The title of Best Love is a play on the name of heroine Gu Ae Jung. Ae Jung means love – so is Best Love supposed to mean Ae Jung is the best, or that a best kind of love this way comes for the characters? Let’s accept that it’s probably both, because the resident love herself, Ae Jung, is a wonderfully created character, one that clearly embodies dramatic flourishes, yet exists because Gong Hyo Jin so masterfully brings her to life. She’s the best all right, and it looks like not one, but two hot men are about to discover it at the same time.
Episode 2 of Best Love (The Greatest Love) was even better than episode 1, taking all the just-introduced elements and story and completely running with it. Cha Seung Won’s Dokko Jin is brilliant, he’s just one hair shy of being an asshole because his desire to maintain his beloved public persona means that he’s forced to often be nice. Together, Ae Jung and Jin are like oil and basalmic vinegar, and we’re the fresh baked bread dying to soak up the combined deliciousness of the two of them together.
I forget how much plot the Hong Sisters pack into the dramas. When I screencap, the actors are almost always in motion, so I have to time my caps perfectly to get a non-blurry image (whereas in 49 Days characters do very little except mostly sit or stand around and talk or stare – great for screencapping, yo!). This episode hit my laughter node so hard and so often, I had to pause to catch my breath before continuing to watch.
Episode 2 Recap:
Ae Jung brings up Jin’s bribe to the director, and he correctly identifies the fruit that is grape, which is what wine is made from. Ae Jung and Jin are caught in a blunder with potentially disastrous consequences. Ae Jung’s slip means that the very secret Jin wants to keep under wraps may have just been revealed to the folks at the taping, and if the show is aired, to all the good people of Korea.
Ooooops. Jin laughs extra loudly, saying that it wasn’t a bribe, just a gift is all. The MCs say that Jin must really want to be in that movie if he gave a gift to the director. Ae Jung tells Jin to go make a great Hollywood movie, and signs off with a rousing chorus of “fighting!” Jin hangs up the phone and wonders why the hell he answered this phone call. His agent is shocked that Jin’s phone call was for a broadcast program.
Ae Jung and her oppa leave the taping, and she wonders if she’s going to be in trouble. Her oppa wonders what the problem could be, its good publicity for Dokko Jin’s upcoming movie with Peter Jason. Ae Jung reveals that the Peter Jason role is not forthcoming for Jin, to the shock of her oppa, who says that it’s quite embarrassing.
Jin is appalled and furious, and he calls Ae Jung to summon her down to the parking lot of MBS (the fictional studio in this drama) to pow wow with him. Ae Jung politely says hi and asks him what he is doing here? He asks if she enjoyed her taping? She says it was lots of fun, and he repeats “ah, fun”. Jin tells her that it’s too bad because the segment will never see the light of day. He tells her to go to the producers and ask that her segment be stricken from broadcast.
Ae Jung asks him why, and Jin holds up three fingers and lists the reasons. He’s about to announce being rejected for the Peter Jason role, except Ae Jung told the world he bribed Peter Jason, which means the two facts appears to contradict each other. Ae Jung grabs his hand, telling him to hit her instead, since it was all her fault. He rips his hand away, telling her that he is Dokko Jin. Ae Jung reminds him that because he is Korea’s top star, everything he does will be forgiven, which is the opposite of her.
If she asks for the segment to be cut, she’ll likely be out of the game (industry) for doing that. Jin glibly responds that she might as well get out of the game, since she’s got such a negative public image anyways. Jin can’t ask, it would be too obvious. He wants her to make up an excuse like she doesn’t like how she looks on screen. Furthermore, as a big star, he’s not terribly happy to be sharing a screen with her in any capacity. He tells her to also erase him from her memory.
Ae Jung gets upset at Jin – how dare he tell her to quit her livelihood just to spare himself from being embarassed. Ae Jung says that its Jin’s attitude that made Peter Jason not select him. No, it’s the fact that he doesn’t speak good English, right? Then Jin should take himself out of them game as well! Bravo, Ae Jung, give it right back to him. Jin is seething at being insulted by the truth about his bad English. She points at him and calls him the King of Bastards, asking him if he understands such basic English.
Ae Jung’s refusal to cater to his demand leaves Jin unable to control his temper. He balls his hand into a fist and stalks towards Ae Jung, looking for all intents and purposes like he’s going to smack her. That is, until a group of people walk right by, recognizing top-star (and supposed nice guy) Dokko Jin. Jin immediately adopts his trademark happy grin and pretends all is well. Ae Jung grabs on this escape opportunity, telling the folks to get a signature from Jin, as she hops into her car for a convenient getaway. She tells him not to call her anymore, and not to follow her.
Not to be deterred, Jin immediately hops into his car and chases after Ae Jung. He demands that she stop, and she’s all like “oh hell no”. Too bad a just lowered exit bar forces Ae Jung to brake suddenly, and the speeding Jin behind her to brake as well, but a second too slow. His car rear-ends her car, and Ae Jung gets out to check on Jin. He’s a bit stunned, and sporting a bloody nose.
The next thing you know, Jin is being loaded into a stretcher and carried into an ambulance. I love how he had a tissue wedged up his nose, and he checks to make sure the media is there before he pretends faints with his mouth wide open. The media reports that he broke his leg, and he’s checked into the hospital. The news gets worse, with Jin announcing that he can’t work in the near term, and has to turn down offers while he recuperates. Ae Jung gets excoriated by the public for being the culprit, dragging down Jin’s Hollywood dreams. Oh this is priceless.
Ae Jung is #1 in the search terms, and her anti-fans are increasing by the boatload. Jenny is having a laugh at Ae Jung’s plight. Ae Jung is especially upset that she’s being blamed for Jin losing the Hollywood movie role, when in fact he already lost it, and is using her as the scape goat. The producers of the variety show are watching the footage of Ae Jung cheering Jin on in Hollywood, laughing at the irony that it was Ae Jung who caused Jin to have the car accident. The producer suddenly has a brilliant idea, to add Gu Ae Jung to their dating program. Having someone so hated would definitely get viewers to tune in.
Ae Jung sneaks into the hospital to try and talk with Jin, with the intention of apologizing to him and asking for his help with her current public image woes. Jenny helps her, picking the perfect opportunity when all of Korea is riveted watching the Asian Games swimming championship. Ae Jung sneaks, tumbles, and glides her way into Jin’s hospital room without being spotted. Inside, she finds Jin hale, hearty, and clearly not sporting a genuine broken foot despite the cast on. In fact, Jin is jumping up and down, wanting the Korean swimmer to NOT win so that Jin’s CF can be shown on TV next.
Jin realizes he’s been caught, and Ae Jung knows an upper hand when she sees one. Jin tries to sadly limp back to his bed, giving moans of pain as he shuffles back. Ae Jung accuses him of using her as a shield for his failure to land the Hollywood role. She’s being raked through the coals by the media because of him.
She tries to summon all the media outside to come witness his lying media sympathy whoring ways. Furthermore, she’ll tell the media that he didn’t want that Korean swimmer to win the gold medal. Jin grabs Ae Jung, in a move that is a combination giant hug/head lock, in an attempt to silence her. Jin’s manager comes in at that moment to see Jin and Ae Jung in each other’s embrace. Jin tells him to hurry up and get his agent back in here, and releases Ae Jung only when his heart watch starts to beep. From the exertion, or the proximity to Ae Jung? Jin tells Ae Jung that he’s willing to negotiate with her.
Ae Jung and her oppa are talking outside their house, discussing Jin’s willingness to agree to her terms for agreeing to remain the nation’s scapegoat. Se Ri meets with Jin’s agent, who gets right to the point, asking Se Ri what would happen if the world knew that the MC for the upcoming dating program (that would be Se Ri) had just broken up with her famous boyfriend (that would be Jin). Ooooh, using their fake relationship as leverage, I like. The agent asks Se Ri to give Ae Jung an audition for the reality show she is casting.
Ae Jung arrives at a high end bar for her audition. She is greeted by Jin’s agent, who tells her to go right in. Except Ae Jung goes into the wrong room, and finds herself in the private room where Pil Joo is meeting with a friend, who is here to introduce a doctor to Pil Joo as a potential candidate he can hire for his hospital. The friend so happens to have stepped outside to take a call when Ae Jung mistakenly enters and starts to chat with Pil Joo.
Pil Joo compliments Ae Jung as being quite capable, based on what he heard. Ae Jung demurs, saying she’s not that capable. The mood is awkward, and he suggests that they wait until his friend comes back before they start talking. But he asks Ae Jung to tell him how much money she wants (as in salary to work for him in the hospital), which Ae Jung thinks is a sexual proposition. She asks Pil Joo how much it costs to buy her? How much is she worth? Ae Jung asks for a hundred billion won, because she’s a national treasure. Ae Jung starts to cry, absolutely incensed and appalled at being required to degrade herself. She asks Pil Joo if he’s willing to buy her for that much money?
Ae Jung grabs her chest in agony, sobbing theatrically on the table. Pil Joo is confused and tries to calm her down, pouring her a glass of water, which Ae Jung promptly tosses in his face. She stands up and announces that she was a Treasure Girl! She tells him not to expect that he can buy a national treasure. Ae Jung runs off to the bathroom to cry (OMG, Sam Soon anyone?), leaving Pil Joo still confused about what the hell just happened. Pil Joo’s friend comes back with the real candidate, asking why he’s all wet. Pil Joo says some girl came in, announced she wanted one hundred billion won from him because she was a national treasure, and then tossed water on him.
Ae Jung steels herself, and decides that the one glass of water was not enough for insulting the pride of a national treasure girl. She leaves the bathroom carrying a BUCKET of water, headed back to the room to presumably dump on Pil Joo’s head. As she’s marching back to the room, complete with tense music, Jin’s agent finds her and Ae Jung realizes she went into the wrong room.
She peeks into the room with Pil Joo, and sees him meeting with a man and a woman. Pil Joo looks up and sees Ae Jung peering at him through the window hole of the door. He stands up and heads outside to talk with her, but Ae Jung has already skedaddled. Pil Joo looks down and sees the bucket of water that originally had his name on it. Heh.
Ae Jung finds Se Ri and crew waiting for her in the room she was supposed to have gone. Jin and his manager are in the hospital room discussing Ae Jung joining the dating show program hosted by Se Ri. Jin blithely announces that since both women are associated with him, it’s only fitting they both become more famous. The manager reveals that Ae Jung was the most popular Treasure Girl, and Se Ri barely got any recognition.
Jin says that he knows Se Ri, she likely pretended to be nice and then totally screwed Ae Jung over. The manager mutters under his breath that Jin understands Se Ri because they have the same lousy personality. Heh. Jin tells his manager to go outside and keep an eye on the media.
Ae Jung and Se Ri run into each other in the bathroom. Se Ri is as fake as they come. After Se Ri says her patronizing words and leaves, Ae Jung thinks back to ten years ago when they were Treasure Girls together. Back then, Ae Jung asked Se Ri if she knows what she’s done. Se Ri yells back that she was just kidding, but Ae Jung slaps Se Ri. Se Ri then pretends to be the hurt party when their manager comes in to see the aftermath of the confrontation, and the media captures the moment as the fault of Ae Jung.
Jin is reading the latest news about Ae Jung. He realizes that she is being destroyed by the media and public sentiment right now, and he actually has the decency to feel bad. He says that she should go sue those people. But when he checks out their usernames, he realizes that all the anti-postings about Ae Jung are coming from his fans.
Ae Jung goes to the hospital to see Jin. He hands Ae Jung a press release he wrote for her to release. In it, it says that Ae Jung apologized to Jin, and he accepted her apology. She asks for a picture as further evidence. They take a picture together, complete with his fake injured foot in a cast for the full effect. Jin reviews the picture to make sure it looks fine. Ae Jung sincerely thanks him before walking out. She is such a sweet person.
Ae Jung leaves to go post the picture online. Jin picks up an orange from the fruit basket she brought, smiling and saying “orange” as if he was still playing the fruit Taboo game. Then he says “grape”, which wipes the smile off his face as that was the offending fruit to be blamed for his current predicament. As Jin munches on his fruit, he gets a call from his agent, announcing that Peter Jason just called, wanting to give the role to Jin now. He wants Jin to come in for an audition next week. The agent reminds Jin that they never told the media that his leg is in a cast, so all they need to do is take the cast off immediately and he can tell the world he is all healed.
Jin is in a panic to reach Ae Jung before she distributes the picture, but since he’s pretending to have broken his foot, he can’t exactly just run to find her. So he’s on crutches hobbling, trying his best to move as fast as he can. When he sees Ae Jung sitting on a bench in the hospital, he tries to gesture to her to stop what she is doing, but she’s uncertain of what exactly he’s gesturing around. Jin finally reaches her, chucking his crutches aside for the final few steps, plopping down next to her to ask if she sent the picture already. Unfortunately for Jin, Ae Jung already posted it, and she’s pleased to show Jin the great public reception to her posting.
Jin is all sad and mopey now, wallowing in his self-misery of a missed opportunity (which really was all set in motion by himself when he faked his injury). His agent tells him that the movie cannot be delayed, so Peter Jason is going with his original choice. Ae Jung feels guilty again, this time for being the inadvertent cause for Jin losing the Peter Jason role. Jin asks in an ominous voice to his manager whether Gu Ae Jung is confirmed for the dating program, and whether things are going swimmingly for her. The manager shows Jin the wine which Peter Jason returned to Jin.
Ae Jung is selected for another variety program. Jenny tells Ae Jung that Jin should be considered Ae Jung’s white knight or lucky charm. Ae Jung says the blame should be set at the feet of wishy-washy director Peter Jason, for changing his mind. Jenny wisely notes that Ae Jung being a contestant in a dating program where Se Ri is the MC doesn’t bode well.
Se Ri is meeting with the producers, and asking if Ae Jung can be eliminated in the first round. She’s told that the choice is up to the bachelors. If she is selected by one of the bachelors, she will continue. Se Ri asks about Pil Joo, and is told he’s nearly perfect, smart, handsome, successful. But he’s not interested in the program, and Se Ri offers to go meet with him to convince him.
The nurse brings out Pil Joo, excitedly telling him that Kang Se Ri is here to meet him. Pil Joo cluelessly asks the nurse which of the ladies in the waiting room is Kang Se Ri? They go have lunch, where everyone is looking at Se Ri. She orders only coffee, telling him they need to go somewhere private if he wants her to eat. During lunch, hordes of people come by to ask for Se Ri’s signature. Pil Joo calls Se Ri, they pretend to talk on the phone as a way to indicate that she is too busy and can’t be bothered. He apologizes for not realizing that eating in such a public place would cause her problems. Pil Joo’s mom is told that Se Ri came by to recruit Pil Joo for her dating program.
Se Ri tries to convince Pil Joo to participate, but he instead looks at her palm, and asks her to stick out her tongue. He decides to diagnose her symptoms right there, asking if she has morning breath. He tells her to stop drinking so much alcohol, and to come by the hospital for a more thorough checkup. He takes the dating program information and agrees to look it over.
Ae Jung and family (plus Jenny) watch the airing of the variety show she taped with Jin as her partner on the phone. While Ae Jung is beaming with delight, Jin is dark and ominous with anger to watch the evidence of his misfortune on TV. Pil Joo looks through the dating program file, and sees a picture of Ae Jung, who he recognizes as the treasure girl who tossed water on him. He looks at the TV in the car showing the variety program and recognizes Ae Jung again. He wonders why she behaved the way she did with him that day?
Jin is packing to leave the hospital, refusing to stay there any longer. He gets a call which he answers with extreme impatience, and he’s immediately bombarded with Taboo clues. It’s Ae Jung’s nephew, giving him clues about children’s toys, including Pikachu, Pororo, and Thomas the Tank Engine. Ae Jung comes in to realize her nephew had called Jin, who is super annoyed. Except he correctly answers all the questions, which is just so adorable.
Ae Jung goes to the hospital, apologizing for her nephew following what he saw on TV. She asks why Jin answered the phone, and gave answers to the clues? Jin doesn’t know either, but he regrets it. He tells her to leave, and she asks him quietly why he answered the call that day from the nerwork. He confesses that he felt her true heart that day, and wanted to help her. She thanks him sincerely, and he tells her that she should feel honored, not thankful. She offers to help Jin pack up and head home, especially since he has to use a crutch and pretend to be still injured.
Ae Jung drives Jin’s car after reminding him that he can’t drive even with a fake cast on. Ae Jung walks Jin back to his apartment. She’s happy to finally be able to do something for him. He points his crutch at her, telling her that the only way she can help him going forward is to pretend that she doesn’t know him, and to delete his number from her phone.
He laughs at her calling him a good luck charm, because to him, Gu Ae Jung is like a demon. Ae Jung agrees and turns to leave when suddenly Ae Jung’s phone rings. Her ring tone is the Treasure Girls song “Putong, Putong”, and Jin freezes and stares at Ae Jung intently. He thinks to himself that it’s “that song”, which feels so familiar.
Jin’s movie Fighter does blockbuster business at the box office, all thanks to his injury and being in the news recently. Jin heads to MBS for an interview. During the drive there, he talks to himself, giving him imaginary media accolades for being the big successful star he is. He pretends to be the media talking, announcing that the most handsome actor in Korea is Jang Dong Gun, the most distinctive actor is Cha Seung Won (MWAHAHAHA), nope, all of the above is the man with the #1 movie in Korea, Dokko Jin! He is so insanely funny, saying his own name and crowing about it. He says that the world belongs to Dokko Jin, finally giggling and chanting “Dokko Jin, dok dok dok ko…..” I dies.
Ae Jung is talking with a producer at MBS, telling him that she can’t go on his program anymore because she’s booked for a series long variety dating show. When the young idol group she ran into before comes walking past her. Ae Jung’s greeting is ignored, and the producer remarks at what bad manners the youngsters have these days. Ae Jung goes back to speak with the girl group, giving them advice on how to behave in the industry, telling them to be nice and courteous to others. She also reminds them to apologize to the elders if they are late. She’s sincere in offering them advice. After Ae Jung leaves, one of the idols tells their manager that Ae Jung looked down on them because he was her former manager.
Ae Jung is leaving the network, getting into the elevator just as Pil Joo exits. He turns around to take a second long look at her as she descends in the glass elevator. Jin is sitting in his car in the MBS parking lot when he sees Ae Jung walking to her car. She notices him, too, happily waving hello. Jin immediately crosses his arms in a X gesture, indicating that she is NOT to acknowledge him. Ae Jung complies with his request, and is about to continue on her way, when a screeching van pulls up next to her. The manager of the girl group comes out, and slaps Ae Jung.
The manager lectures her for daring to speak with his idols. With her current lowly status, she shouldn’t tell anyone what to do. Ae Jung refuses to be cowed, stepping over to the tell the idols not to think that they can mistreat her. If they continue to behave poorly, they may fall as low as she one day in their career.
After the van drives off, Ae Jung finally gives in to her frustration, as her tears come unbidden. Jin sees this, and is about to turn around and walk away, when suddenly his heart begins to thump loudly. He puts his hand on his chest, and looks at Ae Jung intently. Ae Jung wipes away her tears, looking up to meet Jin’s gaze.
Thoughts of Mine:
Did this episode just take an already pretty fun, fast, and furious first episode, and crank it up a notch or what? Wow whee, I’m officially in it for the entire ride, come hell or typical Hong Sisters second half meltdown high water. I don’t follow K-pop, and really the K-entertainment business is pretty unfamiliar to me in general. Oh I know the stereotypes and the rumored going ons, so I did catch some of the skewering of the industry in this episode. What I can say that even if you are not familiar with the meta part of the drama, taking it on face value, it’s still loads of fun.
While Ae Jung is the metaphorical heart of the drama, with her persevering spirit, pride, and inherent decency making her a truly mature and rootable heroine, Dokko Jin is the soul of the drama, with his split-persona, his need for validation, and his inexplicable honesty around Ae Jung. What makes this drama work is that underneath the veneer of characters constructed with heightened quirks for dramatic effect, Jin and Ae Jung feel like real people, albeit ones who may have won a genetic lottery and got a shot at stardom.
Ae Jung treats being an entertainer as a career, one which brings home the bacon and she can ill afford to lose. She’s pretty much past the point of craving public adoration, and I applaud her ability to keep her composure in the face of being a has-been and a media whipping girl. Jin is flying high (presumably for now), but his fixation on fame for the trappings of being famous will clearly be subject to reevaluation the more he gets to know Ae Jung.
I’m so glad we got to see more of adorkable Dr. Pil Joo, prime bachelor and clueless lothario candidate for a dating show. His one interaction with Ae Jung clearly made an impression on him, and I’m squealing over how their relationship will develop, even as I’m firmly on the OTP ship. He’s so, gasp, normal – a doctor who is mostly preoccupied with his job rather than romancing the ladies. I’m glad one out of the four leads is from outside the entertainment industry, presenting a clear outsider view of how entertainment really is pretty superficial and frivolous when one strips away the pre-packaging.
Sadly, looks like Se Ri is going to be the typical Hong Sisters bitchy second female lead, though I do harbor some hopes that she’ll get more depth as the drama progresses. All the actors in this drama are performing wonderfully – not just bringing the characters to life, but interacting in seamless ways that the drama’s lightning fast pace feels comfortable to watch rather than rushed. Two episodes in, I declare Best Love a delight to watch, with an interesting story and charming characters to take us all back into the land of K-drama crack. This is going to be such fun.