Panda and Hedgehog - Episode 1 (A Cap)

The first time I watched Panda and Hedgehog I was 2 years into my kdrama addiction and I came away with an initial impression of cute and candy, dreamy lighting and dreamboat actors and all those delicious looking pastries. I also wrongly attributed this light and fluffy romcom with TvN (which I’m thankful for because it led me to the wonderful world of cable) but I feel I should apologize to channel A. I’m a little hesitant to watch it again because … well … experience.
JoAnne: I think it was a year or two for me, too! I'm on year 3 or 4 now...I never remember.

Anyway, why don’t we get started?

The episode 1 opener... light’s all fuzzy so this must be a flashback. A little boy is drawing colorful cakes on the sidewalk. A little girl wearing a tshirt with a panda drawn on it is looking at cakes and singing this strange little song.
JoAnne:  Someone draws very well for their age.  Great illustration skills, really solid.

Boy looks up and is surprised that she (panda) has managed to memorize it. He walks over and then a man runs out of the bakery and pushes past the little boy. He has a snake tattoo. We know he has a snake tattoo because the camera lingers on it for a while. Somebody yells that he should stop, then suddenly we’re in the present and our hero (the very delectable Donghae of SUJU) is chasing after somebody. He’s owed money and means to collect. They end up at a bus stop, uri Donghae is too far to actually grab the guy but still manages to threaten him with harm. Things are about to get serious when suddenly a girl carrying a giant panda head walks in front of him and gets on the bus. He’s distracted and the guy he’s chasing runs away. He wonders if panda girl distracted him on purpose.
JoAnne: I don't follow SuJu and still don't but 10 seconds of Donghae was enough to make me a fan of HIM for life.  You muffin boy, let me bite you!  Should I call him cupcake though, considering?

Uri Donghae who we now know is called Seung Ji (which per the ladies at drama beans also sounds like hedgehog) has an emergency at the bakery. His co-worker has completely crushed the cake, the ceremony it was ordered for is in 2 hours and he wants to know if SJ can save it reconstruct it. SJ refuses to ‘reconstruct’ another person’s work and sends co-worker out to buy glitter. He does this one, two, three thing (that I’m guessing will become very significant) and co-worker scurries off.
JoAnne:  If he turns into some fancy pants diva that goes around making gestures at minions and saying 'Glitter me, bitch!' I might not be a fan for life.  Although...hmm. I do like Key. Can't you see Key doing that?  Or Tao?

We’re treated to a nice profile of Donghae’s hairless chest as he cleans up. He recites this list of what appears to be latin names as he buttons up his chef’s uniform. Then we have a pretty mouthwatering montage of him making little finger cakes. 
JoAnne: What? Your mouth didn't water until CAKE showed up? *shakes head*
I was hungry ok!
This will have to do until I figure out how to use GIF maker

Meanwhile, the owner of the bakery is sitting outside a building waiting anxiously. Cherry blossoms fall as a tired looking woman steps out and buttons up her coat. Extra points if you catch the thing with the buttons. This show is really obvious the second time around. Owner and woman stand facing each other in a shower of cherry blossoms. It’s a classic meeting of two lovers…or is it?
JoAnne:  I thought it was.  She looks really miserable, though. Are they breaking up? Someone has cancer, right?  
They're in there somewhere
SJ and co-worker are watching the ceremony. His rescue was a success. SJ sticks his flyer advertising loans on the door in satisfaction. Bakery owner turns up and starts yelling at them. Turns out he is SJ’s grandfather. SJ spots the cherry blossoms in grandfather’s hair and teases him about having a lady love. Grandfather ignores him and SJ and his friends head to the park. SJ’s second friend tries to get him to stop doing business in a known gangster’s area. SJ says he’s just advertising but when the gangster and his black suited minions show up, the three friends book it.
JoAnne: I do love this grandpa. Not the way I love his grandson, though.

Cue, running montage through the streets of Seoul. The camera lovingly focuses on Donghae’s face and I’m not complaining. We get several shots of his cute smile, his floppy hair and his long running legs. What’s this? The three friends run in front of Panda Café where panda girl is getting ready to put on the giant panda head. Again our two leads miss each other by a millisecond. The video slows down a bit to show us how fatefully unfateful this all is.
JoAnne: In a really, truly, astonishingly surprising turn of events for all who know me, this girl is actually why I watched the drama. I LOOOOVED her in Playful Kiss.   I had no idea who Donghae was and I had no idea Choi Jin Hyuk was in this - plus I'd only ever seen him in I Need Romance and he wasn't quite as embedded in my brain as he is now.  (There was only one shirtless scene, and I find those really only work for about 6 months of worship on my part. I AM aging, you know.)
I don't have a gif of that but this should give you the same feels
Panda girl (who is actually called Pan Da-Yang…subtlety is not in writer-nim’s vocabulary) is the owner of a failing café rather aptly called Panda Café (I sense a theme here don’t you?). She has a big problem because the cakes her rather shady looking patissier makes (according to the very irate customer who works across street) actually smell like dirty dish cloth. How do you not notice that?
JoAnne: That's disgusting.

PG tries to ask her aunt for money but her aunt’s still paying off her father’s debt. Her aunt asks her dead brother to send a rich man who only had eyes for PG and will help make the café a success. PG calls her sister who’s been under cover at deluxe patisserie Saint Honore trying to find the secret to the secret sauce/icing/cake (we’re never told). Her sister hasn’t figured it out. PG is in dire straits, she has no money and the café is the last thing she has that belonged to her parents. She has a friend who works at Saint Honore in the corp office (I guess) but she’s too afraid to ask her for money.

Money juseyo
Her friend says something major is about to happen because the prodigal son is coming back to pick up the reins and shake up the ranks. She lists all his virtues but PG just focuses on the fact that a shake-up = part time work. She rushes home to work on her CV.

Prodigal Son returns and encounters a girl with a stuffed panda at the airport. He asks her why she likes pandas and she says because they’re the prettiest animals. He smiles and agrees. Thanks writer-nim for that very obvious hint. PS has a little sister who calls him hyung. This is interesting because (as you know) that’s what younger boys call their brothers. She’s acting rather tom boyish so that’s probably why. PS has a smile that explodes ovaries.
JoAnne:  I agree with you on the smile but the Cellophanes hair has GOT to go. I like the sister.

All three (PG, PS and SJ) are standing outside Saint Honore. PG promises to come back to Saint Honore to work. SJ promises to take down Saint Honore and PS promises to protect it with all his might. What is it with this place?
JoAnne:  I dunno but for a bakery to be THAT important to me?  When I bite into a pastry it better taste good AND ... Donghae! Donghae honey, come frost Noona's cake!

Lil’sis isn’t the freshest cookie in the cookie jar so her mom’s cut her off. PS gives her some money and suddenly the aegyo is coming out and she’s calling him oppa.

Grandpa has a problem. His daughter’s finally out of jail but he doesn’t have enough room for her and SJ. Looks like daughter left a son behind. He’s fully resolved to kick SJ out until SJ comes in. He thinks Grandpa is asleep but sweetly chastises him and says he loves him. Who can kick out such cuteness?
JoAnne: He can come stay with me. There's room for a bun in my oven.

The next day? PS makes a visit to the Saint Honore kitchens where the head chef is about to do something magical with hard candy. Seems father and son aren’t on the best of terms. Chef has a burn on his hand. It’s significant…trust me. Head chef stabs the cake with a piece of candy. I feel vaguely threatened.

There’s a welcome ceremony and PS draws first blood. He’s about to be manager and Head Chef had no idea. HC makes his move with a cake covered in a candy shell. PS doesn’t hesitate and crushes it down the middle.
JoAnne:  What's so great about this place? I see one cake with a single lonely Dorito stuck in the middle, and another covered in the crusty remains of a spider web spun but what HAD to have been the world's most jaundiced spider.

JoAnne:  Correction:  A spider web cake that oozes blood. Yuh-MEE.
SJ is chasing his guy again. They always stop about a foot away from each other. Threats are made, SJ does his one, two, three thing and they chase after him again. SJ encounters the giant panda head and is again distracted. I’ve decided to drink a shot every time a panda shows up. He’s convinced they’re working together and resolves to find this panda café.
JoAnne:  How can you speak so flippantly about an endangered species?

Grandpa leaves the bakery all dressed up. Is he going to meet cherry blossom lady? SJ and friend have the brilliant idea to try and catch panda girl at the bus station. No comment on the silliness of that idea. They spot grandpa and decide to follow him. He leads them to a women’s hostel where they think he’s being a sugar daddy and then to a café where they watch him meet up with his daughter.

SJ remembers that there were cherry blossoms falling when grandpa came to meet him outside the prison. Epiphany, heavens open, angels sing. Grandpa is worried and grumpy because his daughter doesn’t want to live with him in his small house. SJ realizes that Grandpa hasn’t been paying his employees better than himself and SJ is the better paid. SJ has an attack of conscience so he buys grandpa some meat. I’m guessing when he came out grandpa bought good meat as a celebratory dinner. As you know Korean meat is expensive so that was probably a big deal. SJ is angry at Grandpa that he’s not sharing is problems. We find out that SJ and Grandpa aren’t really related. Donghae does quite well in this scene.
JoAnne: Huh, I...what? Donghae.

Commercial Break

JoAnne: Back when I watched this, I knew who HE was.  Now I know who SHE is, too.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch. PG’s friend (shall we call her flighty chick? FC? ) is gushing over PS. PG is positive she’s seen him before but she’s more concerned about her resume getting looked at. FC is convinced they couldn’t know each other coz they’re on different levels.
PS walks into Saint Honore and totally ignores his dad. This is war. He’s already looking at the numbers and spots some irregularities. His baker sidekick notes that he’s drawing the sword. We find out he’s got a girl he’s in love with. Oh noes! It’s PG! It’s hard to be surprised because writer-nim hit us over the head with it about 15 min ago. He wonders how to get in touch with old classmates.

Double Panda
SJ is writing his resume. He has to get a job and help out so that Grandpa can live with his daughter. He seems to be a pretty accomplished pattisseur but he spent some years in prison. This is not going to go well. PG is writing up a flyer and is looking for a new pattisseur. The shady one has finally pissed her off one to many times. This isn’t bread crumbs, writer-nim is dropping two tiered cakes.
JoAnne:  Oh, right, he's a bad boy. Yeah.  Donghae, Noona is out of frosting...come help! 

Back at SH, PS finally shakes off his mom and the photographer and asks for the resumes. FC thinks he’s holding out his hand for her and simpering places hers in his. He looks confused and a little freaked out. Not your hand, the resumes! Funny little moment that. What is this? He’s found her! It turns out PG is his first and only love. I feel so sorry for him already. Does he not know he is the second lead? Little sis offers her best love advice to help him catch her.
SJ takes out his frustrations about the job search on some weights. I quickly google how to gif because that’s a scene I would like to play over and over again. PG has been sticking up flyers all over Seoul and both of SJ’s friends find them. She’s offering a job and a room. He does his one, two, three thing and runs off happily. Back at the café… PG is about to hang up the panda suit. Could this be a message that she’s giving up? Figuratively committing panda suicide? Hmm, something bad is going to happen. True enough PG gets the call that she has an interview and starts jumping with happiness. She’s forgotten she’s on a teeny tiny stool. Then there is a very elaborate, slow mo of her falling only to be caught in the strong arms of uri SJ. SJ gives a little smile and the rest of us sigh at the adorable meet-cute. Poor PS drives up in his car at that moment and the look of devastation on his face makes my heart twinge. But very briefly.
JoAnne:  I will mediate.  All they really need is a king-size bed.


It’s a lot slower the second time around and the story is hopelessly obvious. Still I’m loving Donghae and SJ. He’s not the best actor but SJ seems sweet and caring and there’s obviously a part of him that’s got fire and ambition. (Be brave, you feisty, ambitious part.  I approve...and I will approve again soon. Just let Noona get some fluids first.) Apparently Donghae learned how to make pastries for this role so when we get married I’ll have access to all the cake I want. (oops)The actress playing PG was a favorite in Playful Kiss so I’m happy to see her again. She has the right amount of adorable for this show.
JoAnne:  She's pretty much the right amount of adorable for anywhere.

Choi Jin-Hyuk *sigh* You wouldn’t know it watching him, that he could be a wol-ryung (Gu Family Book) or even sexy heir (Heirs). I had pretty bad second lead syndrome the first time I watched it and I think I will again.
JoAnne:  I get the feeling that he IS the uber goof puppy with surprisingly UNdisgusting man aegyo, and that he has to put ON the sexy fierce guy.  I like that.

Grandpa is so cute and adorable, the secondary characters are amusing. They’re light and frothy and obviously won’t grow much but everybody is holding their own. This is no Coffee Prince or My Sweet Samsoon but I know I’ll get a happy ending and some very sweet moments in between. It seems KDrama has gone melo this season so this should be a nice escape from the darkness.
JoAnne:  You forgot about that snake tattoo already, didn't you.
Oh. Yeah. That. Damn It. But it's surface melo...right? I don't remember. Must have blocked it out.