I’m always amused when I see shows about celebrities and their everyday lives. Are they what I imagine them to be when they’re not performing? Most recently, Actor Joo Sang Wook hosted Our Ugly Duckling which was filmed before his marriage to Actress Cha Ye Ryun.
It was interesting to see how Joo Sang Wook relayed that his own mother is very tough like Kim Gun Mo’s mom. He’s the middle child with an older and younger sister and he admitted that he wasn’t very good at school like his sisters were. He says that although he gave his mom grief when he was younger, he now is good at giving his mom plenty of allowance now which garnered a lot of laughter from the moms.
This week’s episode begins with Tony asleep on the couch. It looks like he had plenty to drink the night before. However, we learn that he spent the night at former H.O.T member Kangta’s house. Not only is he there but so is Tony’s roommate the lawyer.
Kangta has beautiful house that he lives alone in with his many dogs. He collects anime figurines, dedicated his attic for a manga library, has a foot bath and a sauna in his bathroom as well as a rooftop patio.
Kangta tries to wake Tony up so that they could get moving as Kangta has to get ready and go to work himself. Unfortunately, Tony has other plans. He admits to Kangta that his apartment is under renovations and he didn’t expect the renovations to take so long so he expects to stay at Kangta’s place for two weeks. Kangta immediately shuts the idea down so Tony negotiates down to a week. Kangta isn’t comfortable with that idea either but Tony hopes to wear Kangta down.
As for Kangta, he goes about trying to make the two guys some breakfast so he can feed them and usher them out the door. The typical hangover food in Korea is some spicy broth or other kinds of hot soup to help settle your stomach. Kangta makes pasta and lamb ribs instead. At first, Tony is taken aback by the nauseating food but after a few bites he admits that the food is delicious and continues to eat it.
In return, Tony and the lawyer get up to offer to clean the dishes but Kangta doesn’t trust them to clean the dishes well enough and tries to wash it himself. So Tony returns to the couch to pass out again. Except that Maximum, one Kangta’s dogs, can’t resist walking all over Tony. Kangta lets him be in hopes that it will annoy Tony enough to get up and leave but to his dismay, Tony’s pretty chill about it.
Just then, there’s a ring at Kangta’s door and he goes to check to see who it is only to find Tony’s other roommate, Kim Jae Duk at the door. With a big luggage bag. Tony tries to tell Jae Duk that he hasn’t fully informed Kangta of the situation and that the plan is to squat there as long as possible.
As you might imagine, the moms are watching this all play out in horror. Plus, Tony’s mom, who is usually chatty, is absolutely silent as she’s watching the monitors.
Suddenly, Kangta notices that their dogs have peed at various places around the house because they are unfamiliar with the setting so he races around the home to clean their mess. Kangta is so busy running around that he hasn’t even gotten to fully clean the dishes from breakfast.
To add insult to injury, Tony decides to go to the bathroom and asks Kangta for a spare toothbrush. He puts on Kangta’s robe and tosses his clothes on the floor. Kangta walks back and forth to pick up after him and discovers Tony in his sauna.
Meanwhile, the lawyer asks Kangta if he has a spare t-shirt while Kim Jae Duk is checking out his fridge. When Tony comes out of the sauna, he stands proudly in front of the AC to cool off after the sauna. I’ll admit that I laugh when watching Kangta being flustered by Tony’s blasé attitude but it’s only because I’m flustered at Tony’s gall to do this to his friend. Surely, this would end friendships in the real world, right?
Next up, we cut to Kim Gun Mo who is in his bathroom again. Nothing goods ever happens in there as he usually uses that room for his “projects” which are more troublesome than anything else. As usual we see that Kim Gun Mo has recruited his slave, Kim Jong Min but there is also a woman with them. The woman is Lee So Yul who happens to be a refugee from North Korea. She became quite famous personality because of her sunny disposition and her beauty. They have dubbed her Little Lee Sun Mi, which is Kim Gun Mo’s mom’s name, as she has many characteristics like his mom.
Kim Gun Mo recruited Lee So Yul to help him make a few North Korean dishes for Parents’ Day in May. She offers to teach them how to make a type of Potato Kimchi and Pollack Soondae. These are dishes that even the moms have never heard of. However, I expect that when there is a rice shortage you try to do make whatever dish you can with what you’ve got. Personally, I find North Korean cuisine to be a bit bland and fairing slightly on the sweeter side than South Korean cuisine.
For the Potato Kimchi, the three peel the potatoes. While Kim Gun Mo and Kim Jong Min use a peeler, Lee So Yul says that she finds it much quicker to peel potatoes with a knife instead. In fact, that’s the way I’ve learned how to peel potatoes so it always surprised me when I would watching a Korean cooking program to find them using peelers.
She gathers all the ingredients for the potato kimchi, which all look like typical kimchi ingredients but then pours in some light cooking oil. It’s surprising as you would think it would make the kimchi oily but it looks quite delicious when all the ingredients are mixed together.
Next, they sit down to make the Pollack Soondae. The first step is to take the guts out of the fish and remove all the bones. She shows them how to remove the bones and it’s quite impressive. However, the guys are not only disgusted by it but they don’t have enough strength to pull it out in one go. She tells Kim Jong Min to just pull out the spine and he is taken aback by how she’s able to say that so easily as if it were nothing.
After stuffing the fish with the soondae filling, they steam it but it looks like they overstuffed the fish as the fish have all burst. She asks the guys to remove the fish from the steamer but the stuffed fish are so heavy and the steam rising from the pot is so hot that Kim Gun Mo is unable to do it himself. Lee So Yul gets impatient as she watches him so she tells him to move aside and does it herself.
She plops the tray onto a plate that Kim Gun Mo is holding but the hot parts touch his hand and burn him. It’s hilarious to see how her cool but tough personality compared to the wimpy boys but Kim Gun Mo is charmed by her and even considers dating her. Unfortunately for him, he’s far too old for her so the age gap would be seen as taboo in North Korea. It was also interesting to learn what is considered attractive in North Korea. For example, Kim Gun Mo who is 165 cm (~approx. 5’3”) would be considered tall. Also, men whose bellies stick out are considered a catch. It makes complete sense since many people there are starving.
After the clip, Shin Dong Yup asks how the food was but Kim Gun Mo’s mom admits that it wasn’t to her liking. Even though she was originally from North Korea, she’s lived in the South too long and adapted to the Southern cooking that I can’t imagine her taste buds would still be attuned to North Korean cuisine styles that have developed since after the war. However, I think we were all enlightened by seeing another slice of life from behind the iron curtain and Lee So Yul is quite charming with her brash style but cheery disposition.
The final video clip featured Lee Sang Min and a day in his life. Many people have been interested in seeing this so that we could see how much he works in order to pay back his debt. On this particular day, he has 5 separate filming to complete which is quite unprecedented. He wakes up at 3:30 am to get ready to leave, which includes washing up, getting his wardrobe, doing his makeup.
He takes care of his own outfits and does his own makeup in order to save money. He also packs 4 big bottles of coffee before leaving the house. He drinks an enormous amount of coffee just to make it through the day not only because he lacks sleep but also because he takes medication that makes him drowsy.
His manager picks him up around 4:30am and off they go before the sun even rises. He arrives at the studio and then slips on his sneakers and a suit jacket. As he has a few minutes before the shoot, he sits down to eat a Choco Pie, his first bite of the day.
He finishes his first two shoots of the day and it is not even noon. I can’t believe that he’s been up since 3:30 but he manages to be energetic and approachable so early in the morning. I wake up around 6:30am and it takes me until noon to get to that point.
After the shoot, he’s off to his next schedule which is filming for Thoughts of Oppa. He touches up his makeup while in the car and layers on a new top. The editors have used the theme song from John Woo’s A Better Tomorrow starring Chow Yun Fat and I’m amused by how moved Joo Sang Wook is whenever he hears it. I get that guys love this movie but it doesn’t make any less amusing. Lee Sang Min puts on some new white sneakers but as he’s making his way across the parking lot, he’s careful to only step on the white lines of the crosswalk. He often changes his shoes from the expensive ones meant for when he’s filming to the cheap ones when he walks around outside to make the expensive ones last longer but it’s so amusing to see how walking just on the white lines would make any difference in keeping his sneakers clean.
After he’s done with that, he’s off his fourth schedule of the day, filming for Heard It Through the Grapevine. He falls asleep on this way to the studio and I suppose these short naps are somewhat of a saving grace for his tight schedule. It is about 2:30pm and his manager gets him his lunch. This is really the first official meal of the day and I’m not sure how he’s able to do all these filming without his stomach growling all day.
Hong Suk Chun stops by his dressing room so that they could eat lunch together and comments how he worries about the amount of coffee that Lee Sang Min drinks. He also asks about what he carries in his bag. Basically, Lee Sang Min carries everything he needs from face masks to foundation to a massager.
He wears one single t-shirt and then layers on another shirt or jacket on top of that shirt to change up his look. It’s quite a simple but effective way of refreshing his look for the various shoots.
After showing Hong Suk Chun how to use the massager, he tries it himself and he can’t help but make some disconcerting noise indicating that the massager is working. Shin Dong Yup comments how one could mistake the noise as being something else if they were walking by.
Then Hong Suk Chun asks how he feels about his mom possibly dating Shin Dong Yup’s dad. Lee Sang Min is all for it which propels Hong Suk Chun to inquire why he didn’t allow his mom to date when Lee Sang Min was younger. It was previously mentioned on the show that he was young at the time and uncomfortable with the idea so she never let the relationship go anywhere but Lee Sang Min admits that he knew of at least two men that her mom dated when he was young. Lee Sang Min’s mom denies that it was true but she admits that she was quite pretty when she was younger so there were a lot of men chasing her. Lol. You gotta love that confidence.
After filming two shoots for Heard It Through the Grapevine, it is after midnight. He greets everyone and quickly heads out the door to go home. His manager has already packed all of his belonging and loaded up the car just so they could race home. It is after 2am when Lee Sang Min enters his front door and he’s so exhausted that he collapses into bed without even removing the t-shirt he’s been wearing all day. I think audiences are quite taken with his story. He’s a guy who found stardom at a young age and with that came offers and money. Sure, he’s made mistakes but he’s firm in his resolve to fix his mistakes and pay back his debt. I’m not surprised that a lot of people want to cheer him on.
The other thing I’ve been keeping an eye out for is the new OCN drama, Duel, starring Jung Jae Young and Kim Jung Eun. It’s about a veteran detective, Jang Deuk Chun (Jung Jae Young) whose sick daughter is kidnapped.
Desperate to find her, he comes across Lee Sung Joon (Yang Se Jong) who is the guy that Deuk Chun identifies as the man that kidnapped her from the ambulance. However, Sung Joon protests that he’s innocent. Deuk Chun refuses to believe him until he sees another man, Lee Sung Hoon (also Yang Se Jong) looking at the two battle it out. Are they twins? What do they want with his daughter?
I love the title of this drama, especially in Korean, as it works on two levels. There’s “duel” which indicate the battle of good vs. evil but there’s also “dual” which is an indication of the two characters played by Yang Se Jong.
Yang Se Jong is an up and coming actor who I’ve been keeping an eye on as a rising star in the K-Drama world. He’s incredibly adept and convincing as melodramatic actor but he can also play affable and good-humored. He’s certainly got range which is something I noticed in Saimdang, Light’s Diary. Here in Duel, I am interesting to see how he plays the two, very different characters. One who seems to be scapegoat, while the other is darkly sinister.
The first two episodes left me thrilled and intrigued but also left me a lot of questions. It’s edited in a way where the story doesn’t unfold in a linear manner. From the get-go, the propelled into action as Deuk Chun tries to comply with the kidnappers wishes in order to get his daughter back. Although Prosecutor Choi Jo Hye (Kim Jung Eun) is assigned to the case, he begs her and her team to stay away due to the kidnapper’s demands.
I’m not sure if the subsequent episodes will unfold in a more linear manner but I have to admit that I had to stay alert for these first episodes in order to stay on top of the story as the drama tried to set up their characters and their relationship to each other. We go back in time in order to get a sense of the type of person that Deuk Chun is. He’s a very attentive father and wants to do the right thing but he’s just trying to get by. When he witnesses that a fellow detective receives payment from a gangster, he looks the other way.
However, later on, we see that he’s unwilling to look the other way when it comes to going after a father who admits to having an affair and allowing his girlfriend to kidnap the daughter. Not only has this father obstructed justice but used company funds to cover his deeds. Nor does the guy seem very concerned with what he’s done.
When Prosecutor Choi Jo Hye asks him to look the other way, he refuses. She points out that he was the one who shot the gun and caused his wife to die when his wife was held at knifepoint years ago.
She brings it up to show how they look the other way for him but Deuk Chun has not been able to move one from that trauma that caused him to lose his wife.
Already, I love at the complexity of Deuk Chun’s character. When it comes to good vs. evil, it’s not all black and white. However, I think what’s most compelling for the viewer and the thing that makes him a great protagonist is that he is ultimately a good guy. What I haven’t fully grasped is what Choi Jo Hye’s relationship with Deuk Chun is. Was there ever a point where they didn’t hate each other? What drives Jo Hye to be so hard-nosed and unsympathetic? Because Jo Hye is able to hold this guilt over Deuk Chun, was there ever something more to their relationship besides being colleagues?
As for Yang Se Jong, he’s convincing in both roles as the cold, calculating Sung Hoon and as the confused Sung Joon. Other than seeing that Sung Hoon holds all the cards, not much is known about him except that he’s keeping Deuk Chun’s daughter alive for a reason and that he’s not the mastermind. I am interesting in learning what the deal is with his twin, Sung Joon, and what their connection is other than they look alike.
As for Sung Joon, we can already see that there is an emotional component to how he feels about Sung Hoon. As he begins to remember snippets of how he got where he is, it is clear that he feels extreme anger towards Sung Hoon but it extends mainly from confusion and from being accused of something he didn’t do.
At one point, Sung Hoon becomes resigned in taking the fall but he has a change of heart when it seems clear that Deuk Chun believes him to a certain extent. The two will still have to deal with their trust issues but for now, their fates are entwined as they are now both fugitives on the run.
Although the first episodes were very exciting, I think what draws me to this drama, other than the actors, is that I have very few theories about where this drama could go because I have more questions than answers. These days I’ve been feeling resigned to the predictable plots. Sure, it could all go sideways but the promising thing about the drama is the possibility that it could take us anywhere so for now, I’m hooked.