It’s been ages since I fell in love with an airing drama.
I’m talking about stalking Soompi forums, watching raws AND subs, and learning Korean at TalkToMeInKorean.com-level love. The last time this happened was for Sungkyunkwan Scandal, which aired over a year ago, and before that, for 2009’s Boys Before Flowers (which took my love and pooped on it).
Now it’s Flower Boy Ramyun Shop‘s turn. I’m happy to say that episodes 3 & 4 justified my addiction by adding emotional depth to the storyline, showing us refreshing new sides to Eun-bi & Chi-soo, and introducing amusing second lead Choi Kang-hyuk. Fingers crossed future episodes keep the momentum going.
Since Dramabeans is already recapping this drama (superfast, too!), I’m only doing screencaps and commentary. Since this post is spoilery and long, I’ve also put it behind the fold. Keep in mind I wrote this before episode 5 & 6 came out; I’ll work hard to be faster with commentary in the future. Can’t wait to see your comments!
This drama is so well crafted. The pacing’s fast, the script’s intelligent (see girlfriday’s breakdown of the “smell” theme in episode 4), the music is well-chosen, the cinematography is bright and pretty, and the acting is stylized, but good. This is Boys Before Flowers done right.
By far the best development last week was that Eun-bi got cool. Overhearing Chi-soo rag on her to his friends broke whatever hold he had on her, and her father’s sudden death cemented her return to bad-ass gangster Eun-bi.
As a result, Eun-bi hits Chi-soo twice, turns his seduction game back on him (“if you want to whisper those things to noona, change your cologne first, kid“), and refuses Chi-soo’s father’s bribe to reinstate her as a teacher. Now we know why Crazy Chicken idolizes her.
A favorite scene: Eun-bi gets the high score on the convenience store punching machine, scaring the ahjusshis and giving Kang-hyuk the flutters.
My impression is that after high school, both Eun-bi & Dong-joo diligently tried to reconstruct themselves to match society’s expectations. They’ve tamped down on their sarcastic, short-tempered sides, dressed more girlishly (and in Dong-joo’s case, got plastic surgery), and tried for teaching positions, because of the tangible rewards for conforming (e.g., marriage, money, and an overall easier life).
But while Dong-joo has managed to fit in, Eun-bi is too different: too hot-tempered, too morally uptight and old-fashioned. When her dad tells her to stop giving herself wrinkles and live her life according to her heart, he isn’t just telling her to give up teaching, but to also stop straining to fit in when she doesn’t (and when the real her is so much better). Happily for viewers, it looks like she’s taken his advice.
I remain impressed with actress Lee Chung-ah. Partly because of her expressive, funny face–pretty at times, awkwardly lovable at others (I esp. like when she flares her nostrils)–but also because of her range. She does comedy & tragedy equally well: compare her heart-rending tears after her father’s death to the comical ones after she quits teaching. Or her nervous face when Chi-soo leans in to kiss her in eps 1 & 2, versus her hubba-hubba face in the car in episode 4. Such varied emotions, all conveyed beautifully.
As for Chi-soo, these episodes stripped away his playboy veneer pretty thoroughly. His bratty bewilderment at the hospital wasn’t exactly attractive, but it was revealing and fun (at least for me, because I want him to suffer). It was also satisfying seeing him fall for Eun-bi’s faux come-on, and hear his heart pound fruitlessly for a change.
It’s clear he has mother issues galore. He has no real home to speak of (Kang-hyuk was right when he said Chi-soo didn’t have a smell, like a “house smell or mom smell”), either: his dad is crazy protective, but not a great parent figure. That Chi-soo doesn’t understand the word “console” means no one ever did it for him. So, while Chi-soo’s still annoying, these episodes showed us that he’s also a classic woobie.
Finally, while I think Chi-soo’s current feelings for Eun-bi are more about his ego than her, I do think he’s attracted to her, and liked her even before she Geum Jan-di’d him with a volleyball. He’d never admit it or realize it, but the fact that he went to an optional gym class for the chance to annoy and grope her is classic grade-school crush behavior.
I like how we meet Chef, aka Choi Kang-hyuk, exactly as we met Chi-soo: on a plane, with CF music and special effects, flirting with the same woman. The setup cracks me up, and also provides an immediate contrast of the two men. That said, I hope we see plane woman one more time (say, at the end of the drama), meeting her soulmate. Because, poor thing. She speaks three languages and still can’t find a decent guy.
As for Lee Ki-woo’s character…hmmm. Well, he’s incredibly attractive (and TALL. I want to climb him). But to be honest:…
…Kang-hyuk’s a weirdo. Imagine the same character played by someone unattractive. Viewers wouldn’t be saying “how cute,” they’d be yelling at the screen for Eun-bi to call the police. His laziness is so extreme that it resembles narcolepsy; even if you buy that Kang-hyuk believes Eun-bi knows about him living in her house, making a marriage contract with a girl’s father, without telling her, is too high-handed for this century.
But he’s pretty (sooo pretty), and Chi-soo’s even worse, so I can see why people are on that ship. I also love that Kang-hyuk finds Eun-bi’s “killer spike” side sexy, and that the writer has made him a quirky, “animal-like” Japanese drama hero, transplanted into k-dramaland. It’s fresh & funny.
While the three leads are all strong, FBRS stands out most because of its stellar side characters. The other drama I’m currently blogging, Queen of Reversals, only has three characters I care about (Tae-hee, Yong-shik, & Kang-woo), which means that scenes without those characters bore me. With FBRS, however, I’m always entertained, regardless of who’s on screen (with one glaring exception). In particular:
I love Crazy Chicken. How could you not? The character’s more adorable than a basket of puppies. I don’t think it’s too early to call this actor Park Min-woo’s breakout role (it helps that he looks like the improbable love-child of Jay Park and Matsujun’s Doumyouji):
What I love most is Eun-bi’s and Crazy Chicken’s solid brother-sister-type relationship, exemplified by their sitting side-by-side on the funeral bus…:
….by their hilarious (and effective) basketball face signals…:
…and their post-Chi-soo-beatdown thumb kisses:
They are so darling together. Even more so because their relationship is platonic: they’re sweet to each other because they like each other, not because they want to get some. I don’t think I’ve ever seen this type of relationship in a k-drama before, to be honest.
I also found a new favorite side character in Coach. Who knew he’d be such an amusing smart-ass? To Eun-bi, who’s wearing pink sweats she bought for gym class: “Why are you dressed like a Hollywood paparazzi magnet?” To Eun-bi’s bestie Dong-joo, who says that Eun-bi’s just become a person: “You’re the one that finally became human. […] That’s not plastic surgery, that’s architecture.” Ha!
I also like Coach’s frequent pairing with Dong-joo (who continues to be a fun mix of supportive and snarky). Strangely, I wouldn’t mind if the Coach/Dong-joo pairing turned romantic, although the age difference should squick me out. They just seem comfortable and cute together. I might be the only one who thinks that, though.
Even Chi-soo’s father and his secretary are cracking me up lately (that said, raise your son properly already, President Cha!). I’m a little suspicious of the secretary, though, because I’m not sure why he’s putting up with Chi-soo’s & Daddy Cha’s ridiculousness. Maybe he’s just used to it by now?
We’ll miss you, Crazy Ramyun Daddy. May you live all 16 episodes in your next drama.
What’s up with Hyun-woo? I thought this drama had an F5, but really it’s F4, with Hyun-woo to the side. That he came to Eun-bi’s gym lesson solo underlines how apart he is from the others; they’re carefree playboys, and he’s the goody-goody class president with a part-time job. He’s also clearly Chi-soo’s closest friend, which is interesting.
So-yi still sucks. Boring, manipulative, not all that pretty: our Crazy Chicken deserves better than this.
Future Episode Speculation
- Chi-soo doesn’t seem interested at all in So-yi romantically (see how he winced when she asked for a hug?). So…is she a legitimate second female lead? Meaning, do you think once she realizes Chi-soo likes Eun-bi she’ll fight to keep him? Because I really hope not. I get this feeling, though, that Crazy Chicken’s finally going to grow a spine, and then So-yi’s going to latch onto Chi-soo like a remora.
- About Chi-soo’s mother issues: why do you think his mother was crying (assuming that was his mother)? Do you think his mother’s dead, or did she just abandon the family?
- When Chi-soo interrupts a meeting to ask how to console someone, President Cha’s secretary is discussing a fusion noodle restaurant, helmed by a genius Japanese chef. Coincidence, or is he talking about the ramyun shop/Kang-hyuk?
- Do you think we’re done with the high school stuff, and that all the action will take place at the ramyun shop from now on? I would enjoy seeing Eun-bi be student teacher with her new attitude, but feel like the drama’s pulling her (and us) away from high school.
- Finally, I’m fairly certain episode 5 or 6 will contain these both of these are in episode 5:
Thank you, Korea. Images via Soompi forums.