Monday, January 23, 2012

K-Drama Review: Secret Garden, Episodes 3-4

Read Episodes reviwes for:

Secret Garden, episodes 1-2

Contains Spoilers for Episodes 3-4

JooWon has given up on trying to forget Raim, and now he's doing a very posh version of stalking. He managed to get some scenes for the film she's working on switched to his department store, just so Raim would have to run into him. And even after he reveals to her that he's an important CEO and not just some weird bum she keeps running into, he keeps coming to her stuntperson academy as if he's a genuine trainee. The guy's got it bad, but we're still a long, long way from achieving a happily ever after.

We finally get to meet JooWon's family in these episodes. He is praised as being a devoted son for going to his grandpa's house for their monthly dinner, to which he replies: "I'm not a devoted son. My mother's father always changes his will once a month--right after family reunions." Love it. Just when this show seemed sad and emotional, it suddenly becomes Arrested Development with competing relatives, all of whom have serious personality issues. It shows us why JooWon is such a jerk sometimes; he's a product of his raising. He and Raim have plenty of fights in this episode and he talks down to her like the snotty rich boy he is, but when she calls him on the phone, his face lights up and violins start to play. He's kind of in conflict with himself, here.

The big plot development in episode 4 is that Raim's action school of fighting extras are going to be part of Oska's new music video. And Oska and Raim are becoming friends, which doesn't sit well with JooWon.

Things I Loved: 1. JooWon. He's perhaps the most lovable yet unlikable character I've run across in a long time. He's not a good guy and we know this, but we're pretty sure he might be a good guy one day. Almost all of his virtue stems from the fact that the audience knows he must be falling in love with Raim, but he's kind of strange and inhuman even about that. But it's so cute. He even literally plays "She loves me, she loves me not" with a flower. And loses!

Stupid Flower.

2. The commentary on rich people. Almost every rich person in this show is wacky and dysfunctional to an extreme degree. For example, Seul's dad gives JooWon a present of about a dozen deer. Yes, deer. This prompts JooWon to wonder if he's supposed to kill and eat the deer. The show tells us that this is how rich people live: lounging in oversized pristine houses, giving each other presents of deer herds, and eating full-course fancy teas all alone. When Raim goes to see JooWon, she even has to ask the servants which building in a long row of fancy dwellings is his house. Answer: They are ALL his house.

3. English/Engrish humor. Raim's boss JongSoo narrows his eyes when Seul starts using really bad English to impress him. He responds with some totally brilliant English which is perfect in every respect because the actor himself is from America. Seul claps for him, then immediately switches the conversation back to Korean. To clarify, I think it's awesome when any character tries to use English regardless of how well they do, but Seul is a villainess who is intentionally flaunting her foreign language knowledge in order to sound important--but she looks bad because she doesn't know as much as she thinks she does.

Complaints: No actual story flaws. The things that frustrate me are just the natural products of the tensions among the characters. JooWon is infuriating because he spends most of the time being a total jerk, and trying to convince himself that Raim is not worth the time he spends going after her.


Money fixes nothing: JooWon thinks that by waving around money and ordering candlelight dinners for Raim, he'll win her over. Dude couldn't be more wrong. Raim is impoverished, so his lavish displays of wealth just looks disgusting to her, and she thinks he's living in a fairytale world, which is correct. She extinguishes his fancy candles with a dinner spoon and walks away.

What Goes Around Comes Around:  It's amazing how JooWon can say all these snotty, dreadful things and yet he doesn't seem hateful--it's more like you hate what he's doing to himself. He's hurting Raim's feelings, but she'll be all right eventually because she's a soldier. He, on the other hand, is just a mess of a human being, and being nasty to Raim seems to incite his panic attacks and claustrophobia. He's bringing the pain on himself. Nastiness reaps nastiness, my friend!

Complex schemes: I don't know for sure, but I think Seul is trying to court and marry JooWon just to get back at Oska, her first love. It doesn't make sense on any level because JooWon wholeheartedly rejects Seul and she doesn't even seem to like him in the first place, but hey, this is a K-drama. Somebody has to scheme elaborately and for no discernible reason, or else we won't have a hopelessly knotty conflict.

I Thought of Twelve Revenge Plots, All Before Breakfast.

Running gags: Just when I thought that they couldn't make anymore jokes about JooWon's ugly blue jacket from the first two episodes, the gags pile up even higher. And you know what? It never gets old. When JooWon reveals his rich identity to Raim, he also makes a point of emphasizing the legitimacy of his pricey tracksuit. Then he shows up at Raim's action school in another even more unsightly shiny tracksuit, this time a leopard print, as if he's trying to imitate his cousin Oska.

First Among the Things Money Can't Buy: Fashion Sense.

Cultural Observances:

Pop star protegees: Oska wants to groom a pop star to be his successor, but he's not remotely serious about his music, so it's really just a way to keep himself in the news. Hilariously, the musical prodigy he picks to be his pet is not remotely interested because he's a serious musician/singer, unlike Oska. The only real K-pop protegees I can immediately think of are MBLAQ, who were kind of trained and sponsored by Rain, the godfather of K-pop.

The value of KRW: I have trouble remembering the conversion rates for dollars to won, but currently they seem to float at around 1000 KRW=1 USD. When JooWon tries to keep in touch with Raim, he uses the fact that she owes him money as a reason to meet with her. She owes him 40,000 won for a hospital visit, which is about $35. He's filthy rich, so it's clear that this debt is just an excuse to hang out.

Employment  is a big deal: Raim's best friend Ah-Young gets a special dinner from her boss and co-workers (complete with sparklers and hand-drawn signs) celebrating her five years of work at the department store. It's hard to explain the difference between the Korean version of celebrating steady employment and the American version of an office party, but there does seem to be a lot more weight and significance attached to longterm employment with an organization in K-dramas.

Happy Five Years of Employment To You!

New words: "Omo" is like Oh dear! or Oh my! Secretary Kim freaks out and says this when JooWon suggests eating the present of deer.

Episode Evaluations: When will the body-swapping happen? I don't know and I don't care. This is awesome and thoroughly engrossing. Boyish cousin Oska is in a position to grow, what with the protege, Raim, and Seul all interacting with him. JooWon's neuroses and snobbery are revealed to come from his whacked out family, and Raim is put-upon but still great.


  1. Reading this review made me lol while vaguely remembering why I liked this show so much. Now I want to see it again.. :p

    1. It's a winner! Totally wacky, but the characters and comedy keep pulling me back in.