Monday, April 30, 2012

K-Drama Review: Rooftop Prince, Episodes 11-12

Read Episode reviews for:

Rooftop Prince--Episodes 1-2
Rooftop Prince--Episodes 3-4
Rooftop Prince--Episodes 5-6
Rooftop Prince--Episodes 7-8
Rooftop Prince--Episodes 9-10
Rooftop Prince--Episodes 13-14
Rooftop Prince--Episodes 15-16
Rooftop Prince--Episodes 17-18
Rooftop Prince--Episodes 19-20, Finale

Contains Spoilers for Episodes 11-12

In the previous episode, Park Ha confessed to Yi Gak via text message that she likes/loves him. But he evades the "I like you" issue entirely by saying that she broke his phone and he can't read the text she sent. Is he sparing her feelings because he can't return them? I think so. He's backed into a corner and trying to do the honorable thing.

Side Note: Gosh, Her Hair is Looking Nice, Lately. 

But after a good long time of avoiding each other and not saying anything significant, Yi Gak asks Park Ha directly, "Is it true that you like me?" When she tears up and doesn't answer, he says in the kindest way possible, "Don't like me". Because he's got a mystery to solve and a kingdom to return to. Yi Gak starts putting together the mystery of his double Taeyong's disappearance (essentially solving his own murder!). Yi Gak confronts villain Taemu with a ton of condemning evidence, then Taemu vows to squash Yi Gak completely.

I Killed You Once; I Can Do it Again!

Soon, Park Ha confronts Yi Gak about his sweet treatment of her--if she's not supposed to like him, why does he keep showing such courtesy to her? And why is she not allowed to like him, anyway? He can do whatever he wants, so why can't she like who she wants? Touche, milady.

So Yi Gak lays it all out on the table--he had a wife in the Joseon era. Park Ha says she knows, and she even knows it was a version of Sena. He explains to her that his princess died, and he has to avenge her death. And wow, until now I didn't realize that Yi Gak feels he has to actually marry Sena in order to solve the murder. If they marry, he figures someone will try to kill her, history will repeat itself, he'll solve his own wife's murder, and he'll be transported back in time. Uhhh...

Sometimes His Logic Doesn't Work Very Well.

Three minutes later, Sena and Yi Gak spontaneously agree to marry. Doggone, but that girl moves fast. Meanwhile, Park Ha gets trapped in a warehouse fire and Yi Gak runs to her rescue. He looks after Park Ha while she's recovering, makes her some medicine, and even even tucks her into bed in a motherly fashion.Yi Gak is finally asking himself, of all the rooftops in Seoul, why did I land on Park Ha's? He realizes he has totally upset her neat, calm life and he apologizes for the trouble. Oh Prince, you've come such a long way, to recognize your own shortcomings!

But Yi Gak's running out to save Park Ha resulted in him losing an important business contract, and CEO Grandma is furious. Yi Gak keeps Park Ha away from the rooftop apartment while Grandma fumes and waits for them, but he makes up excuses for the two of them to stay out together much longer than is necessary. Yi Gak turns "avoiding Grandma" into a marathon date with Park Ha, which ends with staying in the community room at a jimjilbang sauna overnight.

Gyah, Jimjilbang Uniforms Are So Cute.

More corporate plotting goes on with Taemu trying to sabotage Yi Gak, and Taemu figuring out Sena and Park Ha's connections to each other. But the most significant event in episode 12 happens when Park Ha leaves town for a day to search for a new job. Yi Gak goes a little crazy, looking for her. Then he sits on the roof all night, balefully staring into the distance. When she gets back, he's terribly angry. Why does she do this to him? He was worried sick and he felt like his heart was breaking. And now he has figured out why: "I like you." Then we get the first real kiss of the show!

Because That CPR Thing Totally Didn't Count.

Things I Loved:

1. The Rescue. It looks nice and dramatic, but it's also very touching. Yi Gak simply cannot keep himself from saving Park Ha, and he'll risk his own safety to do so. And in general, I just can't resist a good rescue scene, no matter who's being rescued.

This Could Only Be Cooler if An Explosion Went Off Behind Them.

2. The Banter. The wit from our main couple is superb. At a restaurant, Park Ha teases Yi Gak, saying she thought he was genuinely crazy when he first arrived. Yi Gak fires back that he was shocked at her rude, crude speech. But she's got more ammunition--how about that time he got a paper cut and treated it like a life-threatening wound? He briefly retaliates but then compliments her, admitting that she has good points and she was very pretty when she went on her blind date. She caves and says that when he cut off his scraggly Joseon hair, he did look a bit handsome.

I Think Everyone Was Glad to See That Hair Go.


1.  The Phone That Wouldn't Die. Taeyong's old cellphone has resurfaced AGAIN, the one with pictures of Taeyong and Taemu on the day of his (probable) death. It's a good thing to have around because it puts Yi Gak on the right trail of thinking that Taemu caused Taeyong's disappearance. But the cellphone was introduced around episode four, then was lost, recovered, switched hands and was lost again. It just feels like an overused prop at this point.

2. Not Enough Sidekicks. We're focused on the romantic and corporate plots right now, but I surely missed the Joseon sidekicks and their adorableness.


Homesickness: This is a big one, because it motivates Yi Gak to get serious with the investigating, in order to get his boys back home where they belong. Chisan has an appendicitis attack and gets a minor surgery, but poor baby Chisan thought he was going to die here in the present, away from his mother. *sniffle* He needs to go home!

You Must Be Good At All Times to Be Considered Good: Sena is commended for helping Chisan quickly with his appendicitis attack, and while she did help him out, it's hard to be proud of her for tending to Chisan's crisis when she wouldn't rush to her own mother's aid when Mom was hit by a car in front of her own eyes. If you're selective about the people you're willing to help, you are no hero.

Fate: Yi Gak says Park Ha and Taeyong were fated to meet, and they only missed each other because of Taeyong's death. Maybe one day he'll discover that he (in the past) and Booyoung were fated to be together, only her older sister burned her face and ruined her chances of marriage. He might also ask himself why he and Park Ha are continuously coming to each other's rescue...

Endearing, Cozy Fate at Work.

Cultural Observances:

New words:

Bbali kaja is "hurry, let's go"
Eommani-jib is "mother's house"
Ijen is "now"
Ee-wol is "February" though it literally means "2nd month"
Pigonhada is "I'm tired"
Ara is "I know"
Anida is "It's nothing"

Episode Evaluations: Episode 11 was deadly dull and sad, but Episode 12 was full of nearly nonstop Yi Gak/Park Ha, so it was wonderful. And now most of our puzzle pieces are falling into place and our main cast (both heroes and villains) knows about 75% of each other's secrets, so we're inching toward full plot resolution.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Scripture Sunday: 1st John

The book of 1st John is one of my favorites in the New Testament because it's so immensely quotable and full of discussions that almost seem like poetry. John is writing to bring joy and assurance to his audience: "And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full. This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all." (1:4-5)

I like that idea of God as light. In most fictional stories, there's a natural association between dark and badness and light and goodness. Elsewhere in the Bible, it says that Satan masquerades as an angel of light, but he isn't--he's pure darkness, trying to deceive people with the appearance of goodness.

Later verses in chapter one address the problem of sinning as a Christian. Essentially, if you walk in a lifestyle of sin without being bothered by it, you don't belong to the Lord, but if you say you're perfect and without sin, you're only deceiving yourself. "But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us." (1:7-8) The point is to make a daily habit of walking in the light and staying close to the Lord.

Chapter 2 makes an important distinction about hatred. As a Christian, can you hate another person? No, not if you want to be right in God's eyes: "He that saith he is in the light, and hateth his brother, is in darkness even until now. He that loveth his brother abideth in the light, and there is none occasion of stumbling in him." (2:9-10) And of course by "brother" it doesn't mean biological sibling, but "fellow human being" or perhaps "fellow Christian" depending on how you interpret it. You must love your brothers; hating them cuts you off from proper close fellowship with God.

John also addresses the problems of the world, with "the world" meaning not the planet itself but the sinful physical reality we live in: "For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever." All the tempting stuff the world has to offer is temporary and passes away, but God's love and justice are eternal.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

K-Drama Review: Dream High, Episodes 15-16

Read Episode reviews for:

Dream High--Episodes 1-2
Dream High--Episodes 3-4
Dream High--Episodes 5-6
Dream High--Episodes 7-8
Dream High--Episodes 9-10
Dream High--Episodes 11-12
Dream High--Episodes 13-14

Contains Spoilers for Episodes 15-16

Hyemi, Samdong, Jinguk, Baekhee, Pilsook, and Jason are slated to be in a new pop band, so their professional hopes are in high gear. Samdong and Jinguk talk about their love rivalry over Hyemi, and Samdong says he's not confident that Hyemi will pick him. Oh, kid, you just don't know what we know. Samdong goes to talk to Hyemi, but when he calls out to her she bolts in the other direction and runs for an unreasonably long time. Samdong catches her on the stairs and asks, "Do you still feel sorry for me and pity me?" She can't answer properly (but the answer is "no"), and her phone suddenly rings--her dad has returned!

Hyemi's Dad: Abandoner of Daughters, Ruiner of Good Moments.

Dad shows up at Teacher Oh-hyuk's house and Hyemi runs to him happily, then starts beating him. It's good to see that she doesn't instantly forgive him for being a deadbeat. In a less rosy world than Dream High, leaving your teen daughter in the hands of a loan shark usually wouldn't end well. Anyhoo, Dad's back in the picture and he wants to move their family to the States so Hyemi can attend school at Julliard and pursue classical music again.

But Your Boys Don't Want You to Leave, Hyemi!

Hyemi kinda wants to go to the States, but she's conflicted about the choice. Samdong talks to Hyemi outside her closed bedroom door: "Can't you just stay here? You brought me out of my troubles. If you leave now...what am I supposed to do?" He doesn't get an answer. Jinguk is going to miss Hyemi a lot, but Samdong is hurt deeply by the idea of separation. So now we know: one guy will eventually be okay without her, and one won't recover for a long, long time.

Their new 6-person pop group is called "Dream High" and they've all got mad skills, but unfortunately Jinguk and Baekhee have been black-balled from television appearances, so the group can't really promote. JYP suggests that they all do a flash mob and gain internet success instead of pursuing traditional routes of publicity. And the kids gather their flash mob by blackmailing every kid they know! It's rather hilarious that our main six kids have been mistreated often enough that they can call on favors from the entire student body. The flash mob scene is perhaps the most fun thing I've viewed in a long time.

These days, Hyemi's avoiding Samdong like the madness, but Jinguk tells her he knows where her heart lies now.

It Lies With the Guy on the Right.

Samdong, however, is offered a really huge opportunity to go to America by himself, just as Hyemi has decided to stay in Korea. Oh noes!

Fast-forward eight years into the future. It's 2018. Pilsook is a kindergarten teacher, and though she's not in the spotlight anymore, she had a good musical run and she and Jason are still happy together. Baekhee is a totally boss dance teacher at Kirin, and her former mentor Teacher Shi is the Arts Director. Teacher Shi and Teacher Oh-hyuk are married, and he's still as much of a bleeding heart as he ever was. Jinguk is a major K-pop star (he shows up at the airport looking a whole lot like Rain), but Jinguk is not the world famous Grammy-winner "K" mentioned in episode one. "K" is actually Samdong. Our precious snowflake became a world star, and he still wears the pendant Hyemi gave him.

Necklace of Great Significance and Marketing Value.

A flashback reveals that Samdong didn't want to go to America, but to push him on to greatness, Hyemi all but forced him to leave. Nowadays, Hyemi's doing classical music, and all her friends (except Samdong) and teachers have come to watch her 100th concert.

The End.

But doggone it, the ending let me down. Hard. I wanted a big 8-years-have-passed reunion between Samdong and Hyemi. WHERE IS MY REUNION, Y'ALL?

See This? We Needed More of This.

Things I Loved:

1. Like Father, Like Daughter. It was pretty funny to see Hyemi's dad exemplifying all the not-so-great aspects of Hyemi's early personality. He's spoiled and fastidious like Hyemi was, he has a poker face like his daughter, and he has trouble emoting.

This IS My Happy Face.

2. The Magic Six. We don't see them all together for very long, but I loved having the main six cast members all in one band.

Dream High Rangers, Assemble!

3. The Flash Mob. It's pure grin-inducing musical awesomeness. One of the better scenes in the series.


1. The backstory about Hyemi's mom is overwrought and kinda ridiculous. It wasn't believable even within the context of this very dramatic show.

2. The Ending, and the accompanying empty feeling that comes when all the warm fuzzies are gone.

My Exact Expression During the Last Five Minutes of the Show.


Own Your Own Past: In a TV interview, Pilsook has to face a giant picture of her pre-weightloss self and has to publicly poke fun at the way she used to look. She shouldn't have to do this, but I'm proud of her for rolling with the punches and not getting angry. Pilsook explains to Jason that even at her highest weight, she was pretty happy. She doesn't want to erase the old pictures from her blog because that would be erasing the memory of her happiness. Jason reveals that the picture on his cellphone is of her old self, so he's cool with her at any size, too.

Looks Like a Creampuff, But Has a Backbone of Steel.

Cultural Observances:

Jimjilbangs! Hyemi's Dad takes her and kid sis Hyesung to a jimjilbang sauna to stay overnight while he's hiding from the loanshark. I think it's the exact same jimjilbang from our earlier dance practices.

And the Uniforms Are Still Just as Classy.

House slippers: It's so cute that everyone in Oh-hyuk's house, from tiny children to grown men, is wearing little puffy slippers because in Korea, shoes are not worn indoors.

New words:

oraeganmanimnida is "It's been a long time/long time no see/ we meet again"
Miguk is "America"
Gokjeongijima is a longer form of gokjeongma, or "Don't worry"
Byeongwon-eso is "at the hospital"

Episode Evaluations: To be honest, I was let down by this ending. I wanted Samdong and Hyemi to be together in the present, whenever the present was for the end of the show--and they aren't. In 2018, they're in different places being totally awesome, and while that's so very realistic, it's not my favorite move. *sigh* My romantic hopes are rather easily dashed.

K-Drama Review: Dream High, Episodes 13-14

Read Episode reviews for:

Dream High--Episodes 1-2
Dream High--Episodes 3-4
Dream High--Episodes 5-6
Dream High--Episodes 7-8
Dream High--Episodes 9-10
Dream High--Episodes 11-12
Dream High--Episodes 15-16

Contains Spoilers for Episodes 13-14

It's time for Samdong to sing in the end-of-the-year showcase. His hearing goes out but he remembers that his song starts after five measures, so he watches the piano player and counts the time. He starts to sing a pretty ballad and you think he's doing well...until a teacher notices his pitch is off by one half step. Samdong lowers his mic and is about to walk offstage when Hyemi rushes to the balcony and starts pounding out the beats for him with her hands and gesturing for him to raise his pitch.

YAYYYY that's my girrrrlll!
Engrish in the background image: "Tours Les Jours is the bakery of a whole new level from the beginning." Indeed.

Hyemi's crying in the balcony, singing the song with Samdong. Then he starts crying when his song is finished. And if the audience isn't crying by now, it's either because they're distracted or they have no tear ducts.

Next, we get a major shocker--Samdong's head trauma from the accident has nothing to do with his current hearing loss! He has a genetic disease, so Hyemi is in no way responsible for his problem. But still, Hyemi buys a tuning fork for Samdong to help him learn music from memory, and she's been researching his condition in order to aid him. Samdong tells Hyemi in no uncertain terms that she's not obligated to help him, though he is thankful that she showed him a way to keep his musical dream.

At school, queen bee Baekhee is being snubbed. People are gossiping about her plagiarism and her horrible onstage meltdown, and Baekhee now knows that her own cheating and lying have destroyed her.

Shun the Nonbeliever.

In brighter news, Jinguk's awful dad is showing a shred of kindness to his son. What is it with this show and its villains who go past the apparent point of no return and then come back around? Could this be reflecting real life where there are few true villains, just people who choose to do wrong and who might one day choose to do right again? Just some food for thought.

But then Jinguk gets in awful trouble for beating up the president of his own entertainment company. Samdong arrives as Jinguk is moping in his room, and tries to comfort him. Samdong has seen despair and come out the other side, so he can tease Jinguk and lift him up when he's in a similar condition. Samdong admits to Jinguk that he has bouts of losing his hearing, but he says, "I'm depressed, but I keep trying. I find my pitch even when I can't hear the sounds." So he's not going to let Jinguk give up on his life either, and after Samdong aces his acapella test, he gives the special K-pendant to Jinguk, for luck.

Everyone in the Cast has Owned This at Some Point.

As it turns out, Jinguk had beat up the entertainment president because the guy was trying to assault Baekhee. Everyone's afraid to tell the truth about the situation because reporting the assault will ruin Baekhee's reputation. Sadly, this is kind of how it goes in real life, too. Hyemi cradles a crying Baekhee, telling her that everything will be okay. Later, Baekhee confesses her own past wrongdoings to Hyemi, then goes to explain her assault to the police, which takes a lot of bravery. Politician Dad finally publicly admits that Jinguk is his real son. Yay, Dad! He takes his son's hand and leads him away from the ravening paparazzi, so yet another broken relationship is salvaged.

For a new set of music video auditions, Teacher Oh-hyuk tells his kids to remember who they were a year ago and base their video on how much they've changed. Jinguk admits he was kind of a thug a year ago, Samdong admits he was a total country bumpkin, and Hyemi wonders if she has changed at all. This is a great move because the show makes us remember how far each kid has come in their personal journeys. The six main kids make their homemade music videos and all get picked to join a start-up entertainment company. And...Hyemi realizes that she really, really wants to see Samdong. Like, a lot. Like, maybe she likes him for real.

I Thought You Liked Me?

Things I Loved:

1. The Hearing Fake-Out. I love the show for misdirecting us like this. Hyemi just assumed, and the show allowed us to assume, that Samdong's deafness stemmed directly from his brain injury, but now that I think about it, we were never outright told the reason for the loss. Samdong hated Hyemi for awhile, but he never said that he blamed her for his accident, just that he wished he had never followed her to Seoul and that she had never made him love music. Ah, why didn't I see this before? I was thoroughly fooled. Bravo, Dream High. You surprised me!

Their Situation is A Tad Less Tragic Than Once Suspected.

2. Jason/Pilsook. These two have been dancing around the are-they-or-aren't-they issue for a long time, and now the pressure builds. Jason is grumpy and impatient with Samdong when Samdong has private music-lesson meetings with Pilsook. The jealousy is so cute and I never would've predicted that anyone could be jealous over Pilsook and Samdong! Finally, Jason confesses that he likes Pilsook and they descend into delirious 24/7 cuteness.

The Super-Cuties, in Fine Form.

3. Baekhee's Redemption: Earlier, I didn't know if Baekhee could really be redeemed, because how do you forgive a character who has destroyed the health, hope, and happiness of another person? But with Samdong's hearing problems having nothing to do with the pot Baekhee dropped on his head, that sin can no longer be laid at her door. Once Baekhee is assaulted, we have already gotten to the place where we can care for her and defend her again. Baekhee and Teacher Shi have both changed and grown a lot, and I like this Dream High theme--the "bad guys" can change! We can bring them into the fold, once they've faced their own demons and learned their own lessons.

4. The Meta. Referencing the K-pop world is always great, and DH does it often. In a daydream sequence, Loanshark Guy imagines that after Hyemi and Pilsook are scouted, they appear on a radio show---hosted by Leeteuk and Eunhyuk of Super Junior! We see the two stars as their song "Bonamana" plays in the background. 

In the Dream, Hyemi Totally Derails Their Radio Program.

5. Samdong/Jinguk Friendship. Jinguk may unofficially be Samdong's rival in love, but he's still a beloved friend. Samdong encourages Jinguk to pick himself back up after the big scandal, though there's there's a twist to Samdong's prodding; he wants Jinguk to get back in top form so they can have a showdown for Hyemi's heart. Samdong says, "I'm going to become so amazing no one can dare pity me, and I'm going to beat you. Man to man." (Samdong refuses to win the girl by default, just because her heart aches for his misfortune. He's going to win due to awesomeness, not due to a technicality!). But even with all this posturing, Samdong still picks up audition forms for Jinguk, and totally has his back when he's in trouble.

Bros for Life!




You'll Always Love Daddy: Jinguk wins the chance to do a solo debut, and when his dad sends a nice congratulatory floral arrangement, Jinguk can't keep his face from lighting up. After they've made up completely, Jinguk goes on a Ferris wheel ride with his dad, the ride he missed as a little kid. Dad even gives up his mayoral campaign in order to help his boy, just like a good dad would do. Ohhh. *misty-eyed*

The Best Love-Story in This Show is About a Parent's Love.

Friendship Doesn't End: Hyemi has not given up on caring for Baekhee. When other kids are gossiping, Hyemi eats lunch with Baekhee and puts one of her earphones in Baekhee's ear, copying Jinguk's old rescuing trick of pretending to be listening to music together.

"Never Gonna Give You Up, Never Gonna Let You Down..."

Cultural Observances:

New words:

Algesseumnida is "I understand"
Shikeureopda is one form of "Shut up"
"Gaseum" is "Heart" so "nae gaseum soge" is "in my heart"

Episode Evaluations: What a roller coaster. These episodes were very serious, but very touching. I'm glad Baekhee has come around full circle, I'm glad her assault was handled with such realism and seriousness, and I'm glad that she stood up and refused to be ruined by someone else actions.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

K-Drama Review: Dream High, Episodes 11-12

Read Episode reviews for:

Dream High--Episodes 1-2
Dream High--Episodes 3-4
Dream High--Episodes 5-6
Dream High--Episodes 7-8
Dream High--Episodes 9-10
Dream High--Episodes 13-14
Dream High--Episodes 15-16

Contains Spoilers for Episodes 11-12

Now we finally learn the truth about Samdong's brain trauma--he's going to continue having occasional seizures and his hearing is going to get worse over time. He has given up on music and on Hyemi, so he gets a dramatic haircut to symbolize his new, darker personality.

Suddenly He Looks...Older. I'm Going to Go With "Older".

But Samdong's not as tough as he pretends because the poor darling collapses on the street, crying, knowing that losing his hearing means he'll have to say goodbye to his dreams forever.

Hyemi gets offered a contract as the new member of the band "K," and she really wants to take the deal so she can release Teacher Oh-hyuk from the debt he accepted for her. Also, Teacher Oh-hyuk's streak of bad luck continues as he is kicked out of Kirin. But there's a way for his beloved students to bring him back: if all three of the former lower class students make an "A" in their music composing seminar, the other teachers will acknowledge Oh-hyuk's skills and bring him back. Except that Hyemi can't even find the runaway Samdong in order to make him take the class.

Baekhee's having her usual self-esteem issues, and now her professional life is taking a hit. Her manager wants to take her out of the "K" band and replace her with Hyemi, so Baekhee offers to change her hair, her voice, anything...she's willing to alter herself to any degree to keep her position in "K" and I can't help but feel pity for her. Baekhee swears she'll get an A in the song-composing class if that will keep her in "K," but the composing instructor supposedly only gives out three A's per class, and all three of those are needed by Oh-hyuk's students in order to bring him back.

What We Have Here Is a Conflict of Interests.

Cut to Samdong looking sadly at a piano and remembering his glory days of composing lovely songs. He's getting all dark and hopeless as "Creep" by Radiohead plays in the background. Then Samdong tells his beloved Hyemi off in the harshest possible way because he's in pain and is too embarrassed to tell her that he's losing his hearing. Hyemi stubbornly brings him the composing class notes, which he refuses to study, then she follows him around telling him the information as he glares at her. The lucky thing is, Samdong is probably the only student who could ace the assignment without taking the lectures.

Days pass. Oh-hyuk comes back to Kirin, but by earning his own way back through a stunning re-application process. Hyemi decides not to debut because it would hurt Baekhee to lose her spot in "K". Samdong passes the days angsting at his piano, refusing to talk and banging the keys in a vain attempt to hear the notes.

Hyemi finally finds out about Samdong's hearing loss in a devastating tear-jerker of a scene where he admits to her what he's been reduced to. They both collapse into bundles of tears. Samdong does come back to school and he decides to perform in the big end-of-the-year showcase after all. He tells Hyemi that if his performance goes well and he gets scouted, he'll take that as a sign to keep pursuing music. If he gets a hearing attack and messes up his performance, he'll quit music without looking back, because that's a sign, too. The episode ends just as Samdong is about to sing, though we know he's experiencing hearing loss.

The Whole Thing Is Incredibly Distressing.

Things I Loved:

1. Hyemi. I love how she's championing Samdong now, hunting him down and trying to figure out what's wrong, to bring him back to the land of the living. Hyemi tells him, "When I was depressed, it was you and Teacher who saved me. Now it's my turn." That's my brave Hyemi, taking up the slack! She gives Samdong the lucky K-pendant, saying she doesn't believe in it, but she wishes it will help him in some way. Hyemi doesn't understand what's wrong with him, but she tries so hard to be there for him. All this from the girl who was once a master of high-handed manipulation.

How Far We've Come in Just 12 Episodes.

2. Jason/Pilsook. Jason is now following Pilsook's words of caution and changing his carefree ways. He's studying hard and he even puts on glasses like Pilsook's. Pilsook still tapes a lollipop to Jason's locker every day, but one morning when she leaves his candy, she walks over to her own locker to find Jason's report card taped to it--revealing top grades for his Japanese class. He's proving to her that he's worthy of her interest! Squee.

And Seriously, How Cute Are Their Nerd-Couple Glasses?

3. Heartache. Some shows break your heart in a good way--Dream High is one of them. And I'm mainly talking about Samdong's trauma here, though many other characters have hard struggles as well. Samdong's fall seems worse because he was so bright and unspoiled in the beginning, and also because his fall into tragedy isn't just mental and emotional; it's physical as well, and it's scary for him to be losing such a big part of himself. His hearing, his music, and his capacity for Independence all seem to be lost. I hope the show continues to handle his storyline with dignity.

And a Reasonably Happy Ending, If Possible.


Hmmmm....none? Except there could have been more Jinguk. We see him for all of 15 seconds in episode 11, and he doesn't really even have his own subplot anymore.

Please, Show, Give Him More Lines.


Abandonment/Loyalty: Teacher Oh-Hyuk says that Hyemi and Jinguk seem obsessed with the idea of him abandoning them, but their worries over him leaving Kirin are perfectly natural. It makes sense for them to be paranoid about their Teacher leaving because these are kids who have been abandoned by their parents, so losing another parent figure could be catastrophic.

You Must Have Your Own Identity: Baekhee, poor thing, has never had much of an image of her own; pre-Kirin, she tried to be Hyemi's double, then at Kirin she tried to look as different from Hyemi as possible, so she first defined herself as Hyemi's friend, then as Hyemi's rival, always seeing herself in terms of her relationship with another person.

Caring Indicates You're Growing Up: Jinguk says he's so proud of Hyemi for growing up and giving up something she wants in order to protect another person (meaning giving up her debut for Baekhee). He also notes that she's being careful about what she says and isn't using her words to cut people down anymore. Solo survivalist Hyemi has become a team player.

Even Through Misery, Hyemi's Always Backing Up Her Friends.

Cultural Observances:

New words:
"Kunde wae" is "then why..."
Hyemi calls Samdong's mama "Eomma-nim," the respectful term for another person's mother.
"Algae-ni?" is "Do you understand?"
"Baboya!" is "Hey, stupid!"
"Araji?" is "Got it?"
"Noye dwieseo" is "Behind you".
"Naega eonjae" is "When did I?" as in "When did I ever do such a thing?"
"Wae ajik doiseo" seems to be "Why are you still here?"

Episode Evaluations: These are the heartbreaking-est episodes yet, but the focus on Samdong, and a bit of a new focus on Baekhee are really rewarding.

K-Drama Review: Dream High, Episodes 9-10

Read Episode reviews for:

Dream High--Episodes 1-2
Dream High--Episodes 3-4
Dream High--Episodes 5-6
Dream High--Episodes 7-8
Dream High--Episodes 11-12
Dream High--Episodes 13-14
Dream High--Episodes 15-16

Contains Spoilers for Episodes 9-10

Even after six months in the lower class, Hyemi, Samdong, and Pilsook are not being granted the opportunity to join the performing arts class. But they aren't the only ones with school woes--the students in the idol group "K" have been absent too often and the principal will only let them pass if they participate in the Dance of the Year competition. Um. Okey-dokey, Mr. Principal, sir. It's not like they should be made to attend summer school or write essays or anything crazy like that. Dance-offs it is! The lower class kids will be competing to gain enough points to get into the upper class next year--all they have to do is win third place, but of course Hyemi wants to aim for first if she can get it.

Jinguk is now back at his old house where he used to live with Teacher Oh-hyuk and the other lower-class students. Jinguk asks, "Do Samdong and Hyemi always come back this late?" and Oh-hyuk replies that he shouldn't worry about them--they always work long hours and practice this hard. I'm pretty sure that their level of dedication to their craft was not what Jinguk was asking about. A crowd of Jinguk's new fans catch Hyemi outside her own house and forbid her to go in, so it's Samdong to the rescue! Our little fella Samdong is so tough when he needs to be, and he tells the rabid girls to go away while he's still just asking nicely.

Can Be Ferocious When Provoked.

At the Dance of the Year competition, the entrants are sorted into teams of four members each. Hyemi is a team captain and for her first pick she takes Jason, then gets Samdong and Pilsook. Hyemi's team must do a "bird" themed dance, and they get some help from JYP as choreographer. But then the dance team starts studying videos of birds for inspiration--videos of SEAGULLS, specifically. Awkward, awkward, duck-n-flap seagulls. Please tell me you're not going to imitate these? But nope, they end up going with more of a swan theme.

Baekhee's dance team does a wicked-awesome "snake" themed dance that looks cooler than their Swan Lake counterparts and lands them a 1st place trophy. Hyemi's goal for her bird team was 3rd place and they achieved it, yay! But Baekhee doesn't understand why Hyemi is not jealous of her win.

Confused, Hurt, and Robbed of the Chance to Gloat.

Next, all the kids go on a sort of field trip to Japan. The Japan scenes are not too interesting, despite Hyemi and Samdong singing at a Yakuza mob wedding and being chased down the streets. Hyemi and Samdong have to perform on the street to earn money for lunch, and we see just what good entertainers they've become when they spontaneously get a crowd pumped up. They start getting bullied by some breakdancers, but then Jinguk and Jason make the most epic b-boy entrance ever and have a dance-off with the Japanese guys.

Other Kirin kids arrive and dance, and Baekhee and Hyemi even high-five when the battle is over! Oh, yes, we're leaning toward a renewal of friendship. Baekhee is all set to make up with Hyemi when she overhears her own band manager plotting to replace her with Hyemi. Gah!

Jinguk finally gets a moment alone with Hyemi and begs her to understand why he left. Jinguk looks so happy when Hyemi accepts his invitation out and wraps him up in her own scarf, but  Samdong is stricken when he hears that they're out together. Now we're in the somebody's-gonna-get-hurt phase of the love triangle. The feelings are too serious all around for this to have a non-painful outcome.

Samdong sees Jinguk and Hyemi kiss, and it shocks him badly enough that he has a headache and his hearing loss comes back for a visit. He passes out, still holding Hyemi's heart-shaped cellphone charm.

Why End Here, Episode?

Things I Loved:

1. Jason/Pilsook. Ahhhh, I heart these two. When Jason finally gets back to Kirin, he and Pilsook are awkward to the bajillionth degree although they had been friends before. But I'm glad that Jason isn't all over Pilsook right after she lost her weight, since his holding back makes him seem like a decent person. He's got plenty of flaws related to pride and laziness, but he's not especially superficial.

When he hears that Pilsook's in the hospital, Jason runs over to check on her condition. Then he stupidly tells Pilsook not to read anything into his obsessive arrival at the hospital--he only came because he had some free time to kill. Sure, honey. Whatever you say.

Cutest Secondary Couple Ever?

2. Guys Talking About Their Feelings. Or really, talking around their feelings but still making it evident that they have them. When Jinguk gets home, he and Samdong have a passive-aggressive talk about Hyemi, complete with a long staredown. Samdong is all kinds of serious about Hyemi, and our precious snowflake is basically telling our white knight to get out. Samdong says he'll never give up on Hyemi and that his feelings won't change, which implies that Jinguk's feelings have been known to flip-flop. Well, he's got you there, Jinguk.

The Inevitable Staredown. Samdong Wins.

3. Jimjilbang dance practice. It doesn't get any better than this. When the lower class loses access to their dance practice space, they have to rehearse in a sauna where everyone is issued these cute gender-separate scrubs.

I Want to Know How to Fold a Towel-Hat Like JYP's.

4. Samdong/Hyemi. Hyemi quotes Samdong's words to Baekhee after the big onstage "dance of gliterry swans," and he overhears and is proud that Hyemi remembered what he said. Cue the adorable cheek-kiss.

Her Expression Says it All, but I Still Love This Moment.


1. Villain Attire. Check out this lovely piece of wardrobe:

Are School Principals Allowed to Wear Pimp Coats?

2. Sad Decline of the Breakdance Battle. In episode 10, the totally amazing streetdance battle descends into Kirin kids posing on the street. No Ria, flipping your hair is not as awesome as handstands and backflips. No, random guy with a backpack, strutting in your backpack is not as awesome anything not involving a backpack, really.

3. The Kiss. The moment I've long awaited feels a little hollow. *sigh* Jinguk and Hyemi's first kiss is not a good one. It's one of those K-drama slo-mo things that looks less like a kiss and more like a supremely awkward pose. I don't fault the actors for these not-so-great moments, though I do wonder why K-drama kisses have all this formal posing.

Makes You Want to Wrap Up in a Comforter and Brood Sadly.


Effort is Important: In Dream High, effort is rewarded as much as talent, and often more so. Samdong doesn't get a dance solo, but he practices on his own at night anyway. He gets so good that when there's a vacancy, Jason's dance solo is given to Samdong because he stuck around and worked while the more gifted Jason flitted about and skipped practice.

Why Would You Skip the Chance to Dress Like a Swan?

Effort, and the lack thereof, is also a major part of the new Pilsook/Jason dynamic. Pilsook tells Jason he has no dreams, goals, or ambition and she feels sorry for him. Jason prods her to confess her love for him again, but she says that she went through torture to lose her weight, and now she feels her efforts were wasted on a guy with no goals.

Cutie-Pie Pilsook Knows What She Wants.

Cultural Observances:

Fan chants: Jinguk's fans sing a practiced ra-ra rhyming cheer outside his window, to show their support for him. I guess we maybe have fan chants in the States, but I've never heard anyone doing this. Maybe Justin Bieber fans have something special they chant at his concerts? I tend to think of this as a K-pop phenomenon, though.

New words: "Dugobwa" is "just watch"--sorta like, "You wait and see!".  "Gachi-ga" is "Let's go together". "Charari" is "instead" or "I'd rather". "Eodi-ga nogoshipeunde?" seems to be "Where do you want to go?"  "Eottoke tengoya?" is "What happened?" "Bingeul bingeul" is "around and around" or "spinning".

Watch Dream High on DramaFever

Episode Evaluations:  The low spots in Japan are evened out by the dance competition, so everything's still very interesting. Baekhee's conflicted turn away from villainy is compelling, the love triangle is heart-pounding and angsty, but only for the viewer and not for the main girl, so that's kind of new. Dream High's still great and I'm really worried for poor Samdong's fate right now.

Question: Anyone else but me have issues with some of these K-drama kisses? No one wants to insult the actors involved, but I've seen many, many different K-dramas where big romantic moments became really cold and awkward like this.