I want to give Lin Chu Man a country to run. She would tell the politicians to stop bickering, accept no whining, think of creative solutions to problems, all with a “my dictionary does not have the word ‘failure’ attitude”. And did I mention she’s so insanely gorgeous the world will melt at her feet anyways. The fact that she’s intelligent and now increasingly discovering that she in fact has a heart (which bitch mom trampled on years ago) only means Jia Hao is surely going to be in a world of pain discovering he can no longer discount Chu Man as a shallow materialistic golddigger.
She’s not really that anymore. But you know what the irony is? The one time Chu Man eschews golddigging to do something genuinely altruistic and kind, is the moment she lands the trifecta of her dreams – a man who is rich, young and handsome, and not stupid. Yup, if Chu Man can run a country, Yen Kai Ming can freaking run an entire planet. The man both scares me and thrills me. Leaving me no choice but to worry for poor Jia Hao. How can he compete against a man who has everything, and sees Chu Man the exact same way he does – as a woman with worth and is one-of-a-kind. Which is exactly how I view Material Queen.
Chu Man awkwardly looks around at the expectant and hopeful faces of the denizens of the Due South market. It’s always a hoot to see how kindness makes her react like a deer in headlights. Chu Man uses her fashion knowledge and explains how Gucci was formerly a family-held enterprise that only gained worldwide fashion acclaim after hiring Tom Ford in 1994 and completely revamping it’s brand. The market needs to do the same thing before the government comes next week to take back the lease. The media will be present, and the market needs to use the media to its advantage.
She agrees to help them but she won’t be fighting Yen Kai Ming, so the rules of Lin Chu Man’s involvement are that her assistance is never to be revealed and she will not interfere. Jia Hui adorably says she understands and will “keep the secret”, since they are just so thankful Chu Man has agreed to help at all. Jia Hao doesn’t want to consider the significance of this and just asks Chu Man what exactly she has in mind. Chu Man smiles slyly and confidently. Oooooh, I love her wily ways.
Chu Man’s big plan is to make over the denizens and the market place itself, turning it from a ramshackle albeit clean place into something that rich housewives will want to patronize. The market needs to cater to its neighboring clientele, which so happens to be snobby housewives. Chu Man helps everyone re-arrange and re-package their booths, showing considerable talent and an eye for design and making things pop. When complimented on her organizing ability, Chu Man says organizing requires brains and she’s got plenty of that.
Jia Hao watches quietly as Chu Man swans around the market spiffying it up. She’s even good at sharing cleaning tips. When folks show amazement that she knows all the shortcuts to cleaning, Chu Man pretends she learned it from a DIY network show she happened to catch while channel surfing. And because she’s uncomfortable again, she immediately says she’s tired from all the working and headed back to rest.
Jia Hao walks with her, expressing surprise that she would work so diligently to help the market. Chu Man says she didn’t work hard at all, she was just goofing around back there. Plus it annoyed her so she doesn’t want play anymore. Jia Hao just smiles quietly knowing now that this is Chu Man’s way to keep her walls up. She takes off her gloves and pouts that her hand ought to be pampered and not subjected to labor like this. Jia Hao smiles as she walks away.
Chu Man has the market place folks cart into supplies that she needs to make them over individually, because of the market place becomes fashionable, the denizens must also match the new atmosphere. Chu Man makes a rousing speech about transforming the market so that the rich ladies living next door will never look down on the market again. She has the folks practice their walking. It’s so adorable.
She’s roped Peter into helping make over the folks, and we see poor Jiang Bao running out of Chu Man’s room in a frenzy before telling Leo that he’s next. Leo says he’s old and has residual pain from his sea faring days, so perhaps he doesn’t need the makeover. Chu Man and Peter say “no way!” and drag the poor man inside.
Peter hilariously uses some proverbs with Leo, such as dying quickly so he can be reincarnated earlier. We hear Leo screaming in pain, and later Auntie holds her head in pain. Peter says Chu Man is using a sneaky tactic, to which Chu Man concedes but says she has no choice. She confirms that Peter has contacted the person she asked him to contact, and that the person will be coming that day. I just adore their friendship. Peter says that he can’t vouch for it to succeed. Chu Man smiles and says he doesn’t need to worry about it.
Suddenly Chu Man’s cellphone rings and it’s Yen Kai Ming calling. Chu Man doesn’t answer, and Peter looks at her with an odd expression. The next day, Yen Kai Ming’s assistant gives him the schedule of the day and then says that Chu Man is asking to meet him. Yen Kai Ming agrees to see her, and she’s brought in to meet with him via a secret tunnel under his building. They meet up on the roof. He compliments her on looking beautiful today, and she says the dress was a gift from him the other time.
To thank him, she bought a LV dog collar for his disobedient dog. Yen Kai Ming cuts to the chase and asks if she was putting on the pretty dress or buying the dog collar yesterday when she avoided his call. Oooooh. Chu Man demurs and says she’s been busy at work lately. Yen Kai Ming asks where she was working yesterday? Chu Man says at the Due South market. The market folks are staging one final hurrah, and she wants to keep an eye on them for Yen Kai Ming.
Yen Kai Ming smiles and asks if Chu Man believes that this is the first time he’s heard this news? He looks over the roof tops and says that the market’s every move is within his purview. He knew what they were planning to do. But hearing Chu Man say this, he feels more relieved. Yen Kai Ming says that Chu Man is not afraid even when standing so high, yet she is afraid of him. Dude, T-Rexes are afraid of you, Yen Kai Ming. He tells her not to feel so scared. He genuinely does admire her true worth. She’s a smart woman who knows exactly what she wants, and that is precisely why he’s interested in her.
Yen Kai Ming says that he comes up on the roof whenever he’s tired. When he looks out on the skyline, he sees the land that he either owns or is planning own. This is his world, and he knows that Chu Man appreciates it. He hopes that she’ll remain who she is, and that their goals remain aligned. Chu Man smiles wryly.
Yen Kai Ming’s assistant goes to remind Mr. Jin the government official that tomorrow’s government demolition of the market will go smoothly. Mr. Jin tells the assistant that the market has no other options left and it’ll get demolished tomorrow without a doubt.
Jia Hao and Jia Hao return to the market after spending the day stuffing mailboxes with invitations to the market’s grand re-opening tomorrow. Jia Hui hopes people will show up tomorrow and Chu Man says she’s got her plans in motion. In her vocabulary, there is no such word as failure.
Chu Man goes to adjust a mannequin when Jia Hui naturally walks over and fixes Chu Man’s collar. Chu Man looks taken aback at this simple gesture. Later that night, Chu Man is sewing in her room when she pricks her finger. She heads to the kitchen to look for a first aid kit when Jia Hao finds her. They fall back into their natural banter, with him asking why she’s still up since this is her usual beauty sleep time, and she wondering why he’s still up since country bumpkins usually sleep early.
He notices her finger and goes to bandage it. Chu Man asks if Jia Hao believes it, the story about Xi Li waiting at the market for the last ten years for his fiancee. Compared to that far-fetched story, it’s much more likely that Xi Li is just a slightly crazy hobo. Jia Hao thinks it’s a likely story, and perhaps one day Xi Li really will be reunited with his beloved. Chu Man calls him the usual optimistic idealistic Tsai Jia Hao. Jia Hao wonders why these two normally positive traits sound like an insult coming from Chu Man’s mouth?
Chu Man says it’s more likely Xi Li’s beloved would rather marry a rich man so didn’t show up that day to elope, rather than not showing up due to a typhoon. Jia Hao wonders why Chu Man is so pessimistic? Chu Man rejects being called pessimistic, she’s simply realistic. She doesn’t believe in miracles or true love, which are just empty hopes people cling onto. Love is very weak and fragile, quick to change, quick to be forgetten. Jia Hao asks Chu Man if she’s willing to believe in true love if Xi Li’s beloved does one day come back? Chu Man looks at Jia Hao and doesn’t answer.
She changes the subject, mentioning how Jia Hui fixed her collar earlier. Since she was small she’s had to rely on herself. In a competitive modeling world, these are the things one has to pay attention to. Everyone wants to see you fail, and no one will help you fix any mistakes. She’s used to people always wanting things from her, so this is the first time she’s seen someone do something without asking for anything in return. Jia Hao smiles and says that is what a family does. He knows Chu Man doesn’t believe in these kind of relationships, because she’s never had it before. But he hopes she starts to believe in it for the first time.
Chu Man says that normally in an idol drama, at this very juncture, the hero and the heroine will both feel a stirring in their hearts. Jia Hao knows that he’s not Chu Man’s idea of a hero. Chu Man says that when a woman is hurt late at night and a man is willing to patch her up, it’s still a very touching gesture. She smiles and says thank you to Jia Hao. He puts some cream on her hands and massages it in. He remembers how Chu Man said her hands are meant to be pampered. Even if he can’t be that guy, he can at least give her some hand cream. He quickly says goodnight to Chu Man and leaves.
The media has descended on the Due South market to report on its demolition. One particularly hilarious reporter Romeo discusses how events like this usually involve egg-throwing as a protest, and he’s come prepared to cover it. Suddenly Romeo trips over the stage which is revealed to be a fashion runaway touting the re-opening of the Due South (Chinese name Chao Nan) market. Allen’s mom has some rich friends over to play mahjong. Suddenly the news on TV shows coverage of the upcoming Due South Fashion Show and the ladies are all intrigued enough to head to watch it.
Romeo the reporter gives a detailed description of the unique arrangement of the runaway using items from the market place. Chu Man tells the gang that she can’t show her face and everyone has to remember that this fashion show was their idea. Peter is finished getting everyone ready. Jia Hao thanks him and Peter says he has no choice, he doesn’t want to see Chu Man working so hard alone.
Jia Hui is the first to walk the runaway. She’s nervous until Jia Hao tells her to imagine that she’s just selling vegetables like she normally does, and to treat this like she would any guest visiting the market. Suddenly Xi Li, looking cleaned up and super cool, sticks his hand into the middle of the group and grunts out the word “Family!” Everyone is shocked that he’s talking, and that he speaks perfect English. Heh. Everyone puts their hand in for a huddle and Chu Man gives a final pep talk that this market can be re-born.
The snobbish ladies from the luxury building arrive and mock the market for daring to put on a fashion show, calling it ridiculous. Jia Hao goes on stage and announces, in English, welcoming everyone to the Due South Market fashion show! Jia Hui gets pushed out by Chu Man. She’s wearing an outfit that’s crowned by cauliflower and in bright green to showcase her vegetable selling freshness. Jia Hui takes a tumble on the runaway because of her high heels. The snotty wives jeer her, but the rest of the crowd kindly cheers and she gets up again and finishes walking the runaway proudly.
Next up is Leo, who shows off his muscles and a lady wife calls him Super Fish Man. LOL. He’s followed by Auntie and then Jiang Bao. Everyone’s bright and unique outfits are a hit with the audience.
When the final model, Xi Li, gets on the stage, his incredible transformation from hobo to hot sexy dude makes all the ladies weak-kneed. FYI, Xi Li Ge (or Brother Xi Li) is a reference to Brother Sharp, the real life fashionable hobo that was discovered on the streets in China and became an internet sensation. The ladies go crazy over the newly hot Xi Li. Everyone comes back out to make a final walk around the runaway and the crowd rises to a standing ovation. Peter and Chu Man are so excited backstage.
Jia Hao welcomes their surprise guest – Patricia Field, costume designer of Sex and the City and The Devil Wears Prada. Romeo the reporter adorably screams out “Patricia Field, I love you!” Patricia gives a speech about how she’s proud to help this market showcase it’s authenticity and uniqueness in a world filled with shopping mall after shopping mall. After the speech, reporters surround Allen’s mom to ask whether she’s changed her mind about the market. She hasn’t, and continues to deride the market as heading for extinction.
Jia Hao steps forward and accepts her opinion, but he has something to say. The market simply has one desire, to make sure all customers are happy here. Even if today is the last day of the market’s existence, they will still work hard to make everyone happy. Jia Hao describes how all the merchants at the market have given their lives to serving their customers. Jia Hui takes the microphone and welcomes everyone to stay and shop at the market today.
Allen’s mom rejects the market’s efforts to be nice to her. She’s about to leave when she runs right into her son Allen, who is holding an apple for her. He came to buy an apple for her because he knew she was sick. Jia Hao suggests that she open her heart up to accepting something that is genuinely kind to her. Allen’s mom finally confesses that Allen was happy taking classes from Jia Hao, and she understands that but hasn’t been able to admit it. She asks Jia Hao if he’s willing to be Allen’s teacher again. She also finally compliments Allen on playing the violin so well.
Chu Man finally sneaks out after all the media and customers have left. She gets a call from Patricia Field, who compliments Chu Man on her great effort in saving the market. She tells Chu Man that she’s got some great friends around and to keep them close. Chu Man smiles and says she understands. Suddenly Mr. Jin arrives with his lackeys in tow and tells them to get out and tries to demolish the market. Jia Hao drags Mr. Jin aside and asks to speak with him privately. He shows Mr. JIn pictures of him meeting with Yen Kai Ming.
Jia Hao smiles and reminds Mr. Jin that if he did anything wrong, he’ll face civil and criminal charges. All Mr. Jin needs to do is confess that the disease did not come from the market, then the demolition won’t be forced on the market. Mr. Jin takes his lackeys and storms off. Turns out the picture was a photoshop of Mr. Jin at the golf course, and it’s actually the back of Jiang Bao. Chu Man walks out and wonders where Xi Li went all of a sudden.
The gang gathers around a computer and watches a video message from Xi Li. He’s at the airport and dressed like a normal person. He also talks perfectly. He’s holding a pretty young lady that he explains is Nicole, the girl he’s been waiting for all these years. Nicole was forced by her family go abroad so she wasn’t able to join Xi Li to elope. But everytime she came back she would look for him. So when she saw the news of the fashion show, she finally recognized him after he’s been cleaned up.
Xi Li and Nicole head back to the US, where he grew up, and he thanks the market folks for treating him like family all these years. He promises to visit soon. Xi Li and Nicole kiss and the gang all gasp. News is released that the government official Mr. Jin has confessed that the disease did not originate from the market.
Yen Kai Ming is briefed by his assistant that Mr. Jin has confessed that the disease did not originate from the market and he may resign and take responsibility for this mishap. Yen Kai Ming watches news of the fashion show and looks very tense. Everyone is thanking Chu Man for all her help in saving the market. Jia Hui is especially teary and asks if she can hug Chu Man, who says that from now on, she lives rent free at this place, right? Jia Hui agrees. Everyone hugs Chu Man in turn until it’s Jia Hao’s turn.
Jia Hao and Chu Man sweetly and awkwardly hug. The other folks look at them and remark that these two definitely have something going on. Jia Hao reminds Chu Man that she did something today without asking for anything in return, and she changed the lives of everyone here. Suddenly Chu Man gets a call that Yen Kai Ming wants to meet her. She heads to meet him, while everyone encourages Jia Hao to go after Chu Man. Suddenly everyone remembers Yi Xian and what might happen if Jia Hao successfully woos Chu Man.
Yen Kai Ming takes Chu Man to a fancy restaurant. She thanks him for the meal but he says there is one more item. He has four tumblers of whiskey brought out and asks Chu Man to guess which of the four glasses is a four thousand dollar a glass whiskey. She takes a sip of each glass and picks one. But she’s wrong, because these four glasses are all from the same bottle of whiskey. Yen Kai Ming notes that whiskey tastes different to different people. But whiskey is always whiskey, and won’t become brandy simply by changing the glass.
But people are different, and one can never see through a person’s true intentions. One moment you might think someone belongs to you, but the next moment one can’t be sure. Chu Man smiles and toasts Yen Kai Ming, suggesting that the number of ice cubes likely caused the glasses to taste different. He asks if she remembers why they toasted the last time? She says it’s a shame the Due South market folks have managed to stage a comeback.
Yen Kai Ming gets out of his chair and walks over to Chu Man, pointing out that even though she hid behind the scenes, it was clear her handiwork was behind everything the marketplace did. Chu Man says she did this for Yen Kai Ming. Mr. Jin went too far this time and used such dirty tactics that sooner or later, people might connect it with him. That would ruin his business reputation. So he needs to be far-sighted and let this matter go for now and get the marketplace through legitimate tactics next time.
Yen Kai Ming smirks and asks if Chu Man seriously believes he will buy that crock of bullshit she just tried to sell him? Oh snap. He asks if she knows how much the AG Group will lose in the next few years because they couldn’t acquire the market? Chu Man knows, but she also knows what she wants. She wants to save the market, and she doesn’t need to explain why to Yen Kai Ming. All she knows is the market is unique and once lost cannot ever be replaced. She’s someone who, once she has made up her mind, will follow it through until the end. In this case, she decided to save the market.
Yen Kai Ming looks at her, and then tells her to throw away everything he’s given to her. He tells her to throw it all away, because he wants to give his woman even better things. She can throw everything away for something she believes is unique, and he finds a woman with her guts and determination also unique and priceless. In his lifetime he can have innumerable pieces of land, but to find a woman who knows what she wants and goes for it without fear is rare. She is just like him. He can have future opportunities to get the market, but today he is willing to exchange the market for Chu Man.
Chu Man asks if he’s telling the truth? Yen Kai Ming asks if she thinks he’s so untrustworthy? He confesses that she’s the first woman who has lied to him, yet left him completely appreciative of her tactics. He walks over and kisses her, congratulating her on becoming his woman, and congratulating himself on having a woman like Chu Man. Chu Man smiles at him.
Chu Man heads back to the market, walking through the stalls and thinking back to Yen Kai Ming asking her to move out of the market immediately. He doesn’t want his woman living in such a place, and also doesn’t want her to have contact with the market place people in the future. Chu Man walks through the market and thinks back to all her interactions with everyone since she’s moved there. She thinks back especially to her tender moments with Jia Hao.
Suddenly the market folks jump out yelling surprise, wanting to celebrate the market successfully winning this battle. Chu Man smiles and says they ought to celebrate something else as well – she’s moving out of the market. Jia Hao’s smile immediately disappears and he stares at Chu Man. Everyone stares at Chu Man, and she looks down as her face freezes.
Thoughts of Mine:
The entirety of the Yen Kai Ming character has taken me for a loop-de-loop from the very first frame he was introduced. I knew he wasn’t going to be some token chaebol character, but his ice-cold intelligence and ability to just speak his mind constantly throws me off balance. I honestly have no clue what the hell he’s thinking or what he’s going to say.
I appreciate how smart he is to understand Chu Man’s true worth, and appreciate her character for being so decisive and gutsy. While dating someone like him would be like sleeping next to a panther, but I so appreciate how direct and honest he is with Chu Man. I wasn’t expecting her to decline his offer to be his woman, but I also find her response very real because it was filled with some tentativeness mixed with excitement.
I’ll be sad to see Chu Man leave the warm confines of the Due South market, because her interactions with the denizens have been filled with such warmth and laughter. While the fashion show and how they saved the market was ultimately a very hokey approach that was cute not not terribly believeable, I’m willing to give the drama the leeway to do something uplifting and charming to watch.
It was also a creative way to integrate MQ’s costume designer Patricia Field into the drama itself. Ultimately a traditional market like Due South will never be competitive and will become extinct, but in the context of this drama, it was heartwarming to consider that people hope to continue to ply their trade even in the humblest of environs with dignity and honesty.
Xi Li finding his sweetheart happened a little too suddenly and quickly for me, but it was in classic MQ fashion not to be maudlin about the reunion. It’s a shame his character swanned off so quickly, because actor David Chen (also a Chinese-American like Vanness Wu) played him with such a gravitas and a pitch-perfect affectation of the real Brother Sharp. I’ve really grown so fond of all the secondary characters at the market, who really have been stealing the show from Jia Hao. Actually, even Yen Kai Ming is currently a flashier character than Jia Hao, and I’m hoping the drama ups his intensity soon so that I can gleefully cheer on the poor hero to get the heroine.
This was yet another satisfying episode of MQ, the story moving forward without any drag and the presentation (directing, editing, and especially, the scoring) continues to charm me into submission. I appreciate how well conceptualized this drama is, from the care and effort taken into constructing the Due South market set to the little flourishes given to even the smallest secondary character.
I especially LOVE Peter, like I love that man to pieces even though we know nothing about his backstory. All we know is that he’s a loyal and genuine friend to Chu Man. But everytime he shows up he brightens a scene and always adds more color to Chu Man’s character. I checked and MQ is slated to be a 20 episode drama. For once I feel like this is a story that deserves so many episodes. I’m thrilled to accompany this drama on its journey, hoping to be continually surprised and thrilled with what I see.