I don’t know what happened, or how it happened so quickly, but episode 2 of Skip Beat slowed down considerably from its rollicking start. The script, execution, and acting are still fabulous, especially with the introduction of more characters, but I found myself wanting this story to get a move on. Which is my issue with the manga itself, so I suppose it can’t be helped. While I loved the few all-too-brief Gong Xi-Lian interactions, I missed seeing that jerk Shang around to liven up the proceedings. Gong Xi can be exceedingly outlandish on her own, and really needs either of the guys to pull her back down to earth a bit. I love Gong Xi’s completely one-track mind and unending reserve of energy and drive, and Ivy Chen‘s performance takes Gong Xi right to the edge of manic but never crosses the line. Compared to her, everyone else needs to up their tempo three notches, but I’ll give this drama a bit more time to find its groove.
Act 2 recap:
Gong Xi vows to become a bigger star than Shang and screams out her plans for vengeance for the world to hear. There is a running gag involving the two security guards at the television station that threw Gong Xi out when she confronted Shang, and each time they think they hear Gong Xi’s blood curdling screams of rage and try to chalk it off as a figment of their imagination. Lian’s manager reveals to his charge that the top host who ditched a recording to get Lian’s autograph for his daughter personally wrote a letter to Lian. In it, the host reveals that his daughter suffers from a debilitating illness and is wheelchair bound with no desire to socialize. She was elated to get Lian’s autograph, and her father was able to use that as an excuse for her to agree to have a birthday party. Lian’s autograph brought them all a measure of happiness and he is truly grateful to Lian.
Lian stands by the window with his usual poker face listening to this letter read aloud by his manager, who wonders what kind of robot isn’t touched by this heartfelt letter of gratitude. Lian spies a lone figure running across the plaza below and entering the LME building. It’s Gong Xi, of course, and she demands the receptionist let her in to meet with someone in charge because she’s made up her mind to be famous.
The head of the entertainers unit, Manager Shen, happens to pass by the lobby and Gong Xi scores some face time with him. He finds out that she has no talent or even a clue what type of entertainer she wants to become – singer, actress, or MC. He tries to escort her out but Gong Xi tries running up the down escalator and refuses to leave. Manager Shen accuses her of being a Lian fangirl using the excuse of becoming a star to try and meet Lian. Turns out Lian isn’t totally a cold robot, as he buys a teddy bear for the sick little girl and tells his manager to find time for him to visit her.
Lian and his manager show up on the down escalator and causes Gong Xi to fall backwards in surprise. Gong Xi mutters to herself that she can’t possibly join the same agency as that horrible Dun He Lian, and her oddness and lack of interest in LIan is noted by everyone. Suddenly she has an epiphany that she is now mortal enemies with Shang, which means she has no reason to despise Lian anymore.
Before Gong Xi can figure out what she wants to do, she’s summarily tossed out of the LME building. She sees Lian staring back at her from inside the building. Lian and his manager are told by Manager Shen about Gong Xi’s crazy insistence that she wants to become a star. They see Gong Xi kneeling outside the building, where she has arranged large word posters to ask Manager Shen to give her another chance. Lian and his manager wish Manager Shen good luck in dealing with this crazy chick.
Manager Shen goes home that night but he’s accosted by Gong Xi every step of the way. She camps outside his house and her vengeful spirits even bother poor Manager Shen at night until he can’t sleep. When Manager Shen wakes up and finds breakfast prepared, he’s stunned to see Gong Xi inside his house and cheerfully making food. He finally gives up and agrees to give her one more chance. Gong Xi’s name will be added at the last minute to the applicants for the upcoming LME Talent Selection. Gong Xi is sure she’s going to win this selection easily.
Gong Xi is thrilled she’s about to become an LME entertainer. As she heads out of LME, she runs into Lian who seems oddly intrigued by her. He grabs her entry form and surmises that she managed to wear down poor Manager Shen and scored a chance with the company. Lian just stares at her, so Gong Xi interprets his piercing silent stare as him denigrating her for having no chance to succeed. Lian tells her that if she thinks she can’t succeed, then she is wasting everyone’s time. The judges have more important things to do than to watch her perform, and there are people who are more deserving of a chance. He wonders why she’s even here if she has no interest in this industry? He presses her a good reason for her persistence.
Gong Xi blurts out that she just wants revenge, she wants revenge on Bu Puo Shang! Lian takes out his cellphone and turns around. Gong Xi darts over and realizes in shock that he’s googling Shang because Lian has no idea who Shang is. Gong Xi’s natural instinct is to crow about Shang’s achievements to Lian, but then she realizes that she know hates Shang and slaps herself awake.
Lain gives Gong Xi back her form and asks again if her sole motivation is just revenge? Gong Xi asks if that isn’t allowed? Lian tells Gong Xi that passing the talent selection process is a completely different hurdle than persistently bugging Manager Shen to give her a chance. She shouldn’t expect to be selected purely on determination and persistence alone. Gong Xi notices that Lian appears to thoroughly despise her.
Gong Xi goes home and adds Lian’s picture to her wall dart board alongside Shang’s picture. She vows to show both of them that she can do it. They will soon have to call her Empress Gong Xi and bow before her. Gong Xi vows that she will work so hard to stand on that stage so those who looked down on her in the past will have no choice but to clap for her.
The day of the talent selection dawns and Gong Xi arrives at LME to see the waiting area crowded with young and talented hopefuls. She realizes that folks who look striking are bound to attract more attention. Since Shang spent all her money, she could only afford to buy a cellphone and do her hair. She takes out her Shang doll and starts to berate it. Suddenly a woman walks out and asks who dares to bring a kid to such an important day. She singles out Gong Xi as responsible for the child since she’s holding a toy doll. The girl derides Gong Xi as immature, dowdy, and unsexy. She tells Gong Xi to scram if she’s not here to do her best. Gong Xi is furious that the girl used the same insults that Shang used to describe her.
The talent selection is underway while the judges aren’t very impressed with the first batch of applicants. Manager Shen is asked about the girl he added to the roster at the last minute. He tells everyone to judge fairly and even eliminate the girl if that is their decision. But then Manager Shen has nightmares that a vengeful Gong Xi will curse him and his family for all time if she’s eliminated. Lian is off shooting an action film, but he asks his manager how the talent selection is going.
The second half of the selection performance begins and the remaining applicants file into the auditorium. A salsa performance straight out of the streets of Rio during Mardi Gras commences, with the dancing ladies parting to reveal a man decked out in the same salsa outfit complete with a feather headpiece. He’s introduced as Luo Li, the president of LME. He welcomes the applicants to LME and asks only that their performance will be an eye-opening experience for him.
Gong Xi watches the applicants perform and everyone’s talent is impressive to her. She thinks back to asking the chef of the Japanese restaurant for his assistance in lending her a very important item so that she can perform her talent. She didn’t think he would agree to lend it to her, but he does. Gong Xi watches as her new nemesis Jiang Nan Qing goes onstage for her performance. She introduces herself as someone with the goal to become a top actress. She asks for a script from the judges to perform her piece.
The judges remark that Nan Qing appears fearless. Nan Qing flips through the script handed to her, which is from an LME musical, and offers to perform any segment from it. President Luo Li has selected a random scene from the musical and tells Nan Qing that she must immediately act out the opposite role. Nan Qing confidently acts out the chosen scene and doesn’t miss a single line of dialogue.
The final applicant is Gong Xi and she walks onstage. She doesn’t know what to say but she’s determined to explain why she wants to enter the entertainment industry. She announces that her goal is to become a bigger star than Bu Puo Shang. That makes everyone laugh at her reason, calling her a random fangirl. But President Luo Li doesn’t think so. If she was a Shang fangirl., she would go audition at Shang’s agency. Plus she picked such a specific goal, there must be more to it than she’s letting on.
Gong Xi starts her performance, which involves her striking a pose on the stage while holding a knife in one hand and a radish in the other hand. Gong Xi tells herself to calm down, she can’t get nervous at such an important moment otherwise she will fail. Gong Xi remembers that the knife was lent to her with only one requirement, that Gong Xi cannot fail. Gong Xi starts and chops off the top of the radish. She tosses the radish into the air and grabs it and starts peeling the radish into one long paper thin sheet while she turns in circles around the table on the stage. Gong Xi expertly carves a radish flower in one unbroken motion.
Little Gong Xi taught herself this difficult skill when she was young and living at Shang’s parents onsen resort. She learned it because she didn’t want Shang’s parents to find her a burden. President Luo Li claps for Gong Xi, calling her performance the most exciting that he’s seen today. Nan Qing congratulates Gong Xi on her eye-catching performance back there. But Nan Qing calls Gong Xi a pig with an elephant nose who barged into a human world. People notice Gong Xi because she’s just so odd in these surroundings. Nan Qing thinks Gong Xi is just a side show act that is destined to be eliminated. The two rivals shoot sparks of hatred against each other.
For the second round, a cellphone will be passed from each applicant to another, and they must continue whatever conversation takes place on the other end of the line. Nan Qing goes onstage for her turn and picks up the phone. She immediately gets into character and starts crying silently as she answers a call from someone who has been waiting a long time to talk to. Even the judges are impressed with how quickly she gets into character. It’s Gong Xi’s turn and she takes the phone from Nan Qing. She puts the phone to her ear and hears the voice of a man apologizing to her for selfishly mistreating her. She sacrificed everything for him, yet he derided her for being unattractive and unattractive. Gong Xi looks over and sees Shang standing at the other end of the stage, because those were the exact words that Shang said to her.
Thoughts of Mine:
Watching SB turns me into the worst kind of backseat viewer, asking the screen “are we there yet” every so often when I find the story can move along faster. If I were the usher for this show, everyone would be seated already, i.e. the set up portions over and done with, and the real show can get started. I don’t think the story is dragging, just that it can be even tighter. It’s clear after this episode that the overall casting was spot on for this drama, with Bianca Bai really the standout performance as Nan Qing (Moko). Ivy is really making Gong Xi come alive with the right amount of spunk, insanity, and grit. No wonder she unwittingly attracts the attention of top star Dun He Lian. I’ve heard criticism of Choi Siwon‘s performance as Lian, and I think he’s really easing into the character well. His character has mysterious motivations and some strong emotions hidden within his unflappable exterior. While Siwon’s pensive moments are a little obviously acted, his scenes with Ivy are crackling with tension and fun.
I can’t lie and say I didn’t miss Shang in episode 2. Without him some energy really left the show when he becomes just this nebulous target for Gong Xi. Good thing Nan Qing showed up to plug that gap, immediately sizing up Gong Xi correctly and singling her out as a rival with some harsh put downs that are not so far off the mark. While we cheer for Gong Xi to get her revenge, part of us wants her to get her revenge in the form of Shang realizing how awesome she is and come crawling back on his knees. But really we ought to be cheering for Gong Xi to discover her own identity outside of Shang, and realize that her immense life force and dedication to any craft makes her a great talent to be molded. She can become a top entertainer, if she can sort out her priorities sooner rather than later. I like watching Gong Xi bumble and coerce her way to reaching her goals, because the girl deserves to find her own path in life even if the impetus for her journey was rooted in pain.