Let’s try an experiment, shall we? Let’s follow the drama’s lead and begin this recap backwards, from the end of Episode 2 rather than the start of Episode 1. Let’s start with a scene to make your hair stand on end.
Your jaw drops, your eyes bulge (which is de rigueur in this drama); you can’t believe what you are seeing. This isn’t real, you whine to no one in particular, not realizing that the lizards in your room are watching the same scene with you and feeling just as stupefied.
Look carefully. What’s wrong with the picture below?
A woman walks past a couple necking and does not register their presence, thus confirming that she has tunnel vision. After all, the couple is but mere inches away. She looks straight ahead, her eyes wide and innocent. The male half of the couple, whose mouth is plastered to the same bodily part of the female he’s embracing, is the man that the first woman is eagerly looking for.
The entire scene makes me shudder. Why? Because a sixth sense tells me that the scene is a harbinger of many similar scenes to come, where the female lead of our drama will stand like a deer caught in headlights, oblivious to the warning signs around her, spilling beans to her worst enemy whom she thinks is a best friend, and generally behaving like a complete dimwit. As for the foe, I can foresee many more episodes of her looking like this:
That face? It’s up to no good, I tell ya. When its owner is not smirking or sneering, she’s swallowing bitter tears and barely suppressing a rage that has simmered within her for ten long years. If I have my smarts about me, I would do well to stay far away from this face.
Let’s go back in time now to revisit the events that led The Deer (Seo Jung-eun) and The Devil (Han Yoo-kyung) to become estranged from each other. What Huge Misunderstanding has caused Yoo-kyung (Kim Min-jung) to regard Jung-eun (Han Hye-jin) with the same kind of loathing that one would reserve for the stray dog that every day deposits a pile of poo on one’s front steps?
Episode 1 begins with a scene that’s so in your face, you will recoil. A woman’s head fills the screen, her expression a mix of anger and anguish. Words fly from her mouth like spit; tears fill her bulging eyes; she is pissed as hell.
Turns out the woman is auditioning for an acting part. Turns out she was once an actress who went on a seven-year hiatus for unexplained reasons and is now trying to reenter the industry like any desperate actress-wannabe. Watching her is another woman, seemingly pleased that the first woman’s fortunes have fallen so low.
Welcome to the world of Thorn Birds (2011), where you will hear within the first three minutes two mentions of children being beaten and abandoned. One mention is reel, the other real. You think you know which is which but soon you realize that this is a drama that you can’t pigeonhole. You can’t predict what is going to happen next because the characters behave as though they are on a stage for a play written by some eccentric playwright. Emotions change in the blink of an eye. A person could be screaming one moment and smiling the next.
After the audition, a chilling exchange between the woman who was acting and the woman who was peeping suggests that there is much bad blood swishing around the place. Few clues are given away, though, because we are abruptly transported (not in the magical sense of the word, alas) back to the past, back to when Jung-eun and Yoo-kyung were pubescent fourteen-year-olds.
Even at that age we know what the two girls are going to grow up to become, career-wise. Jung-eun likes to act so she will be an actress. Yoo-kyung likes filming Jung-eun’s attempts to act so she will be a director, what else? Can you imagine a dance major becoming a gisaeng? No way! If a child does things a certain way, you can bet one gently-watched copy of Winter Sonata that she will not change in adulthood. Thus, if a boy splits his wooden chopsticks a certain way (like how more than a billion people in the world split their chopsticks, because research shows there is only one way to break apart those fused-together chopsticks; you certainly don’t sit on them), then if you see a man ten years later doing the exact same thing, you go, “It’s you! I’ve finally found you!”
Did I jump ahead of myself? Sorry.
So, as I was saying, in a most loopy way, Jung-eun and Yoo-kyung are the best of pals. That the former is a parentless girl living in an orphanage means that she is all the more special to kind and protective Yoo-kyung, who is fortunate to be better off and with parents who dote on her.
Until Yoo-kyung comes home one day and overhears her drunk mother telling a stranger on the phone that she’s had it with raising Yoo-kyung and now wants to return her to said stranger aka The Biological Mom.
Just like that, all in one night, Yoo-kyung’s perfect world crumbles. What a shitty collision of events, what with her near-rape that night and now the bombshell that she isn’t her parents’ own. Things worsen the next day, when Yoo-kyung arrives in school and is greeted with The Horrible Thing That Happened to Yoo-kyung Last Night rumors. So now everyone thinks she got raped by a gang of school-boy thugs.
Certain that Jung-eun is the one who tattled to the rest about her, Yoo-kyung hits out at her best friend. Everything that has happened is Jung-eun’s fault. If she hadn’t been stood up by Jung-eun yesterday, she wouldn’t have been accosted by the guys. She wouldn’t have had her hand wounded so
mildly badly, the decidedly small amount of blood masking her acute suffering. What? Jung-eun was late for their appointment because she was out eating noodles with some guy? Jung-eun kept her waiting, all alone and frightened, while she strolled the streets with a guy who had bought her noodles? She, Yoo-kyung, nearly got raped as a result, for Pete’s sake!
I HATE YOU! I DON’T WANT TO SEE YOU EVER AGAIN!
Poor Jung-eun. Which genie in the sky did she offend to make her world so miserable all of a sudden?
First, she had learned yesterday from the lady officer at the police station that her efforts to find her mom were successful. Missing Mom Found. However… the mom didn’t want to come forward to identify herself; she didn’t want to have anything to do with Jung-eun. Hearing the news, the poor thing had wailed her head off. Some feet away, a boy who looked to be a couple of years older, watched and listened intently.
Later, an hour later, the boy would ask Jung-eun if she wanted to eat. He would take her to a roadside stall for noodles. He would permanently engrave himself on her mind by the theatrical way (in her opinion) in which he broke apart the chopsticks. They would smile shyly at each other. They would walk across the bridge after the meal. He would ask her for a date the following week, to watch a movie. She would belatedly remember that Yoo-kyung was waiting for her. She would rush off.
Poor Lee Young-jo. What’s with people always leaving him in a hurry?
Earlier that day, he had met his mom. The mom he thought was dead, the mom he had never seen, now alive and standing next to him at the police station. No, she didn’t go there to meet him; she was there to retrieve her good-for-nothing older son, the two lads having had an altercation earlier, one instigated by Young-jo precisely so that he could meet his long-lost mom. Your head spinning yet?
Seems Young-jo’s mom bartered him many moons ago for a hair salon, the Lee family being extremely wealthy and able to afford many hair salons were they interested in hair, which they weren’t. They were, however, extremely interested in family prestige and Young-jo’s mom didn’t fit the bill, she being low-class and all. So out she went.
Seems she didn’t hide their relationship from Park Han-soo, her other son. Which would explain why Han-soo was always hounding Young-jo and claiming they were brothers. If you’re confused about the mom’s motives, never mind. Just remember that Han-soo is all kinds of awesome, be it the younger or older version. The grapevine has it that some people are contemplating sticking around this (increasingly schizophrenic) drama just to get their fill of Han-soo and one other supporting character who has yet to make her appearance in this (increasingly unwieldy) recap. Soon, soon.
To cut a long and unhappy exchange short, Young-jo’s mom essentially asked him to keep thinking she’s dead and gone, she not being worthy of him on account of aforementioned barter. As expected (in normal kdrama proceedings), the entire exchange was witnessed by Jung-eun, she being at the police station for a similar got-to-meet-the-mom-who-dumped-me mission.
Two wounded souls lashed out at the world, their tears pouring forth. Two soothing bowls of hot noodles made everything right again, kind of. You’ve got to hand it to Young-jo and Jung-eun; they sure recover fast.
As a result of being ex-communicated by Yoo-kyung, Jung-eun forgets all about her date with Young-jo and gets there too late. The poor guy had earlier waited for hours with the red scarf that he was planning to give to her, she being all shivery the previous time they met. By the way, that wasn’t their first meeting; she had days ago saved him from Han-soo.
(Forbearance and fortitude, everyone. Eventually you’ll sort out who did what to whom, who abandoned which child, and who’s generally going to make you poke your eyes out screaming. No one told you this addiction would be painless.)
Sad (not heartbroken, the latter bound to come later if this is a drama worth its shenanigans), Young-jo leaves the country to study abroad. Jung-eun stands on the bridge that’s supposed to be their rendezvous venue as his plane flies overhead. Cue sad (but not heartbroken) music. Thus ends this (sad) chapter of the youngsters’ lives.
Ten years pass. An adult Jung-eun runs up to an adult Young-jo and slaps him. Holy cow.
No, it isn’t what you think. She’s not mad because he upped and left the country without saying a word, leaving her sans red scarf. Why, the two of them did not even know each other’s name back then. No, she slaps him because apparently he swindled her friend of a lot of money by claiming he could ease her and Jung-eun’s way into the film studio and into an acting career. Witnessing the slapping is… You guessed right.
So all three lead characters, who share the same fate of being abandoned by heartless mothers, meet again. Except that Jung-eun and Young-jo (Joo Sang-wook) don’t recognize each other, and Yoo-kyung makes sure she isn’t seen by Jung-eun.
Showing that he is made of forbearance and fortitude, Young-jo invites his slapper to sit down for a drink and insists that he’s no crook. Someone must be impersonating him. (How many of you immediately yelled out, “The swindler must be Han-soo!”?)
A table away, Yoo-kyung smirks, delighted to see Jung-eun eating humble pie. A glass away, a beetle rues the demise of a world where best friends watch out for each other and do not bear ten-year-old grudges. A screen away, in a smack-in-the-face for all quarrelsome human beings, the lizards in my room make a mental note to share their hoard of caramelized mozzies with their fellow lizards.
Me? I’m torn between bailing and bailing. One more smirk from Yoo-kyung (and one more slimy come-hither glance from Young-jo) and I’m out of here. Too much histrionics already and way too many birth secrets.
And then it happens, hallelujah! An actress I adore but had no inkling was part of this drama suddenly appears! Playing an utterly adorable scamp-like character, too!!
Not sure where Yang Mi-ryun (super awesome Kim Ha-eun) hails from, since she wasn’t in Jung-eun’s life previously, but it seems the two are now thick as thieves and Jung-eun is willing to go as far as slapping a perfect stranger on her friend’s behalf. The slapping episode is put to rest speedily (thank you for small mercies, Show) when PD Young-jo gives Jung-eun and Mi-ryun another shot at acting. Come for auditions, he says.
But did he really audition them or were the next scenes a figment of someone’s fertile imagination? I mean, seriously, are these images for real? What are they, auditioning for some circus?
Oh, who cares! At least the drama is veering (like some pendulum gone berserk) into The Funny. It’s vintage Kim Ha-eun fare (like her sassy self in Chuno) and I can’t get enough. More, more!
And indeed there is more. Mi-ryun learns the identity of the scoundrel who conned her money and hunts him down at his mother’s hair salon.
Sitting on Han-soo’s abdomen, Mi-ryun threatens to feed his innards to the lions at the national zoo if he does not return her money to her pronto. Spare me, he mews weakly, hoping she won’t ruin his manicure. Where is his mother when he most needs her?
Turns out Mi-ryun is more bark than bite. She succumbs to Han-soo’s plea bargain of “No money to repay you, but how about some free vouchers to use at my mom’s salon?” and lets the guy go, to his immense relief.
Dear KBS, how about we take Han-soo (Choi Jae-won) and Mi-ryun out of Thorn Birds and let them helm their own primetime comedy show? It’ll be a surefire hit! Just look at their crackling chemistry in that too-brief scene together. No, you don’t wanna? But why not? *starts to foam at mouth* You didn’t giggle like a loon watching them?
Before I forget (because I would rather not remember one-sided displays of discordance between old friends turned foes, especially if one party is
stupidly naively unaware that the other person still hates her after all these years), Jung-eun runs into Yoo-kyung at the film company. The former is overwhelmed with joy. Yoo-kyung? She’s as thrilled as a bride who awakes to find a humongous zit on her nose the morning of her wedding.
As expected, Jung-eun practically begs Yoo-kyung to renew their friendship. The other responds by hissing in her face. She tells Jung-eun that every time she washes her hand and sees the scar, all the hateful memories of the Most Hellish Night Ever will resurface.
KBS, I don’t know how much more of this
ridiculous standoff I can take.
I also don’t know how much more of Young-jo’s inconsistent behavior I can stomach.
On one hand, he seems merely tolerant of Jung-eun after she slaps him and after her excruciatingly bad audition. Whether she’s accepted into the company or not, he doesn’t seem to care. On the other hand, he spies her walking dejectedly (after her unhappy meeting with Yoo-kyung) and takes her out for drinks. The way he looks at her seems to suggest a sudden softening of his heart. Maybe it’s because she tells him that the reason why she wants so badly to be an actress is so that she will be famous. Perchance her mom will then seek her out and take her back? Ah, so they are kindred spirits, with mothers who didn’t want them.
On her part, the way he splits apart his chopsticks (with a flourish!) reminds her of that boy from ten years ago. Oh, where could he be? How would she pick him out from the crowd, never mind that she and Yoo-kyung recognized each other instantly? Oh, he could be sitting right next to her and she would never know!
But it doesn’t take long because if there’s one thing this drama excels at doing, it’s ensuring things happen at a speedy trot.
Young-jo finds out that the guy impersonating him is his brother, Han-soo. The two meet and Young-jo is taken to his unsuspecting mom, she now running several very successful businesses, some of them not too savory. He gets beaten up. (No, not by the mom but by her men, without her knowledge.) He staggers out and is seen by Jung-eun, she on her way to meet Mi-ryun. Something that Mi-ryun says, about Han-soo’s mom and hair salon and how the real Lee Young-jo isn’t Han-soo but some PD, causes the wheels inside Jung-eun’s head to turn furiously. The boy that she had noodles with ten years ago is Young-jo!
For a guy who just saw his mother and brother after ten years, and who just got punched in the forehead and other fragile places, Young-jo sure looks like he doesn’t have a care in the world. He and his production team, which includes Yoo-kyung, drink and jive the night away. Jung-eun calls him (and it’s strange that they are suddenly cozy and all and have each other’s number) and says she has something important to tell him. Sure, come over and join the fun, he replies.
So Jung-eun hops over, sees Yoo-kyung, and promptly tells the latter the BIGGEST SECRET and BESTEST NEWS EVER. The guy who asked her out for a date long ago is actually Young-jo! The joy!
Oh, cool. Does Young-jo know?
No, he doesn’t. I’m going right over to tell him now.
Oh no, you aren’t. Because he’s mine, all mine. Buzz off, you irritant.
Yoo-kyung waylays Young-jo, announces that he’s hers, and the two then kiss each other like their loins are on fire. It doesn’t make any sense but I’m beyond caring now, too spent from pulling my hair out. I don’t know who I want to spank more, the two kissers or Jung-eun, for being so stupid.
Will I go bald before Jung-eun wises up and realizes Yoo-kyung’s true colors? How many episodes will it take? Go ahead, tell me.