02 November 2014


Birth of a Beauty - Episode 1 (A WookiCap)

Posted by Kakashi Sensei on November 02, 2014
Heya Squeeglets! I'm most likely not going to recap this drama on a regular basis - real life is just too bitchy. But you know: Joo Sang-wook. I'm quite obviously waiting for him to sign on to TEN3, but in the meantime, I don't mind watching him doing another Rom-Com. He was so good in Cunning Single Lady! I started watching this with zero expectations and quite a lot of reservations, since I'm quite decidedly anti-plastic surgery and hated 200 Pounds Beauty. This episode made me laugh. I am not certain they will handle this delicate topic right (in fact, I doubt they will), but I'm ready to be surprised. Bring on the wack! Joo Sang-wook is deliciously good at it.
becca: I was fully prepared to let this one pass me by, but then I kept reading comments like "This is so crazy! And FUN!" So here I am.
JoAnne: I... did not laugh once. I can see where they are going for funny but it just didn't hit me yet, I guess. I didn't dislike it, I just didn't think it was funny.

Episode 1

TV informs us that plastic surgery is a BIG thing in South Korea (you don't say). Among one hundred plastic surgeons, the most beautiful Asian face was chosen with the help of a computer. Guess who looks exactly like it. Right! She (Sara, played by Han Ye-Seul) is currently in a taxi and the taxi driver (cameo by Lee Won-Jong - Yay! I'm still sad that we won't get a Vampire Prosecutor 3) keeps ogling her in the back mirror. She is returning to Seoul and everything seems new to her after having worked as news anchor in the US. Now she got a job in Korea. She tells her manager (on the front seat! Face hidden with a hoodie) that she'll get out here to look around. Is that a nod or is he fast asleep?
becca: Did I not notice him, or did I just forget?
JoAnne: The cut was ambiguous - I thought he was in another vehicle, and that the cab driver was her manager.
yes, that's what I thought the first time, too! I think we're to believe this is Tae-hee, no? Hoodie and all. But why would she not recognize him later? Hm.
She gets out (never have I seen higher heels and skinnier legs) and starts walking. She is so pretty that everybody starts following her, entranced. Hahaha. Well, they did cast her well - she sure is DAMN pretty. She also seems to have a sweetheart, joyful personality. becca: She seems kind of ditzy, too, but in an endearing way.
JoAnne: She did seem very likeable, although it took me a while to think of her as all THAT pretty. She grows on you, for sure, and I'd keep watching because of her heart.
She walks into a restaurant and gets spotted by a weird guy immediately (cameo by Kim Byung-Ok). Like everybody, he is stunned by her beauty and grace. He calls her an exceptional beauty with the face of a general - a face to save a nation. But, a warning: she is too compassionate and nosy. And she has to be careful not to get involved with a bad man. Then, she'll accomplish something big.
JoAnne: What was he WEARING?
She is outside, walking again, the clamoring crowd behind her. Suddenly, a hand tries to hold her back and a familiar voice shouts "Stop! You are mine!". We get a 1 second glimpse of a man in a hoodie ... it's Joo Sang-wook, my favorite teamchangnim! Han Tae-Hee in this drama. The crazy crowd makes it impossible for him to stay near though. Or is he the crazy one? We will find out.
becca: He is so awesome in this show. I giggled through all of his scenes.
JoAnne: Maybe it's because it's really cold and I have a head ache... but... nothing much. Although he does look handsome as ever.

She is going shopping next and is trying C-Cup bras. Pink. Which makes her break out in song, haha. But behold! Who is this behind the curtain? It's Han Tae-hee, who has followed her into the dressing rooms.
becca: Hahaha! Dude, that is so wrong, but so funny.
JoAnne: What's funny is the idea that that twig would be a C-Cup. But the pink song was cute. Why is there a song about pink? And actually, it's right about in this GIF when I started thinking hey, she's REALLY pretty.
She doesn't know him and starts screaming that there's a stalker. He must be the bad guy the other dude was talking about! She hits him, runs out screaming ... and then throws him to the floor with a perfect judo move (her own talents seem to surprise our Super Woman).
becca: Seeing Joo Sang-wook thrown around like a rag doll by this tiny woman is endlessly entertaining. *stares at gif*
JoAnne: I did like this.
Stalker is led away by security as the onlookers clap enthusiastically. Sine the shock must be great, Sara is served a cup of tea in the department store's VIP lounge and is told to wait for some higher ups. The other ahjummas in the room are watching TV and shaking their heads in sympathy. Sara, being true to her nosy self, puts her head up. It's a show called "Change" about total make-overs that you can win. Currently starring: Sa Geum-ran (Ha Jae-Suk) - a large woman. Geum-ran seems quite familiar to Sara, but she cannot place the face. Hint-hint.
becca: Wink-wink.
JoAnne: I had NO fucking clue. Until we met the actual one, I was convinced she was the girlfriend of the husband.
Yes, sometimes it helps to know the premise.
We're taken into Geum-ran's life. She is clumsy and very unlucky. People look down on her, even pity her because she's fat. At home, she serves two skinny women (her sister-in-laws) as "warning sign" to stop eating. So she lives in her husband's house (Jung Gyu-Woon as Lee Gang-Joon) - but since he is in the US, they've lived apart for seven years. She's taking care of the house and the elders (including a demented grandma) all by herself. On the show "Change", she says she really wants to lose weight.
becca: When I realized that Jung was playing her husband, I got really sad. Because I knew I'd end up hating him.
JoAnne: Really? I don't like that guy.
He has the weirdest ears
Sara returns home (there's a cardboard image of her there, WTF?) and tells her maid about the horrible stalker. She promptly changes the passcode to the front door. Smart woman. She then watches more "Change" with Sa Geum-ran. Ah, it's hard to watch ... the poor woman does everything for others while being ridiculed by her bitchy SILs, for example for sending her husband a daily video. That he doesn't even watch. 
becca: See? Already mad at him. And her in-laws! Grrr. Lemme at 'em so I can wipe those smug looks off their faces!
JoAnne: Very pitiful. Is this the awesome friend from Protect the Boss? If so, it's a reunion for her and Ice Cream.
And then, it's the final episode and ---- Geum-ran doesn't even win the "Change" show. No surgery for her. Sara is very agitated after that - and she decides to help the poor woman. She calls the producer of the show and threatens to write a letter of complaint to the Blue House (hahaa), but the PD tells her that Geum-ran herself gave up on surgery.
becca: I was so confused by this. I mean - we all know the premise, right? So it's not spoiler-y to say I was trying to figure out if she had amnesia or something.
JoAnne: I did not know the premise, since I never had any intention of watching this.
Sara starts to investigate. On the online forum, she finds a friend of Geum-ran's, named Eun Kyung-joo, who tells the world what happened after the camera's stopped rolling: Geum-ran happens to call her husband's phone - a woman picks up. She finds out her husband isn't in the States anymore but in Seoul. Without telling her. When she goes to check on him, she finds out he is having an affair with a woman named Kyo Chae-Yeon (Wang Ji-Hye). Geum-ran's luck is such that they make out right in front of the cupboard she's hiding in.
becca: Oof. What a terrible way to find out - not that there's a good way, I suppose. Their "making out" was pretty anemic, too.
JoAnne: She is in the bedroom of his suite. One supposes that the making out warmed up post-camera. With that poor woman in the closet.
Geum-ran and that woman (she seems to be a news anchor) have coffee a bit later ... I do wonder how that happened. Anyway, it's sad. Geum-ran begs the young pretty woman to leave her husband. Why does it have to be him? He is her one and only and last love - her entire life. And she waited for him all those years while taking care of his sick grandma and parents. Ah, but here is the thing: He might have used her support to be able to study abroad and stuff. But now, he's successful enough on his own - and doesn't need an overweight wife anymore, the dickhead. He is going to be CEO of HBS (= a TV station).
becca: That woman is just plain bitchy. No other way to say it. She even had the nerve to call Geum-ran "unni" and say she regretted that it all happened this way. *snorts*
JoAnne: Yup. Bitch.

In the end, the bitch even gets Geum-ran into trouble for "celebrity assault" - since she fell and then pretended to be really hurt (and everyone believed her because she's sooo pretty). Just when the detective is about to lead her away, her husband appears, vouching for her. But it's the last thing he'll do for her as a husband, he informs the happy-giddy woman afterwards. He just wants to be in love - and apparently, he cannot be with her. And you know what's the worst? His mother has known all along. As did the sisters (Who doesn't know: the father. He might be one of the good guys later. I really hope so. She needs more people on her side.)
becca: Kakashi, where do you keep your voodoo dolls? Just wondering....
JoAnne: I also felt that the dad didn't know.  Which is good.  Because I like this Bad Dad. He ended up a good Bad Dad in Come Jang Bori.
Ah, this hurts ... in the present, Sara has read it all and is crying. Ah, such a good heart ... the maid comes in and gives her a note that was in the mailbox. Somebody promises to let her meet Geum-ran! It's that friend, Eun Kyung-joo. Sadly, it seems Geum-ran has died. 49 days ago, after she gave up the show, she committed suicide. After seeing that the adultress was even welcomed into her house, she drove her car off a cliff. 
JoAnne: Explain that please, Show. How Eun Kyung-Joo knew where to find Sara, and why the bitch was at Geum-Ran's family home.
a) because it's probably not Eun Kyung-joo who wrote the note but Tae-hee and b) because this family (the women at least) are SHIT

Sara walks away from the buddhist temple where they met, very sad about that ahjumma's fate, when her crazy stalker appears behind her, hits her with a stick and drags her away. He is positively insane this one, right?
becca: Maybe. But I like him. He has kind of a dumb thug look to him. I have a soft spot for those kind of heroes - like Kim Myung-min in Bad Family.
JoAnne: Why was that even necessary, though. But now I want to see TeamJangmin as a thug. Like, he's in a family of thugs, and he's a thug, but really he hates violence/is scared of it and is smart, but he has a reputation for being dumb because he doesn't know thug things, and randomly spouts weird facts that make his family think he's strange.
While news about a psychopath man who killed the women he stalked plays on the radio, Sara wakes up on stalker's backseat. There all kinds of weird tools in the car too. As soon as he stops at a red light, she gets out and ruuuuuns. He catches up with her on the beach - where she beats him up again. Hehe. "You are Sa Geum-ran!" he shouts, when she is about to break his arm. Surpriiiiise!
becca: HAHAHA! I died during that chase scene. Priceless!
JoAnne: Seriously, not even a chuckle. Not even a grin. I could SEE where the run-style was supposed to be funny, I mean, come on - why are they running through the waves at the beach? But it just...wasn't. I was completely surprised to find out who she was, though.
So this is what happened: Geum-ran didn't die in the terrible accident that took her car off the cliff. She endured through sheer will, Tae-hee informs her. She even went and watched her own funeral, at which her in-laws didn't shed a single tear, the monsters. What Geum-ran did after that was brave and clever: she sought out the doctor on "Change" - our Stalker. "Make me pretty", she says. "I'm sorry, but I can't", is his answer. Well, he may be excused since in the middle of the night.
becca: Yep. He didn't seem malicious - just sleepy. How would you feel if someone showed up on your doorstep in the middle of the night, demanding a makeover? Pretty grumpy!
JoAnne: Seriously. And I kind of don't want Geum Ran to go away, really.
But her tears (?) finally move him. Of course not. But anyway, he operates! He even enhances her voice.
becca: I liked that they explained the voice - it was bugging me. And there's got to be a reason for him helping her - otherwise, he would have called the police, right?
JoAnne: Well, it could just be the challenge of it. We soon learn he considers himself a genius.
The operation was such a stressful event that Ex-Geum-ran, now Sara, has become delirious, thinking she is someone else. Because she didn't take her meds! That's why he was chasing her, to give them to her. And she even changed the passcode to his house! (LOL!) The reason why Geum-ran seemed familiar, why she remembers judo so well: she used to be that woman.
JoAnne: I'm glad they didn't drag that part out.

Back home, where Tae-hee tries to relax in front of the TV, Sara has cooked a delicious meal and apologizes for her misbehavior.
becca: That looks yummy! *paws at screen*
JoAnne: It did look good, that rice looked delicious.
Out he pulls a contract! He is "supersized" while she is just a nano-particle. Hence a contract with 50 pages and 99 clauses. Pfffft. The gist of it: she's his slave now. She signs in blood.
becca: She ripped her thumb open with her teeth! That was disgusting and unnecessary. Also: ALWAYS read the contract first, woman! Have you never watched any TV???? (and never ever EVER sign in blood!)
JoAnne: Come on, Show. That was gross.
Eating her delicious food, he asks how she will take revenge on her husband. She thinks she doesn't need a plan though: isn't she incredibly pretty? Hm. Time for some training, lady. He has prepared a whole TEN-like wall on the guy. The gist: they're BAAaaaad people. Going on trips on the dead fat wife's 49th death day. Using Big Data (hahaha), Tae-hee has found the following about Bad Husband's brain: 50% is wanting to be successful. 10% is thinking about being the CEO. Liking that Adultress: 30%. Which makes Tae-hee VERY angry. Oh, I see!
becca: NOW we're getting to it. That's a lot of work for someone who doesn't have a personal interest in the matter.
JoAnne: I tweeted Kakashi right about here, yep.
Being a filial son: a few more. And just 0.1%, a tiny dot!, are thoughts about his dead wife. As a comparison: 0.2% were about the buzzing mosquito in his room last night. So ... she is less than a mosquito to him. So. Even if she is pretty now, does she think just seeing her this way will make revenge happen? No. She has to became a different person - not only inside, but also outside. Make him fall for her. Then destroy him.
becca: CRUSH HIM like a mosquito!!
JoAnne: Crushing a mosquito isn't very impressive. Or hard.
At the TV station, Lee Gang-Joon is ready to reveal his love relationship with Gyo Chae-Yeon. Even though he isn't formally the CEO yet. Tell me this is going to blow up in their pretty but hateful faces? Watching the happy couple outside is Sara. He locks eyes with her briefly ... and pauses. She takes a step forward, determined ... but Tae-hee holds her back. Not yet.
becca: Okay, but Bad Husband is strange, right? I'm not sure I buy that he loves Bitchy. I'm guessing that he's using her, and later on the show will try to make us believe that he had some reason for all this, and he really loved Geum-ran all along, blah blah blah. Guess what, show? No.
JoAnne: Oh, no.  Mama would NOT be on board with that. Not AT ALL. No. End game must be Sara and Stalker, or else.
And as they burn her old clothes, she says goodbye to Geum-ran. Together, they're Korea's top beauty and a genius, he says. Revenge? It's definitely going to happen.
becca: Secret bro-handshake!
JoAnne: She gets prettier by the minute, I swear.


It's what we commonly call a "very solid first episode". It's a bit schizophrenic (and thus reminds me of Cunning Single Lady), being extremely funny when it plays in the present, but very sad and tragic when it's about the past of the woman lead, but we get enough of the crazy to make up for the sad.
JoAnne: If you say so.

Overall, it's a well-known story from beginning to end and nothing about it surprises in the least. I'm not saying that's a bad thing, but don't expect any pulse-raising cliffhangers! We've seen Joo Sang-wook do the funny-funky in Cunning Single Lady before, and he does it again, very similar. Still hilarious. Tae-hee calls himself a genius, but he's clearly borderline insane - most likely over the loss of a woman. Kyo Chae-Yeon, of course!
becca: Let's crush HER. Wang Ji-hye plays bitchy second leads very well.
JoAnne: She really does. It makes me sad because I keep just wanting her to do Ice Cream Girl again.

It IS pretty genius to create the perfect woman as a tool for revenge - but also absolutely crazy. But this set-up works (for the moment): Both the old/new Geum-ran and himself have a common goal and unless feelings (the wrong ones) get in the way, this revenge plot will totally work. Haha. It's pretty obvious that both will struggle with their lingering feelings for their exes and then, one of them will start falling for the other and will get jealous ... until they both realize what they feel for each other and THE END.
becca: Anticipate hijinks, people. This could either be good or bad.
JoAnne: I do hope for hijinks.

The elephant in the room question is the following though: What will you teach us about beauty, show? What can you teach us? Sara is the perfect beauty now, but what does that mean for her old self? Will we learn that outer beauty doesn't matter? That it's about inner beauty? That's going to be a bit difficult to show with a woman like Han Ye-seul. Who, by the way, did a fabulous job. She has good comedic timing, plays her naive character just that tiny little bit over the top that I like and her and Joo Sang-wook have good chemistry so far. I hope she accepts the difficult working conditions this time, though (there was a little scandal when she did Spy Myung-Wol, remember?). Not that I think they're okay, but I guess you have to play along if you sign up to do so?
JoAnne: Funny you bring that up because I would watch this SOLELY to support her in her efforts. I think she was pushed to the brink before, and vilified unfairly although it was admittedly a move that hurt others as well. Still, it's not a point you can make when a show is NOT actively filming, not effectively.

And finally, kudos to Ha Jae-Suk for playing a woman who constantly gets insulted for being overweight. Even with her success, this can't have been easy. And it makes me uneasy ... a lot. I understand that we needed to create a scenario which explains why she would do an extreme work-over AND is ready to take revenge. They succeeded. But the main problem I had with this drama from the very beginning IS the whole set-up. I honestly don't know how you can treat such a subject the right way, especially if you bring heavy plastic surgery into the story from minute 1.
becca: South Korea's standards of beauty really bother me. Not everyone has to look like the same thin paper doll! Ha Jae-suk is a truly lovely woman! I'm afraid I'll have to turn off part of my brain - the part that wants to think about the premise and all its ugly implications - while watching this show.
JoAnne: I always figure that when people sign on to play these roles, they know themselves and what they have. Making a choice to play the part insulates them in a way. They aren't hiding or pretending, and my sincere belief is that they are strong because they know their worth and have people who love them in their REAL lives. I think the ones who struggle with their looks and trying to live up to some ideal are the actors who work hard to fit some standard and always worry that they'll not meet expectation. I hope against hope I'm right, every time.

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