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Frankly Speaking: Episodes 9-10 » Dramabeans





Frankly Speaking: Episodes 9-10

Our OTP continues to be the glue that holds this K-drama together, but — like duct tape keeping a bumper from falling off the front end of Toyota Camry — it ain’t pretty. There’s only so much a leading couple can do to salvage a rom-com that’s been watered down by excessive conflicts, one-dimensional supporting characters, erratic tonal changes, and gaping plot holes. But on the bright side, it’s almost over.

 
EPISODES 9-10

As suspected, Woo-joo rejected Jung-heon and admitted to him that she has feelings for Ki-baek. Jung-heon is disappointed by her admission, but he also seems to find closure upon hearing her words. Unfortunately, because he’s been running himself ragged since the filming of Couple’s Paradise wrapped up, he collapses from exhaustion. The embrace that I’d previously assumed was a pity hug was, in fact, his body going limp in Woo-joo’s arms.

She looks around desperately for help and spots a frowning Ki-baek in the distance. She calls him over, and with his help they take Jung-heon to a nearby hospital. Together they wait for Jung-heon to wake up after getting some IV fluids, and it’s clear that Ki-baek feels a little insecure as he watches Woo-joo fret over Jung-heon’s condition — her concern a remnant of the feelings she used to have for him. She may no longer feel a romantic love for Jung-heon, but that doesn’t mean she’s stopped caring for him. Now if only someone would just tell Ki-baek that so he stops looking so pitifully disappointed.

That someone is none other than Jung-heon himself. The man got rejected, passed out from exhaustion, was taken to a hospital, and was then chauffeured home by the very man who stole Woo-joo’s heart — and Jung-heon still stepped up to be a good guy. He could have easily played on Ki-baek’s insecurities to drive a wedge between our OTP, but instead he tells Ki-baek that he’s the one Woo-joo likes. To say Ki-baek is elated would be an understatement.

Ki-baek texts Woo-joo that he wants to see her so they can make their relationship official. Her response: I thought we were already a couple. Say what now? I’m with Ki-baek on this one because — aside from their recent kiss — she was definitely putting up walls to protect the reputation of Couple’s Paradise, and as far as I can tell, she never gave Ki-baek the go ahead to sneak past. But, you know, whatever we need to move the story along and get through — yet another — time skip. (Cue: a series of cutesy texts between Woo-joo and Ki-baek to mark the passage of time.)

The last episode of Couple’s Paradise has aired, and it reached double digits! Everyone is understandably excited, and both Woo-joo and Ki-baek feel confident that the show’s success will open doors and carry them to — dare I say it? — whole new worlds.

Ki-baek has seen a boost in his career, as his and Jung-heon’s agency continues to cast the two former love rivals on gigs together. (Excuse me while I cackle wildly at Ki-baek and Jung-heon teaming up to film what is likely the worst commercial to never actually exist.) Sadly, while Ki-baek is booking commercials, getting recognized in supermarkets, and reconnecting with old friends, Woo-joo’s participation as a cast member on Couple’s Paradise continues to bite her in the ass.

Even though Couple’s Paradise was Woo-joo’s idea, her boss wants her bumped from the writing team. Yeon and Ha-young try to fight to keep Woo-joo on as the head writer, but they’re met with an ultimatum: you can either keep Woo-joo or get picked up for a second season. (What a b***h). I wish I could say Woo-joo took a page from Ki-baek’s book and stood her ground, but she backs down. And — not for the first time — I wonder why she’s so passive.

Now the pressure is on Woo-joo to come up with a new concept for her own show or get recruited to someone else’s team, and just when you think the universe can’t kick Woo-joo any more, she’s reunited with her birth mother. You know that mysterious lady who’s been showing up at Bok-ja’s salon and damaging her hair in order to linger for as long as possible? Yeah, she’s Woo-joo’s biological mother, and she abandoned Woo-joo when she was a child.

Bok-ja was on the verge of un-aliving herself when she first met young Woo-joo, but someone obviously needed to feed the hungry kid she’d found wandering the streets. Bok-ja reluctantly stepped up to prepare a meal for Woo-joo, telling herself that she’d take care of Woo-joo for just one day, but like the tale of One Thousand and One Nights, “just one more day” became forever. (Daw, I love this found family.)

Although Woo-joo recognizes her mother from the scar on her hand, she feigns ignorance and chooses, once again, to avoid conflict and confrontation. And because she continues to smile and say everything is fine — even though it’s totally not fine, poor Ki-baek has no idea something is wrong. If it weren’t for Ha-young accidentally spilling the beans, who knows when he’d have found out Woo-joo had been forced off the writing team for Couple’s Paradise.

Ki-baek, who just wants to comfort his girlfriend, tries to get Woo-joo to talk to him about what’s bothering her. Initially, she’s not ready to open up. She dodges his indirect probing with nearly the same deftness as she and Ki-baek dodge fans of Couple’s Paradise. Ki-baek tries to persist, but after observing Woo-joo during her voluntary community service, he realizes that he can’t force her to open up about her feelings. If she wants to smile and pretend she’s fine, then that’s her choice — but, he tells her, it’s also okay for her to admit she’s not okay. (Wait… I feel like I’ve watched a K-drama about this.)

Turns out, that’s all the nudging she needed, and she confesses her professional and personal troubles. She doesn’t want to dwell on her problems, though, so she promptly announces it’s time for bed. But first — she wants Ki-baek to sing her a lullaby. Although I’d argue that Woo-joo should probably see a therapist for her fawning and avoidance tendencies, I’m happy to report that at least the communication between our OTP is healthy.

Unfortunately, the cozy domesticity of Ki-baek and Woo-joo’s community service/camping trip is ruined the next morning by Cho-hui. Her followers started questioning why Ki-baek never made an appearance in any of her videos, so our resident white lotus decided that the best course of action was to go nuclear and post an exposé about Couple’s Paradise that’s more fictitious than, well, a reality television show.

Cho-hui covers her previous lies with even more fabrications and states that Woo-jo was already dating Ki-baek prior to the start of filming and then forced Ms. Former Swimmer to leave the show because she was jealous. And after posting her video, Cho-hui boot-scootin-boogied it to France, where she could be conveniently written out of the plot no one could reach her or force her to tell the truth.

Woo-joo and Ki-baek become public enemies number one and two — not that people liked Woo-joo all that much after she rejected Jung-heon on the show — and the netizens’ ire escalates from nasty online comments to violence when someone throws a brick through Bok-ja’s window and attacks Woo-joo with a maraca. Ki-baek and Jung-heon come to her rescue, and at the police station, Jung-heon learns that Maraca Lady was one of his fans. The revelation shocks him, and once more the strain his career has taken on him becomes apparent.

The violence enacted against Woo-joo also unnerves Ki-baek, so he agrees to hold a press conference to denounce the rumors that he and Woo-joo are dating. It’s at this moment, though, that the on/off switch for truthfulness is inexplicably broken and permanently set in the “on” position. So instead of lying to the reporters, he confesses the truth. Yes, he and Woo-joo are dating, but Cho-hui lied about a whole bunch of stuff. Thankfully, Woo-joo shows up at that exact moment with proof (and a witness) that Cho-hui was the one who blackmailed Ms. Former Swimmer into quitting the show.

All is right in the world again, but Woo-joo is still grappling with whether she should meet her birth mother. On the one hand, she feels nothing will change by meeting the woman who birthed her, but there’s another part of her that’s weighed down by emotions she can’t seem to put into words. Ki-baek lets her lean against him and talk through what’s on her mind, and when she asks him for advice, he tells her if she chooses to do nothing, the feelings will eventually fade. However, if she decides instead to meet her mother, maybe she will understand why her heart feels so heavy.

Gotta say, Ki-baek is really knocking it out of the park with his boyfriend game this week, but for all his successes, he realizes he’s failed a few people along the way — namely, his family, who were on the receiving in of some of his nastiest truth bombs. To make it up to them, he books a fancy resort package so (for the first time in his life) his family can take a vacation together. But because he also owes his friend, Ji-hoo, he has to join his family a day late. So while his parents and brothers load up the car, he, Ji-hoo, and Reformed Asshole Idol (from Episode 1), venture into the woods to film a variety show episode.

The premise of this show has our B-list stars spending the night with a quirky nature guru. The man ties his hair back with a zip tie, has free range chickens, and forages for herbs, but he draws the line at living without his wifi. He’s a walking contradiction, but Ki-baek and company roll with the odd situation, doing their best to exaggerate their actions and ham it up for the cameras. It’s a little sad the way Ji-hoo is really leaning into the overweight funny man archetype, but as he tells the other men, he’d do anything to provide for his sick daughter — including asking the PD to omit his heartfelt (and ratings grabbing) dialogue about his daughter because he respects her privacy.

Despite the oddball personalities of the cast, the tranquility of their setting prompts them to have rather insightful conversations about life. A tree that has been struck by lighting prompts them to discuss how hardships can give birth resiliency — a topic that strikes a cord with Ki-baek, who is now realizing that his uncontrollable ability to speak the truth has made him stronger and happier. Life will continue to blindside us, he thinks to himself, and all we can do is accept it. The way Ki-baek accepts this truth is spoken in a positive, enjoy-the-moment-because-you-can’t-prepare-or-avoid-a-lightning-bolt kind of way, but the way the scene keeps cutting to his family — happily driving to their long-overdue vacation — is super heavy with foreshadowing. Oh no… please don’t. Please, plea– annnnnd, there it is. Truck of Doom.

So, yeah, that happened. On the Truck of Doom scale of needlessness, this one ranks far closer to Why Her? than Lovely Runner. But the unnecessary last-minute grab at suspense and emotional trauma was the least of my issues with this week’s issues. No, my biggest gripe is with our resident white lotus, Cho-hui. She is, hands down, the most poorly written mean girl in the history of K-dramas, and it’s painfully obvious the writers dropped her into the plot without any attempt to provide a logical explanation for her actions. They just needed a character to conveniently cause drama when it suited them.

The drama also made a big deal about her being Ki-baek and Jung-heon’s first love, hinting that she was the vixen that came between them and ended their friendship. But, as we learned this week, Ki-baek and Jung-heon’s falling out was completely unrelated to their shared love interest. Jung-heon, like Ki-baek, cultivated his own false persona to hide the truth that his father, a judge, abused him and his family. After lamenting about the messiness of his home life, Ki-baek — in the interest of fairness — revealed the truth about his family and the debt collectors that are chasing them. A well-intending Jung-heon wanted to help his friend, and told their classmates — without sharing excessive details — that Ki-baek was going through a tough time and needed money. Ki-baek, however, did not respond well to the charity — or to having his public image crumble — and lashed out at Jung-heon. Thus, their friendship came to an end.

When this drama started, I thought Jung-heon would be our token villain character, but now we all know who that ended up being (*gives Cho-hui the side eye*). Surprisingly, he has since evolved into a really compelling foil for Ki-baek. Both men have cultivated facades, but after Ki-baek’s shock to his system, their paths diverge. While Ki-baek has gone on to be liberated and find happiness, Jung-heon has sunk deeper into darkness. Jung-heon is depressed, and hopefully the brief scene of him and his agent at a hospital is a sign he’s getting some much needed help.

 
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