Say hello to a new year, and to a new recap project. The sane half of me is kicking myself in the shin right now, but the insane part of me is sniggering with glee. My Princess (MP) premiered today, and I couldn’t help myself but watch episode 1 immediately. It was the abs, I swear, the abs lured me in. After being disappointed with all the latest airing dramas I’ve been watching, MP was a chance for me to feel the rush of excitement again.
Alas, it was not meant to be – there was no instantaneous love. Having no expectation going into MP didn’t help either. For a rom-com, episode 1 of MP was neither romantic enough for me to feel the stirrings of love wafting through the screen, nor was it comedic enough for me to chortle through my nose at the antics. HOWEVER, I didn’t hate episode 1. Since there can only be one direction this drama can go from rock bottom (up, of course!), I’ve got enough interest in MP to keep going.
I’m crossing my fingers for the best to happen – the terribly pedestrian and rather dull episode 1 to be the exception, and all subsequent episodes to get successively better and better. Not to say there weren’t highlights in episode 1 of MP, which does include one of the leads, and some of their interactions with each other.
MP is also the first MBC Wed-Thurs drama in nearly two years to premiere above 10%, thereby breaking the ill-fated MBC curse, which hit a nadir with Playful Kiss. MP premiered at 15.9% actually, on the strength of god knows how many things combined (fangirls of the leads, people dying for an adult rom-com, ahjummas lured by the promise of Song Seung Heon in black tightie-whities, etc.).
So why am I recapping this drama? Good question. Chalk it up to my love for Song Seung Heon (all emotion, no logic), and my fervent hopes that this drama really can tap into the fairytale magic of an adult version of The Princess Diaries crossed with My Fair Lady. Enough with my babbling now – I’ll have substantive critiques after the recap, so let’s get to the main course.
Episode 1 Recap:
The drama begins with a lavish traditional Korean royal court ceremony. Lee Seol (played by Kim Tae Hee) is dressed in a traditional Korean court lady gown, with her hair done in the elaborate stylings of a royal lady. She is walking to the ceremony site, and is seemingly seated at the center of the festivities.
She smiles beatifically for her audience, and it turns out she’s sitting outside the performance and waiting for tourists. When the performances are over, crowds of people come up to her, and one-by-one sit down to take pictures with her.
Turns out that this was elaborately staged for a real visiting foreign princess, and Lee Seol is simply playing the role of a historical Korean princess for tourists to take pictures with, as a part-time job. She leaves to change out of her cumbersome garb after the last picture is taken. After she leaves, Park Hae Young (Song Seung Heon), comes up to the camera lady and introduces himself as a member of the Foreign Affairs Department.
It so happens that a genuine foreign princess attended the event, and is desirous of a picture with the Korean princess. Too bad the princess has left work for the day (heh), and isn’t picking up her cell phone. Mr. Diplomat takes matters into his own hands, and runs off to the ladies changing room to nab himself a princess.
He bangs on the door, and then barges right into, to the screams and shrieks of the changing ladies. I love it when clothes are flung at Hae Young, and he ducks around until he locates Seol. This was one of the funniest scenes in the episode for me. He drags Seol out of the dressing room to take a picture, but she refuses. She’s late for her next part-time job, and has no time for more pictures.
Hae Young gets pissy with Seol, and tells her that he will compensate her for her lost wages. He promises her one hundred thousand won for an hour’s worth of work, and Seol’s face lights into a brilliant watt Kim Tae Hee smile. Seol happily poses for pictures with the real foreign princess, as the press feverishly snaps away. Standing off to the side is Hae Young and a fellow colleague sunbae, who mentions that the Blue House is in an uproar at this very moment. There is a move to reinstate the Korean monarchy. Hae Young laughs at the nonsense.
The Blue House press secretary holds a press conference asking the public for their support in a ballot measure to reinstate the Korean monarchy. The move will be beneficial in creating a focal point for public support, and erase the taint the chaebols have left on politics. Uhm, I completely do not understand the rationale given. If they told me the Korean monarchy should be reinstated because citizens like to see pretty things, have the occasional royal wedding, and enjoy pomp and circumstance, at least that would make more superficial sense.
Opponents of the ballot measure correctly protest that the President is seeking to undermine the hard won democratic independence of the country. The leader of the opposing party hilariously has heart palpitations over his vehement opposition to this measure.
Back to the picture taking festivities, which have concluded and the foreign princess has departed. Seol goes up to Hae Young to cheekily ask for her payment. He takes money out of his wallet, and she quickly moves to grab it, but he doesn’t let go. She wonders if a grand foreign diplomat would renege on his word, only to be told that she’s grabbing onto a one million won check.
She lets go, but he doesn’t have any smaller bills. He gives her his card and asks her to text him her account number so that he can transfer the money to her. She’s rightfully upset, but he gets a call about his grandfather and runs off before she can stop him. She pounds on the departing car window, yelling that he’s a Bad Guy, as Hae Young speeds off.
An old man is bowing before a grave. It’s the Chairman of the Daehan group, and Hae Young’s grandfather. Apparently he comes to the grave often, and Hae Young is impatient for his grandfather to finish his visit. Grandfather wants Hae Young to pay his respects, and Hae Young is too busy to spare even five minutes for his grandfather’s request.
Hae Young asks – who does this grave belong to? Grandfather tells him to pay his respects first, and he will be told in due course. Hae Young rages that it’s been twenty years and still his grandfather comes here all the time but won’t tell him anything. He tells his grandfather to live long, and when he does pass, Hae Young will build him a mansion at this grave site. Hae Young storms off (and boy, is my oppa’s acting dreadful here). Grandfather speaks to the grave directly. He says “Your Highness, all is prepared now.”
Seol rides her bike to her next job, which turns out to be on the campus of a university. She walks into a professor’s office, and apologizes to the assistant professor for her tardiness. Another student is there, a girl who is Seol’s friend and classmate. Seol tells them that she’s late because she was swindled today, promised money to stay late and take pictures, only to be stiffed at the end.
The other two ladies laugh at her – she’s probably dreaming or boasting about a cute guy liking her and dragging her off to be a princess. Before she can explain further, the professor walks in. It’s Nam Jung Woo (played by Ryu Soo Young), and immediately all three ladies in the office swoon over him. He asks the assistant professor to book him a place for this weekend, but asks that it not be at a hotel since the last one was too “noisy.” Seol and her friend tease the assistant professor about her booking skills.
Seol goes to class, and listens rapturously at Jung Woo’s lecture, which is about the last Korean monarchy. In 1897, the Joseon Dynasty ended and became Korean Empire, which was lasted until 1910. The last Korean Emperor was Emperor Sunjoon, and his given name was Lee Cheok. Jung Woo says that the last Emperor did not have any children, so who would be the next monarch in the plan to reinstate the monarchy? Jung Woo says that rumors abound that Emperor Sunjoon actually had an illegitimate son.
Seol isn’t listening to the lecture inasmuch as she’s just staring at Jung Woo. She notes that she will go to Egypt to bag the hot professor. Her plan is to stay in a pyramid until Jung Woo comes looking for her – and this plan comes complete with the requisite fantasy sequence (which I hate – after PK and M3, just gimme one rom-com without a fantasy sequence, please).
Jung Woo wisely escapes from fantasy Seol’s attempts at seduction inside a tomb, and the real Seol wakes up from her fantasy nightmare calling out for her professor in the middle of the class. Jung Woo teases her for daydreaming about the him during class. After class is dismissed, Seol looks up and sees a slide of a picture of the last Emperor’s signature.
Seol’s friend tells her to give up on her crush, since Jung Woo supposedly has a girlfriend already. Rumor is that she’s his first love, is wealthy and beautiful, and the director of a museum. Seol wonders if she’s an old lady to have such a successful position, but is told that she’s younger than the professor. Seol huffs that no such specimen of womanly perfection could exist.
Seol walks her friend to her job at the department store luggage display, and Seol brashly takes pictures of herself with the luggage. She’s close to saving up enough money to buy a red suitcase, and asks if this suitcase works in a very dusty environment. She’s planning to take that suitcase to Egypt, so she warns her friend not to sell that suitcase until she comes back to buy it.
She’s told that it’s the last red suitcase. As Seol walks out the department store, she passes by the ring display and asks to see the bling. She’s shocked at the price tags for the hardware, which is when Hae Young walks in and asks the store to wrap a ring for him. They recognize each other from earlier in the day. Seol asks for her money, and Hae Young reminds her that she hasn’t texted him her account number.
Since Seol hasn’t memorized her account number, and Hae Young says he’ll wire the money once she send it to him, they are at am impasse. Hae Young is told that since he purchase above a certain amount, he can exchange his receipt for a gift certificate, but Hae Young is not interested.
Seol’s eyes light up, and she decides to follow him. She follows him into an elevator, and looks him up and down. He finally confronts her in the parking garage, asking what she wants. Seol tells him that she’s gotten up the courage to ask him something, and Hae Young smirks and thinks that she’s totally into him now.
Seol looks at Hae Young before losing her nerve and turning to walk away. He stops her, telling her to just say it, since it’s not like they just met for the first time. Well, second time doesn’t mean you guys are suddenly BFFs, Hae Young. Seol turns around and presses right up against Hae Young – and asks him for his RECEIPT. Yup, Seol’s got quite the nerve, and I love it!
Since Hae Young didn’t want the receipt when the store clerk told him about the promotion, could he give it to Seol? It would mean the world to her, and can possibly change her life. Hae Young gets a call right at that moment, and it’s from Oh Yoon Joo (played by Park Ye Jin). Yoon Joo tells Hae Young that she’s busy preparing the museum for tomorrow’s exhibition, but she’s actually in a restaurant, where Jung Woo arrives to meet with her.
Hae Young offers to send someone over to the museum to help Yoon Joo set up. Once Hae Young hangs up the phone, he turns to Seol, and asks her if she’s a student. Isn’t it obvious, Seol says, and Hae Young smirks that clearly it wasn’t obvious otherwise he wouldn’t ask. I think Seol is supposedly an older student (in her late 20s), so we’re not asked to pretend Kim Tae Hee is 21 years old. Hae Young offers Seol a part-time job, to clean the museum. He’ll give her the receipt, plus an additional thirty thousand won.
Seol gets right into Hae Young’s face, and adorably and insightfully asks whether the person who just called was Hae Young’s girlfriend. When Hae Young denies it, she says that it must be a one-sided crush on the part of Hae Young then. She agrees to the job, and offers to make Hae Young’s romance come true as well. Kim Tae Hee was absolutely adorable in this scene, and the entire scene in the parking garage.
She asks Hae Young to wait three minutes for her, and runs off, but not before grabbing the receipt from the bag in case he changes his mind. Hae Young waits, and is about to leave when Seol comes running back. She accuses him of having no patience, and throws some cleaning gloves at him. She says that since Hae Young and the girl are both rich, buying a ring for her and hiring someone to clean the museum are expected gifts.
What Hae Young needs to do is give her something she’s never received before. She tells him to take the gloves, and go clean the museum himself. That’ll be a gift she’s never received before. Seol cutely tells Hae Young that next year, at this time, their baby will be hitting his/her one hundred day celebration. Even dour Hae Young smiles at her enthusiasm and fanciful matchmaking dreams.
Seul runs off happily, and Hae Young gets a text from Yoon Joo, wondering if he bought gloves to go clean the museum, and telling him that the museum is closed and he needn’t bother himself to come. Yoon Joo walks to the table, where Jung Woo is waiting for her. She makes an excuse about needing to head back to the museum, and Jung Woo stops her. They first met 10 years ago, and it’s a special anniversary for them.
Yoon Joo remarks that Jung Woo is quite the romantic, and he teases her that when she smiles like that, he just wants to grab her. Omo, Jung Woo is totally swoon worthy. She takes him to the museum to show him tomorrow’s exhibit – which is a collection of Korean royal family artifacts. Jung Woo is proud of Yoon Joo, and gives her a back hug. She tries to break away, but he asks that she let him show how he feels.
Yoon Joo breaks free of his embrace. She tells him that tomorrow there will be a surprise at the exhibit, and asks him to congratulate her at such time. Seol goes home, but is locked out by her bitchy sister, who apparently does this often when she’s in a snit and wants time alone. Seol sneaks back to her professor’s office to spend the night, and runs into him.
They enjoy some instant noodles. Seol asks Jung Woo why he hasn’t married yet, and he replies that he’s afraid his popularity will plummet. She teasingly says that his girlfriend will get upset if she hears that. Seol tries to get more information, and asks if it’s true that his girlfriend is a beauty. Jung Woo confirms it, and Seol wonders why kind of beauty? Cute? Sexy? Classy? Innocent?
Jung Woo wonders how Seol would describe herself, and she says that of course she is all of the above. Love her attitude! Jung Woo leaves, and Seol lays down to sleep, but not before she walks into his office. She sees a book on the table, and the author is Oh Yoon Joo.
She searches for who this woman is, and discovers that she is a museum director. When Seol opens up Jung Woo’s computer, she sees that his backdrop is a giant picture of Yoon Joo. Seol is adorably upset at this discovery.
The day of the museum exhibition arrives. Seol comes to the museum, and sees Yoon Joo in person. She sees Hae Young as well, and attempts to duck and evade him, only to walk right into the press taking Yoon Joo’s picture. She turns around and Hae Young has found her, wondering if she followed him here. She refutes that assertion, claiming to have refined tastes. But Hae Young wonders why she is avoiding him then?
Hae Young realizes that Seol is avoiding Yoon Joo, who Seol claims to not quite know, but insults as being very ordinary. When Hae Young says that Yoon Joo is considered quite pretty, Seol replies that Yoon Joo looks like a fox. Meowr, love catty Seol. She goes on to say that the Hae Young Museum is named after the son of the Daehan Group, and Hae Young corrects her by saying that it’s named after the grandson.
Seol then wonders if Yoon Joo became a museum director at so young an age because she is the girlfriend of someone in the Daehan Group. Hae Young disabuses her of that notion. Yoon Joo notices Hae Young and walks over, while Seol attempts to sneak away. Hae Young turns and grabs her, pulling her back to facing Yoon Joo. Loved this move by Hae Young, especially since he keeps his arm around Seol’s shoulder and tells her to say hi to Yoon Joo.
Yoon Joo walks away to do her duties, and Hae Young tells Seol that Yoon Joo is the owner of the ring he bought yesterday. He also tells her that Yoon Joo is the future daughter-in-law of the Daehan Group. Seol is first worried about Jung Woo, and then ecstatic that Yoon Joo is soon out of the picture with Jung Woo. She tells Hae Young that what he needs to do is get Yoon Joo jealous. Once that happens, it’s game over.
When Yoon Joo heads back to talk with Hae Young, Seol is now all smiles and grabs Hae Young’s arm and drapes herself over him. She introduces herself as oppa’s girlfriend, and Yoon Joo’s smile freezes and she asks how her oppa got a girlfriend without telling her. They end up having coffee. Seol claims that Hae Young told her all about Yoon Joo, and Yoon Joo huffs that Hae Young never mentioned Seol before. Seol says that her oppa wants to keep her all to himself, always calling her “my princess”.
Seol lets slip that she loves that Hae Young is a self-made man, and then leaves to supposedly call her mom. Yoon Joo astutely observes that clearly Seol does not know Hae Young’s background, which he confirms since he didn’t want to scare Seol, who comes from an ordinary family. Yoon Joo leaves to attend the exhibit opening.
Seol wonders if Yoon Joo asked about her when she was away, and Hae Young tells her that Yoon Joo doesn’t see Seol as any competition. Seol huffs that she’s younger, maybe not as tall, and doesn’t make as much money….whatever, she has good skin and she’s young, that’s all that matters. Hae Young wonders why Seol is so fixated on Yoon Joo, and before she can explain, she spots Jung Woo and hides behind Hae Young again.
She drags Hae Young upstairs to watch the unveiling. Yoon Joo unveils the secret exhibit – a hand signed decree from Emperor Sunjoon, to his secret son, whom he named Lee Yong. Everyone is thrilled to see this never-before-seen exhibit, except for Jung Woo, whose face tightens, and he walks out without giving Yoon Joo the flowers he brought for her.
Seol notes that the hand written signature of Lee Yong seems familiar to her. She’s seen it before, in the hand stitched clothes around her house. She makes Hae Young take her out to dinner as a thank you for the girlfriend role she played today. During dinner, Yoon Joo calls Hae Young, and Seol takes the phone away, telling him not to pick up so quickly. She says she will help him win Yoon Joo over the grandson of the Daehan Group. Seul’s not terribly bright.
Seol tells Hae Young that a woman doesn’t love a man who is crazy about her, she only wants what she cannot have. When Hae Young confesses that he bought the ring to propose to Yoon Joo, Seol goes ballistic and yells at him. She tells him that it’s too early to propose, he needs to wait until she desperately wants the ring. She tells him to only call on birthdays, and send presents a week later. Hae Young is amused and embarrassed by her brash attitude.
Seol gets called home to the countryside by her mom, who is off to visit some mountain locales. She asks Seol to run to family guest house. She dreams that once her mom is off, she can makes buckets of money over the weekend, and thus earn herself the dream trip to Egypt.
Hae Young is called back home, where grandpa is ill from the happy news. Grandpa asks Hae Young to track down a girl, Lee Seol. Grandpa’s trusty secretary tells Hae Young that Grandpa feels indebted to this person. Hae Young wonders if the person is Grandpa or his father’s illegitimate child.
Turns out Yoon Joo is the daughter of Grandpa’s secretary, and her dad knows that Yoon Joo ambitiously wants to marry Hae Young and become the daughter-in-law of the Daehan Group. Hae Young goes to find Seol, and is told by the bitchy sister that Seol is not around. The sister totally eyes Hae Young, and agrees to give him Seol’s whereabouts, if she can call Hae Young in the future.
Hae Young heads to the guest house, and realizes that the Lee Seol he is searching for is the in-his-face college student he’s been running into the last few days. Oh, what a small K-drama world you all live in.
She’s happy to see him, but he’s pissed that she gave him a fake name earlier, and accuses her of knowing who he is and approaching him with an agenda the first time. She laughs at his ridiculous assertion.
He tells her that he’ll be staying for the night, and she welcomes him with open arms, happy to make some money off this dude.
Thoughts of Mine:
The one word that immediately popped into my mind after I finished episode 1 of MP is – irony. The entire endeavor was the height of irony for me. I’ve disliked every Kim Tae Hee performance in her dramas and movies I’ve watched, but she didn’t annoy me here. She’s still not a very good actress, but her charm comes through and her tendency to over-act is rather suitable for the energetic character she plays.
I have unconditionally loved Song Seung Heon since I watched him in Autumn In My Heart (dudes, don’t judge), but so far he’s abysmally horrible in MP. The stiffest performance I’ve seen him dial in. He got slightly better towards the end when Seul made Hae Young smile, so I hope Hae Young loosens up quickly as a character. For my Heon oppa’s sake. On the upside, he looks so good I can eat him up with a spoon.
Maybe that upcoming shower in episode 2 will do the trick. It’s the height of irony that the man I love to watch sucks and annoys me in MP, and the chick I can’t stand to watch is actually bearable and adorable in MP. Go figure. I speak zee truth, even if it pains me.
The second irony is that the lead couple have very little chemistry with each other so far (though it does get better as the episodes goes on), and the second lead couple has oodles with each other. In fact, Ryu Soo Young is owning the show with his limited screen time.
I can’t keep my eyes off him, instead of on my Heon oppa. He’s just so charming and chill. His two years in MS really did him a world of good. Welcome back to acting, Ryu Soo Young! Park Ye Jin is always excellent in doing whatever her role requires, and her solid presence is reassuring to watch.
Episode 1 was strictly a set up episode – the two leads meet cute, and the foundation is laid for their future interactions when it’s discovered that Lee Seol is the last descendent of the Korean royal family, and Park Hae Young will have to tutor her in royal etiquette. It’s not terribly original, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be executed well.
I liked episode 1 much better when I watched it the second time for recapping purposes, finding myself smiling more and furrowing my eye brows less. A good omen, no? I also found that Song Seung Heon’s performance did get less stiff as the episode wore on, but I still have major issues with how one-dimensionally he’s written and played thus far. Of all the characters, Hae Young is currently the least intriguing.
The most intriguing character right now is Yoon Joo, and I’m totally way more curious about her relationship with Jung Woo, and the whole feeling betrayed look he gave her when she unveiled the royal scroll. Thankfully, with the uneven set up and mediocre acting (the four leads as a whole), there were a few things I really loved about MP.
I really liked the character of Lee Seol, and Kim Tae Hee’s performance is outgoing without edging into annoying territory. I like her outspoken nature, her honesty, and her sense of humor. She’s a female lead I can root for and relate to. Just please don’t turn her into a weepy table cloth by the end of the drama. She’s got spirit, and I hate to see her lose her attitude when she becomes a princess.
I also theoretically like the pairing of both sets of OTPs (and I’m crossing my fingers that there will be two sets of OTPs to end this drama, regardless of any OTP switching that may happen – I need more happy in my rom-coms). Seul and Hae Young ought to have been shooting sparks from their first encounter, which didn’t come across mainly because Song Seung Heon was so stiff in the first few scenes. Later during the museum scene, I could start the feel the potential, and I like the uptight chaebol diplomat meets the speak-before-you-think go-getter of a girl.
I really like the pairing of Jung Woo and Yoon Joo, and I want them to have lots of angst and misunderstandings, and betrayals and forgiveness, before getting their happily ever after. I want Yoon Joo to not turn super bad, but remain ambitious, only to discover that the man who has always loved her is more important than any illusive goals she may harbor. I’m also a sucker for the devoted guy, which Jung Woo has shown himself to be with respect to Yoon Joo.
I think MP will straddle the line between fantasy rom-com (first half) and adult melo-angst (second half). I wasn’t impressed at all with new head writer Jang Young Shil’s script or dialogue for episode 1, but it was all smoothed over by a very competent director and great scene execution. It was fast, fluid, and considerably more peppy than the scenes itself ought to have conveyed based on the dull dialogue alone.
Hidden in the midst of all this first impression talk about the acting, the characters, the dialogue, I’d almost forgot the one thing I loved the most about MP so far. The soundtrack! Except for that weird Egyptian music that plays whenever Seol has a daydream, the rest of the songs and melodies are wonderfully whimsical and sweet, perfect for a rom-com. Love it! My favorite track is Falling (track 1 off the OST), which was played during the extended trailer for those of you who watched that.
So what is my verdict? MP was better on the second go-around than the first watch, but still had a lot of rough edges it needs to smooth over. As first episodes go, it’s not as intoxicatingly silly as M3, nor as childishly adorable as PK, which is fine with me. Something different is always good as a palate cleanser, and as I write this recap, I am getting more and more curious to see how this drama plays out. Good or bad, I’m onboard. MP – hit me with the good stuff, baby!