Monday, August 27, 2012

K-Drama Review: To The Beautiful You, Episodes 3-4

Read Episode reviews for:

To The Beautiful You--Episodes 1-2
To The Beautiful You--Episodes 3-4
To The Beautiful You--Episodes 5-6
To The Beautiful You--Episodes 7-8
To The Beautiful You--Episodes 9-10
To The Beautiful You--Episodes 11-12
To The Beautiful You--Episodes 13-14
To The Beautiful You--Episodes 15-16

Contains Spoilers for Episodes 3-4

In the aftermath of Dorm 2's victory party, high jumper Taejoon goes a little champagne-crazy and kisses his roommate Jaehee, a girl who he doesn't know is a girl or does he?

I Think Everyone's a Wee Bit Confused Right Now.

From the shadows, someone snaps a cellphone photo. Who would want to use blackmail against either of them? Jongmin, the dude who hates Jaehee? Or maybe Taejoon's high-jumping rival, whose name I cannot remember? Anyhow, when the kiss is over, Taejoon grins like a little child, then passes out into Jaehee's arms. She has to cart him back to their dorm in a wheelbarrow.

And the Campus Pet Joins Them. Dawww.

Jaehee's best bud Eungyul is looking for her, but instead Eungyul is found by Taejoon's gymnastic stalker, Hanna. Ooh, that's a lot of belligerent dialogue between these two. Are Eungyul and Hanna going to be our secondary couple?

Interestingly, while it has seemed all this time that Jaehee was pursuing Taejoon out of a stalker-based crush, her post-kiss feelings for him remain those of innocent hero worship. While he sleeps, she whispers that all she wants is to see him high jump again. I'm kind of surprised that she doesn't seem to want him for herself--she just wants to see her glorious angel mend his wings and fly again. Huh.

Fly, My Grumpy Angel. Fly, Fly!

Taejoon doesn't remember anything, but the next morning someone sends the entire school a text message with the incriminating picture in it. Yeah, it was totally Rival Dude who sent that, because he teases Taejoon about the photo in front of everyone in the snack room (as One Direction's song "One Thing" plays in the background!). Jaehee rushes to Taejoon's defense and says that the kiss was her idea, because it's a common greeting in America. I love how in K-dramas, America always ends up sounding like this giant mishmash of endless hugs and kisses. Mwah. It's not like that, y'all!

Eungyul's falling for Jaehee a little bit, and he's wonders what this says about his orientation, but he notices that he's still magnetically drawn to attractive women, so he doesn't know what to think. He takes Jaehee on a double blind date with two girls, and everyone has a fun time. Eungyul starts to fall for his date, but she tells him she's got a boyfriend already. I think Eungyul just wants love, no matter from whom.

Won't Somebody Comfort This Sweetie?

Jaehee has a big episode in town where she goes chasing after Lettuce, the school's dog, who also ran away from Taejoon earlier. Jaehee and Taejoon find the dog and each other, then walk back to the dorms together. Taejoon saves Jaehee from getting splashed by a rainwater from a passing bus, except that he drops their umbrella to do so, getting them both even wetter. It's just an excuse for the audience to see more hugs, I think.

The weekend comes up at school, and dorm captain Seungri invites Jaehee, Eungyul, and Jongmin to come stay at his mom's beach house/inn over the break. Taejoon's Rival is coming, too, but not Taejoon himself. Heh heh--Seungri lured most of the guys to his house under the pretense of girl-watching at the beach, but it turns out that his mom needed help painting the beach house, so they're recruited to work all weekend!

Not The Way They Saw Their Saturday Going.

School Doctor takes Taejoon away from campus so Taejoon can escape an uncomfortable interview with his father. But School Doctor takes Taejoon to Seungri's mom's beach house/inn, so all our main cast are in the same place. Taejoon snaps some photos of the scenic locale and it seems like he might have a talent for photography. Is it just a hobby, or is this going to become his new passion, to replace high jumping?

Hanna also arrives at the beach, to better stalk Taejoon, and one of the inn's employees discovers that Jaehee's a girl, so conflict begins to swirl. Hanna is actually nice on this trip, though, and she makes Taejoon some cookies he used to like when his mom was alive. She has never seemed outright mean, and I'm glad to see there's a real warm side to her.

Too Bad She's Barking Up the Wrong Tall, Brooding Tree.

Taejoon does smile at Hanna and accept her cookies. They really do seem to have a strong thread of friendship under Taejoon's outward distaste and Hanna's outward obsession.

We have a series of spa-related near-misses where first Hanna then Eungyul nearly find out Jaehee's a girl. But instead we get Eungyul and Hanna having a big fight before anyone can see Jaehee. I'm starting to look forward to Eungyul-Hanna fights, thought Hanna is incredibly abusive--poor Eungyul is going to have a fractured skull before this is over. He actually does pass out in a slapstick way from all the whacks to the noggin he's received fom her.

The Entire Ensemble Cast is Quite Concerned.

Creepy inn Employee who knows Jaeehee's a girl asks her to go into town to grocery shop with him. Taejoon grows suspicious of the guy and follows them on his bicycle. Turns out that creepy employee drives out to the middle of nowhere specifically to assault Jaehee. Taejoon stops him, but not before Jaehee gets punched in the face and injures her still-healing ankle. Taejoon gives Jaehee a piggyback ride all the way back to the inn, and they get back after sunset.

The predator gets away without retribution, apparently, and everyone rides home in a bus. Taejoon is now back to thinking of his own personal drama and the rumors swirling about his high-jumping woes.

I Thought You Didn't Even Want to High-Jump Anymore?

Jaehee soon gets word that her oppa (big brother/older guy friend) from America is coming to visit her! Oppa is played by Julien Kang, a half-Korean half-French actor who also speaks flawless English. *heart flutter*

To fool her oppa who thinks she's attending an all-girls' school, Jaehee steals Hanna's school uniform. I'm still trying to process the fact that we're back to our cutesy, sneaky hijinks so quickly after such a horrible event nearly happened to Jaehee. But when Oppa takes Jaehee on the cutest shopping trip ever, I begin to forget about all the real-world issues we almost addressed.

New Hairbows Cure Old Traumas.

Oppa knows that Jaehee loves Taejoon as an athlete-idol, so when he finds out that Taejoon is doing a signing event nearby, he drags Jaehee to get an autograph. Taejoon doesn't recognize her, and all is well. Oppa leaves and Jaehee goes back to her life as a boy....until Oppa, who is a doctor, shows up at school to help Taejoon and sees Jaehee in her usual dudely clothes!

Oppa is NOT Happy About This.

Jaehee explains to Oppa that watching Taejoon jump gave her inspiration and courage in life, and she had to come here to try to pay him back. It's silly, but she means it with all her heart. Taejoon  overhears her talking about him, and also overhears the fact that she's a she. Taejoon seems deeply touched by Jaehee's support, but he decides it's best for her future if he sends her on her way back to America.

Holy cow, Minho's acting just got better! You can actually tell how much his character likes Jaehee and how badly it hurts to send her away after such a short time together. I knew he could do it! Jaehee is broken up about getting kicked out by Taejoon for, like, the fourth time in as many episodes.

At Least She Has Eungyul's Shoulder to Cry On.

She leaves school in the middle of the night, which is a total fakeout because somebody's going to stop her at the beginning of the next episode.

Things I Loved:

1. Eungyul/Hanna. Is it sad that their interaction is sharper and more interesting than much of the interaction between our lead couple? Or maybe I just prefer snappy dialogue between a pair to cold silence and longing glances, which is what Taejoon and Jaehee supply. Eungyul and Hanna's actors also seem to be having fun with their scenes.

Kind-Hearted Dork and Spoiled Princess? So Much Potential Here.

2. Sulli's Acting. Gosh, this child is adorable. Jaehee's way out on the far branches of sanity, but Sulli makes her seem real, vulnerable, and full of joy. You gotta love it.

Cute Enough to Bring a Tear to Your Eye.


1. Bad Episode Endings. Is this show catching the weird "anticlimactic ending" syndrome from my favorite sageuk historical drama, Faith? Episode 3 trailed off into nothing.

2. Too-Heavy Themes. To The Beautiful You is supposed to be made of froth and bubblegum, but then we have an attempted rape at the beginning of episode 4. I'm not against this type of plot point in general, but it feels a bit too extreme for this show. Suddenly having a sexual predator threatening Jaehee feels incredibly disturbing, and I don't know that viewers of this particular show want "disturbing" to be a part of their weekly viewing experience. We barely have time to process the awfulness before we're back to the happy-go-lucky.

Forget the Dark Themes From 5 Minutes Ago, We're Shooting Athletic Commercials!

Episode Evaluations: The settings are so, so pretty. The school, the beach, and everywhere in between is so pristine and clean and well-lit. There are lots of little giggles to be had, but no real tension because the stakes are so low all around (ep. 4 excepted). It doesn't so much matter what happens as the way in which it happens, which is very cute.

It's rather hollow at the core, but the shell is very shiny.

And yet I'm put off by the sudden hyper-serious turn in episode 4. Nothing happens, but the suggesting of rape and then its quick dismissal  is enough to make this episode hard to fully enjoy.


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  2. Your description was perfect: hollow but very shiny exterior. Not even sure where to begin my comment, lol...

    The way Taejoon was acting towards Jaehee made me think he already knew she was a girl long before that scene where she was talking with her brother. I'd been under the impression that he might have overheard her conversation w/ the school doctor in ep 1 or 2, just based on his behavior toward her, like when he got in front of her to block the splash for example. It's just not behavior I'd expect to see from a guy, towards a guy.

    Omg and don't EVEN get me started on that whole freaky near-rape thing. I'm all for intensity and thrilling drama, but like you said, in a show like this it just feels so out of place. And what made it all the more disturbing, as you also mentioned, was how it was so quickly and easily dismissed and forgotten.

    So far this show is horribly shallow, but cute and amusing enough that I'll keep watching it. I'm not all that invested in the characters, but I'd like to see how they get to where I'm sure they're going.

    I guess I'll go ahead and start watching Faith, after all - I can use a little "depth-and-intensity" fix, lol. I've been putting off starting it just cuz I feel so conflicted towards the only other historical-type drama I've ever seen. I'll be sure to read you reviews for it when I finally get around to watching! :)

    1. Excellent point about Taejoon behavior to Jaehee--I have never seen one guy shield another from a water splash, no matter what.

      I remember now from my manga-reading days that these almost-assaults were very common and were almost never really dealt with; they were just an excuse for our hero to rescue our heroine and hug her afterwards. Horrible way to get in extra cuddling, if you ask me.

      I know, it's all so cute, isn't it? I may not be on the edge of my seat, but I'm still watching TTBY.

      You'll like Faith! It's serious but has plenty of lighter moments. It was my first real historical drama and it pulled me right in.