Glory to the drama gods. Please accept my sincere homage for turning Skip Beat into a reality. And not just any reality, episode 1 proves that this drama can be everything the manga should have been, and then some. It’s not perfect in acting and execution, but the heart is all there. Immediately we fall into the universe that is SB, a story about a girl with so much love for a boy that she would do anything for him. Her love is selfless and beautiful, until the day she learns that the talented handsome boy she so adores simply treats her as a servant. His selfishness sets the vengeful spirit inside this girl free, but along with it, she is released from her voluntarily sacrifice and discovers her own purpose in life. What’s better than getting revenge on the hot new idol star? Why, becoming a great actress and unwittingly winning the affections of the top acting star in the industry. Now this is a revenge story I can get behind.
Round 1 recap:
Voiceover intones: People are born with a box filled with little souls of vengeance and anger. God has locked away those feelings deep inside each of us. If the box is opened, the souls would emerge and tempt people to do dark things.
A girl is on the ground cleaning the floor. She’s diligently working until she overhears two teenagers sitting at a nearby table loudly exclaim that they’ve purchased Bu Puo Shang’s latest album. Whoosh, the girl, whose name is Gong Xi, is beaming before the freaked out girls. Gong Xi grabs the CD and launches into a flurry of compliments for buying the best album out there. Shang wrote every song, designed the album jacket, and he’s handsome and dashing. In fact, he’s the current prodigy of the music scene. Gong Xi rushes forward and tells the girls to buy more copies otherwise it’ll be sold out and they will regret it. She’s so thrilled and thanks them for supporting Shang.
The manager walks up and reminds Gong Xi that she’s done for the day and doesn’t she need to rush off to her next job? Gong Xi rushes into the ladies changing room, blithely opening the door and sending her colleague tumbling backwards hitting the wall. She’s pretty much clueless about anything not related to Shang.
Her colleague is used to Gong Xi’s careless ways and rushes out, while Gong Xi changes in a jiffy. She stops when the other two girls in the locker room start talking about Bu Puo Shang, with one mentioning that she used to like Dun He Lian but she’s now loving Shang. Gong Xi is terribly pleased to hear this. She makes these expressions of agreement with their compliments of Shang that are just hysterical.
Gong Xi’s happiness turns into sudden disappointment when one girl shows off a poster of Shang she received from the music store when she bought two copies of his CD. Gong Xi bought two as well, so why didn’t she receive his poster? Gong Xi vows to get Shang’s poster from the store or else she will not rest. She hops on her bike and barrels through the city with only one thought on her mind, going faster than cars, the high speed rail, and even Superman. LOL, this is definitely a manga adaptation.
She arrives in the store and rides her bike right up the poor store attendant and demands to know why she didn’t get a poster of Shang! Dun, dun, dun, here comes the opening credits, with Super Junior M’s rendition of “Extravagant Solo”.
Gong Xi makes off with a life sized cardboard cut out of Shang since the store has run out of his posters, but they will call her when they get more. She’s pleased the store attendant was so reasonable, talking to cardboard Shang like he’s real. She moons over cardboard Shang but then snaps out of it, realizing she’s late.
Gong Xi is exhausted at her next job, a waitress at a Japanese restaurant. The other waitress notes that Gong Xi took 15 minutes to travel a route that normally takes 40 minutes, of course she’s exhausted. Gong Xi perks up, telling herself she can do this shift. If she takes time off, she won’t be able to pay the rent. The owner’s wife wonders why Gong Xi is killing herself to live in a luxury apartment, suggesting she spend the money on herself to look better. The other co-worker asks Gong Xi if they can borrow her apartment to have a party.
Gong Xi looks stricken and starts a litany of excuses for why her place isn’t suitable for a party. The co-worker tells Gong Xi to just say no, why bother with the lame excuses. She wonders why Gong Xi is so secretive, perhaps she’s got a man in there. Gong Xi laughs it off.
As Gong Xi heads home, she walks by a department store make up display and looks dazzled by the beautiful model in the ad, picturing that it is herself looking all glamorous. She reminds herself to suppress the desire to look pretty, she can’t waste money. Gong Xi turns around and her Shang cut out has turned into the real man. Her dream Shang smiles at her, and she replies that all she needs is him.
Gong Xi asks dream Shang if he isn’t going to dislike her just because she is not made up. Dream Shang continues to just smile beatifically at her, which bucks up her spirit. When Gong Xi arrives back at her apartment building, she looks up and sees the lights on in her unit. Her face lights up realizing that Shang is finally back!
Gong Xi happily welcomes Shang home but he just tells her to keep her voice down and not disturb the neighbors. She happily shows off her Shang cut out but the real Shang continues to flip through a magazine and ignore her. Gong Xi closes the front door and flies over to sit next to Shang on the sofa. She stares at him but he just gestures for a drink, which she promptly gets for him and holds the glass so he can drink it from a straw. When Gong Xi asks if he’s eaten, he mutters that it’s 10 p.m. already, who wouldn’t haven eaten.
Gong Xi follows Shang to his closet and tentatively asks if he’s in a bad mood because of work? He hasn’t been home in awhile and she misses him. When she calls to hear his voice, she always gets only his voicemail. Shang asks if she’s blaming him, which she quickly says of course not. He’s annoyed, wondering if he’s supposed to report his every move to her? She starts to explain but stops herself, instead quietly observing Shang and realizing that he’s been very irritable lately.
Gong Xi reminisces about their time together when they first arrived in Taipei. She worked while he made music in the apartment. But he was so considerate and nice to her, waiting for her to come home to eat dinner, smiling at her with tenderness and joy. But after Shang started to become famous, and was under the tight control of the record company, he started to get more and more short tempered. Shang hates being told what to do, which is why he brought her to Taipei with him. Gong Xi rationalizes to herself that Shang’s bad mood now is because of all that. Gong Xi decides to activate her secret weapon to cheer Shang up. She runs out to buy something, in such a rush that she runs down 14 flights of stairs rather than wait for the elevator.
Gong Xi voiceovers that she and Shang grew up together. She spent all her days at his house because her mom didn’t have time to raise her. Shang’s family owns one of the top rated Japanese onsen resorts in Taiwan, and he was always destined to take over the family business. Little Gong Xi finds Shang by the river (little Shang being played by Mini Bin, younger brother to Xiao Xiao Bin) and they frolic.
Too bad Shang has no interest in taking over the family business, instead being interested only in music. Young Gong Xi holds a palm frond for Shang as he plays the harmonica. Shang vowed to become a famous singer.
One day, high school Gong Xi arrives at Shang’s house to overhear him fighting with his dad over his rejection of taking over the resort. His dad is furious and slaps Shang, who vows to prove his dad wrong.
Gong Xi follows Shang outside, asking what he’s going to do? Shang has decided to leave this godforsaken place, and asks Gong Xi to go with him. He walks away but her face lights up with the realization that Shang has chosen her. So she followed Shang to Taipei, where he started to pursue his dreams while she took on 3 jobs to pay for the apartment. She has no time for leisure or to take care of herself. Everyday is like a marathon, but she’s not tired and instead is happy. It’s a happiness she keeps deep inside her heart. As long as Shang’s dream can come true, she can place herself way in the back and never be seen.
Gong Xi walks into a convenience store and buys every single strawberry flavored snack because it’s Shang’s favorite. But she’s desperately looking for strawberry pudding, which she can’t find anywhere. Gong Xi bikes around the city until she finds a dessert store about to close its door for the night. She slides under the gate like a wraith and asks the startled owner if he has any strawberry pudding.
When Gong Xi returns to the apartment, Shang is putting on his shoes to leave. He was only coming back to grab some things, too bad Gong Xi left for so long. As he walks out the door, she holds up all the strawberry snacks, especially his favorite strawberry pudding. That makes him turn around, having missed eating his favorite snack for so long since he’s afraid it will lessen his cool image if folks found out he loved strawberry pudding.
Gong Xi watches Shang eat his strawberry pudding the way he invented, sucking each little mini blob right into his mouth. We flashback to child Gong Xi watching child Shang eating with such an expression of unfettered joy. She reaches over and touches his cheeks filled with pudding.
Back to the present, Gong Xi reaches over to touch Shang’s cheeks but he pulls back, telling her to grow up and stop being a kid. Shang makes her promise never to tell anyone he loves strawberry stuff.
Gong Xi changes the subject to happily tell Shang that one of her co-workers who used to like Dun He Lian has switched her love to Shang. Both cheer for him beating Lian. Too bad the television program they are watching crowns Lian as the star voted most desirable by the ladies. Gong Xi tries to assure Shang this vote was rigged, but the announcer says the vote was certified as accurate, and Lian was also voted the star with the most perfect facial features. Gong Xi keeps trying to assure Shang, insulting Lian as being a pretty face with no brain, but Shang’s in a pissed off mood now.
When Gong Xi suggests that Shang just got started and in a few years……which is when Shang cuts her off. He wants to beat Lian now and dislikes Gong Xi suggesting he needs to wait a few years. Shang storms out of the apartment, leaving Gong Xi taking out her anger on TV Lian.
Dun He Lian walks out of the taping with his manager, who snarks about the response he gave to a question about the kind of woman he was looking for. Lian had described an intelligent, capable woman, who was also kind and considerate. Lian confesses to his manager that such a shallow question merited an equally shallow answer. Manager suggests programs like these can’t delve any deeper and is a waste of time. Lian chides his manager for saying such a thing since this is his job, which is when Manager bribes Lian with a chupa chup, which he takes with a smile and puts into his inside suit pocket.
A top variety show host runs up and asks for an autograph from Lian for his star struck daughter. Lian thanks him and is about to sign when a producer runs up chiding the other star for leaving the middle of a taping to come here and get an autograph. Lian asks the host if he shouldn’t feel ashamed to drop his job to come seek an autograph. He’s an embarrassment to his profession. Lian says all this with a smile to the shocked host, but still signs the autograph since it’s for the daughter. He bows politely before leaving.
His manager chides Lian for being so disrespectful to one of the most powerful elders in the industry. He worries that Lian might be blackballed or otherwise suffer consequences for his frank speech back there. He knows Lian treats his job like it’s a holy calling, but not everyone treats their job with diligence. Lian did not purposely insult the host, but concedes he said more than he needed to. Lian smiles and promises he’ll work on it in the future.
Gong Xi calls Shang from a payphone and gets his voicemail, apologizing for what she said yesterday. She goes back to passing out flyer, stopping only when she sees Shang’s poster on the bus stop. She remembers that Shang has a television program appearance today and decides to wait for him outside the studio so she can see him.
Shang is pissed the program wants him to make changes to his music and his agent has to coax him to be more flexible. Sexy agent asks if Shang went to see his country bumpkin chick yesterday? Shang suggests that she might be jealous, but she does want to talk to him about Gong Xi.
Gong Xi brings a strawberry dessert to the studio for Shang but gets tossed out. She manages to sneak in by hiding in one of the prop boxes. She finds Shang in the waiting room and is excited until she hears what he is talking about with his agent. Shang isn’t planning to go back to their apartment anymore because he doesn’t need Gong Xi now that he’s made it. Growing up, all he knew how to do was music, so he had no choice but to bring Gong Xi to Taipei with him to take care of his needs.
Agent asks if Shang considers Gong Xi his servant? He does, but that is how she treats him. Since they were small, she’s willingly followed him around. He never forced her to do anything, she always wanted to. Agent tells Shang to let Gong Xi go now. If he’s not interested in her, yet she slaves away for him, then he’s truly heartless to string her along with hope. Shang agrees but then flirts with his agent, saying she needs to take care of him from now on. Agent says the agency has readied an apartment for him with his own cleaning lady, does he need her to be his servant then? Shang teases that he doesn’t have the heart to make her his servant.
We see Gong Xi watching this scene and listening to this conversation. The locks on the box inside her heart break one by one. Shang is glad he left home, otherwise he would have been forced to marry an ugly and dorky girl like Gong Xi. The type of girl he likes is someone who knows how to look pretty. Gong Xi tosses the dessert box at Shang and then confronts him with the painful truth. He tells her to go home and cry!
All the vengeful spirits pop out of her as Gong Xi laughs like a manic. She treated Shang as her one and only, yet he treated her like trash. She can’t believe he’s that selfish, trashing her life for his own needs. She vows revenge on Shang. He tells her to bring it, since he will only become more and more famous and the distance between them greater. She can’t even touch one of his toes, much less hurt him. The only way she can get her revenge is if she steps foot into the entertainment arena. He has the security drag her out, with Gong Xi screaming that she will enter the entertainment world and then step on him under her feet.
Gong Xi gets tossed out and she tearfully rushes home, thinking back to what she just heard. She cries as she rides her bike. She wonders why he would use her when she trusted him so completely. Gong Xi goes home and trashes all of Shang’s posters and even her beloved Shang cardboard cut out. But when she gets to Shang’s CD, she hesitates as she remembers the happier times when he released that album and rushed home to share the happiness with her. Gong Xi cries as she remembers how his behavior grew more impatient towards her as time went on, such as yelling at her for every little thing and refusing to be seen in public with her.
The next day, Gong Xi goes to a boutique and immediately buys a pair of sexy pumps. She falls over when she hears the price, but steels herself and buys the shoes with the wad of cash she is carrying, all NT100 small bills. She goes to the hair salon to get a hair cut. The stylist wonders if she really wants to cut it since she’s had it for so long. Gong Xi hesitates, but then thinks back to Shang insulting her looks. She screams at the stylist to cut it all off, asking for a style that tomorrow’s star would sport.
Gong Xi walks out of the salon with her hair like a red mushroom top. She goes to her job at the Japanese restaurant where her co-worker Wan Zi teases her. But then everyone looks depressed because Gong Xi is quitting her job because she wants to become a star. The owner walks off without saying a word and the owner’s wife explains that it’s because he likes Gong Xi so much. Gong Xi is sorry she needs to quit but she can’t keep taking time off to look for entertainment jobs. Gong Xi is going to stop renting that expensive apartment, so the owner’s wife offers to let her rent the apartment upstairs. The owner pops up back and throws the room keys to Gong Xi and tells her she needs to keep working here if she wants to live here. He doesn’t care if she needs to take time off anytime.
Gong Xi moves into her new room, leaving Wan Zi surprised that all she has is one suitcase despite living in that big apartment. Wan Zi suspiciously asks if Gong Xi is a spy sent from the government to spy on celebrities. Gong Xi says she is not a spy, otherwise she would just off that selfish asshole. Wan Zi has a great idea, which involves Gong Xi dressed up like a hooker and walking back and forth in Ximending. LOL, this is mortifying to watch. Wan Zi says her mom told her that Bridgitte Lin was discovered on the streets of Ximending.
Wan Zi opens her newspaper and Gong Xi spies an article about Shang going back to college. She’s furious that his duplicity caused her to be unable to attend college, and now he’s going to attend. Her vengeful spirits pop up once more and she vows that she will never forgive him. Gong Xi and Wan Zi decide to up their efforts.
Lian’s manager is practicing what he’s going to say to their agency president for Lian’s disrespect to that top host. Lian tells him to just tell him the truth, and he’s happy to personally explain. Apparently the manager for that top host came to lodge a complaint already. The phone rings and it’s the president on the other line.
Gong Xi continues walking around Ximending, this time holding up a sign that reads “Wannabe star seeking an agent, please contact me, I promise I will become super famous.” Everyone stares at her, while Wan Zi is embarrassed because clearly Gong Xi isn’t quite that sane. Suddenly a man in a suit tells Gong Xi to follow him, and of course he brings her to a love motel. Wan Zi and Gong Xi tie the man up and beat the crap out of him for being a sleazy pervert.
Afterwards, Gong Xi and Wan Zi stand on an overpass to discuss their next steps. Gong Xi realizes that she can go straight to LME, the biggest agency in Taiwan, and seek to be discovered there. When Wan Zi suggests they wouldn’t take her, Gong Xi smarts that even Bu Puo Shang can get discovered and he can’t even use a vacuum cleaner. Plus she got better grades than Shang in school. Wan Zi tells her to go for it then.
Gong Xi gets all excited that LME will accept her and soon she will be even more famous than Shang, at which point she’ll slam him on the ground and make him crawl like a dog, the pathetic douchebag that he is. She yells out for Shang to watch out for her, she’s coming for him! But first she needs to change her look.
Thoughts of Mine:
It’s going to so much fun recapping SB, especially since I’ve read the source manga and have some markers to follow along with. I think this story has such an immediate emotional impact that it calls out to even non-manga readers. Gong Xi is a very unique character. She’s not a doormat in personality, she’s just a doormat for the man she loves. We learn quickly in episode 1 that they grew up together and did everything together. Gong Xi’s love for Shang is real and understandable, but it’s her tenacity and self-sacrifice in making his dreams come true that makes me so proud of her. She did everything right for her love, even if she gradually started to notice that Shang wasn’t treating her so well as time went on. But what I love the most about Gong Xi is that once she learns the truth, she doesn’t weep and wail being a victim, she tearfully accepts her victimhood and then vows all out revenge on Shang.
The acting from Ivy Chen as Gong Xi made quite an impact on me, despite her needing to overact to capture the extreme emotions that Gong Xi feels around Shang. She captured all the different sides of Gong Xi – her innocence and happiness when she sees Shang, her hesitation to make him angry with her, her determination to do anything to make him happy, and of course, her complete and utter feeling of betrayal to learn the real feelings Shang has for her. What Shang doesn’t realize is that Gong Xi doesn’t want to own him or have him profess undying love for her. She was content loving him, believing he appreciated her and enjoyed spending time with her. Shang destroyed her illusions with his devastating declaration to his agent that she’s just here to be his servant. What an asshole. I hope Gong Xi tramples on his balls. I think Lee Donghae is knocking it out of the park as Shang, showing how immature and self-absorbed Shang is, but also glimpses of his charm and talent.
I was happy with just the few short scenes of Dun He Lian in this episode, because those scenes were really incisive and show us immediately what type of star this man is. He’s controlled, patient, yet strangely willing to ruffle feathers. He treats his job as a profession, and he is a dedicated professional. I love that his suave image is the way he is even behind the scenes, but there is a hidden playfulness that his manager appears to know. He’s not rude and rebellious like Shang, he’s likely always on time and never forgets his lines. I can’t wait to watch him meet up with the vengeful dervish that is Gong Xi. I think Choi Siwon has the harder of the two male lead roles to play, because Lian keeps so much bottled up inside. I like how Siwon’s eyes appear to shift ever so slightly to convey his feelings even as he retains his pleasant poker face.
My biggest gripe with the manga has always been pace and execution, with the writer dragging on even the tiniest of scenes and cramming too much dialogue and thought bubbles everywhere. The drama managed to flow beautifully, with really lovely and fun directing. The manga really is quite exaggerated at times, so the drama necessarily embodies the same aura. I wish Director Niu would cut it with the flashbacks of scenes that happened not three minutes earlier in the same episode, but I did love how he wove Gong Xi and Shang’s childhood story expertly into the present scene of Gong Xi running out to buy Shang’s favorite desserts to cheer him up. Episode 1 has accomplished what it needed to do, which is set the stage for all the battles, wars, and challenges to come for Gong Xi against her nemesis Shang. For now, I’m already clamoring for episode 2.