich guy may not be a good thing, and being pretty can bring more trials than rewards. WHIB is a hard drama to swallow, but its memorable and addicting. It’s not the best thing I’ve ever watched, but it sure as heck is hard to forget. [Also, these two guys are so hot and bothered in this drama, no one would blink an eye if you watch it purely for the eye candy.]

The above is simply my personal feelings towards WHIB. I almost never recommend WHIB, because I think the viewer has to be in the mood for such a drama, and has the constitution for darker fare. WHIB is a drama you hate to love (does that make me a masochist?) or love to hate (does that make me ninny?). And both sets of feelings are completely acceptable, because WHIB speaks to the parts inside each of us we’d rather not acknowledge exists.

Until next time, thanks for (once again) taking the time to read my ponderings on K-dramas. It’s been so much fun writing about WHIB, I’m (almost) tempted to watch it again. Almost, but not quite, because dang it, first I have to go take a cold shower.

[A quick note of warning: I've tried my best to keep this review spoiler-free, but WHIB is such a meaty drama that a meaningful discussion does necessitate talking about what happened and why. I have no doubt I'll be letting loose my inner freak MUN-trained debate skillz in the comments section below to really do a deep dive into this drama. For those of you who have not yet watched WHIB, I suggest you skip the comments and come back afterwards to read them if you're in the mood for moar moar WHIB]  :-)

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79 thoughts on “What Happened in Bali

  1. This is an awesome review, OCKOALA – thanks! I love this drama and think that Jo In Sung is a very talented and beautiful actor.

  2. Thank you for your affection to the drama, you made me more and more eager to watch it again.Ha ji won is my favorite actress since 2004’s “what happened in Bali”. And till now her best drama couple is still Jo in sung for sure.

  3. XD as always, thanks for ur creative and well-written and all the funny review! it is entertainment on its own to read ur words.
    BTW: which guy was it that you thought JS loved?
    i rewatch this drama the past weeks because JIS is long gone from The Winter~ XD

  4. I have been wanting to watch this drama for years but haven’t gotten the chance to until today. This comment came 10 minutes after I hit the exit button on my VLC player. Man, what a way to end such a great drama! This is the only possible way to end this drama, well unless they all go on their separate ways. On the acting front, all four leads delivered. How I wish k-dramas nowadays not using idols, especially for the leading roles. Geez!

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  7. Dear ockoala, let me express my gratitude for writing such a wonderful analysis of the drama that captured me so tightly I couldn’t calm down for a couple of days after finishing watching it and even replayed some scenes several times  I am curious about your opinion and/or how would you describe the feelings between IW and YJ…
    Don’t know why but I strongly sympathize that bitchy girl, even if she is meant to be a bad one. Every time she “crawls” back to him just to get a new helping of insult and humiliation I feel so sorry for her. Maybe it is only female solidarity against male cruelty (that scene when he says he just used her). Nevertheless I want to believe she loved him more than anything, it’s just sometimes we can’t “officially” be with someone we love. And her trip to Bali to my mind says a lot about a pure womanish desire to be with the loved and loving one, even if it is only for a very short period. I’m totally confused about IW feelings and intentions, especially when he thinks about SJ and keeps playing YJ’s words in his mind… Seeing how SJ loved JM, I hoped IW will end up with YJ  futile hopes, but I think they could be happy, as SJ and IW didn’t have much in common except being poor and that is not enough to be really happy. And I do believe the reason why both guys fell for SJ is her ultimate sexuality with angel face  whereas YJ had this quality only when younger (in flashbacks) and now had a cold posture of a rich bitchy miss arrogant.
    Thanks again for wonderful review and looking forward to your insight on my “dilemma”  I’m sure I’m the only crazy who liked the idea of IW and YJ being the second OTP.

  8. great review..i am watching this again for the nth time…now, i realized why i got stick to this drama after reading this blog…thanks again

  9. I like ji sub after seeing Master’s Sun n now watching almost all his past works. I enjoy reading ur review of this drama. While watching this, I really hate SJ. She’s such a gold digger who has no pride.

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