I know something is even better than my first impression of it when it beckons me for a rewatch. When I watched episode 1 of I Do I Do again, I liked it even more to the extent I felt compelled to scribble down a recap. Don’t take this as a promise I’m recapping this series, but merely that this single episode inspired my urge to write about it. IDID is such a surprise winning start for me I almost want to pinch myself. Could this be? A calm and understated K-drama rom-com? With leads characters written with realism and heart?
Kim Sun Ah is hitting it out of the park so far as Hwang Ji An, a successful career woman who has the professional success but can’t give her parents what they crave, more of her time. Lee Jang Woo is rockier out of the gate as Park Tae Kang, young whippersnapper who is still trying to figure out his life path. When these two literally run into each other, what ensues thereafter felt refreshing and hooked me from the start. This drama feels slow because it takes its time, and for that, I am eternally grateful I’m not watching yet another mile-a-minute rom-com.
Episode 1 recap:
We see Hwang Ji An slipping out of a banquet room. She runs down the stairs and loses her shoe, quite like Cinderella, except of course she’s not. She takes off her other high heel and grabs both in her hands and completes her run as she walks out of the hotel and into the sunlight.
Park Tae Kang is being dragged by his dad to the neighborhood government affairs office. Dad wants to disown Tae Kang and take him off the family registry, and Tae Kang says fine, and tells the official to take his dad off HIS registry. Sadly it’s not so easy to disown kids anymore, so Dad and Tae Kang walk outside grumbling about laws changing and red tape.
Turns out the source of the conflict was “Beyonce”, the brand spanking new motorcycle Tae Kang bought with Dad’s hard earned money. Tae Kang argues that since he’s not going to college, it’s tuition money saved he can used elsewhere, like buying his beloved Beyonce. Dad huffs and kicks Beyonce before storming off. Tae Kang adorably coos over her before getting on the bike and taking off.
As Tae Kang rounds a corner, he needs to swerve to avoid Ji An walking in the cross walk. Neither are hurt but Beyonce is a bit scratched up. Tae Kang huffs at the ahjumma for not watching where she’s going, while Ji An correctly points out that Tae Kang ought to be more worried about the welfare of a living person rather than a bike. She doesn’t have time for him so lets him off the hook. Too bad the traffic is a nightmare and Ji An can’t get a cab, so she asks Tae Kang for a ride in exchange for paying his costs to fix up the bike. Sounds reasonable and practical to me.
Tae Kang rides like the devil and Ji An has to grab on tight as he takes side streets to get her to her destination. Which turns out to be a fashion show, where the manager of the clothing label is currently giving Ji An’s subordinates at her shoe company grief for bringing the wrong size shoe for the model who will be closing out the fashion show.
When Ji An arrives, her subordinates tries to argue that the bitchy manager purposed changed the model so the shoe size they originally measured no longer fit. She must’ve done this because she wanted to give the shoe project to another shoe company. This may be true, but Ji An has no time to point fingers, she’s all about fixing the problem first. She takes charge altering the shoe on the spot so it’s anchored by a ribbon tie and can now fit the model’s foot. We see that Ji An isn’t a bitch or screechy, she’s intelligent and no push over.
When the bitchy clothing label manager insists on swapping out that shoe regardless, Ji An calls her bluff and orders ALL her shoes removed and let the models do the fashion show barefoot for all she cares. NICE. The bitchy manager folds and the fashion show goes off without a hitch.
Tae Kang takes Ji An back to the hotel where she runs back to the banquet only to discover it’s devoid of people and in the process of being cleaned up. She finds out that the 70th birthday party was cancelled. Ji An rushes out and Tae Kang has no choice but to continue taking her where she needs to go.
Ji An rushes to the train station and finds her parents about to board the train back home to the South. Her mother tries to smooth over the hurt feelings, but the birthday boy Ji An’s dad is having none of that.
He barks that Ji An took off during his 70th birthday party, would she take off during his wake as well? Ouch. Daddy, I feel you, but that hurt. He hands her a bank account statement containing all the money she’s sent back over the years. He tells her not to send money anymore. He doesn’t want her money, he just wanted to spend his 70th birthday with his only daughter who he rarely ever sees. But she couldn’t even do that. Ji An is clearly very upset at herself and she apologizes, but part of her is so caught in the middle. She asks her dad what she’s done wrong, she’s a successful person and she tries hard to be a good daughter.
Her dad suggests that she be taken off the family register since she’s barely a daughter to them anyways. Tae Kang stands in the back and watches this exchange silently. Her parents get on the train and it departs the station, leaving Ji An standing alone on the platform watching them. But then she’s not really alone, as Tae Kang is standing a short distance away.
Ji An walks aimlessly, and its a quiet moment when the camera pulls back and we see Tae Kang walking beside his bike and following her. She sits down at a park and her eyes are red rimmed, but there is no sobbing for Ji An, despite how awful she must be feeling at this time.
When a tissue is offered to her, she takes it to wipe her eyes, only to realize Tae Kang had written down how much she owed him for his services today. He says in a sweet matter of fact way that he made it easy for her, and he doesn’t want to bother her anymore. Ji An hands him the money and he gratefully accepts it. Rather than leaving, he tells Ji An that he understands how she’s feeling. Today his dad dragged him to the neighborhood government affairs office and tried to take him off the family registry. Ji An smiles, knowing Tae Kang is trying to cheer her up.
Tae Kang takes Ji An to his friend’s restaurant where they have an enjoyable meal. He asks what she does and she demurs that she works in an office. Tae Kang points out that Ji An would be his dad’s ideal child, whereas her dad wants a less successful daughter who spends more time with him. She asks if he’s a student and he confesses he didn’t have the tuition to go to college, but he has some ideas and great ambition, so he plans on making it big in 10 years time. She smiles at that.
Tae Kang’s friend, Lee Choong Baek, comes out and adorably tries to sell this super special alcohol the restaurant makes. He uses the age old method of saying it makes ladies prettier and says Ji An looks the same age as Tae Kang. Ji An, despite knowing better, is nevertheless a tad flustered with the obvious praise and can’t help but be flattered.
The dinner has turned into a marathon drinking session, as Tae Kang and Ji An are wasted by the end of the night. Tae Kang gives Ji An pointers on how to land a guy – she needs to be less independent and try to do the cute and make a guy feel needed. Ji An asks what a pip squeak like him knows. It’s not that she can’t get a guy, it’s that she doesn’t want one.
Ji An tells him that he’s such a baby that he might as well go and drink his mommy’s milk. Tae Kang says his mom left him when he was just a kid, so he grew up without a mom. Ji An immediately looks chastened at what she said but he tells her not to look at him with pity. Life is just that, shit happens and you keep moving on. At the end, everyone dies and that’s just a relief. Ji An treats Tae Kang like he’s this little pipsqueak, pinching his cheeks and bopping him on the head to be more respectful.
Tae Kang supports Ji An as they stagger out of the restaurant. He flags down a taxi and deposits her in there, wanting to wash his hands of her. But she gives her parents address in another province to the taxi driver so Tae Kang has no choice but retrieve Ji An.
Drunken Ji An sits down, revealing that she wants to go home and ask her dad what she did wrong. She wants to know how she disappointed him so much. It starts to rain and Tae Kang tells Ji An that he’s no good samaritan so he’s done taking care of her.
As Tae Kang walks away, Ji An tells him to go. People are bound to end up alone, like that single horn on a rhino. Which is when Tae Kang returns holding a giant outdoor table umbrella he swiped somewhere over her head, smiling at her. She grumbles, asking why he’s so soft hearted and changed his mind. He’ll never succeed in life if he’s like that. Tae Kang helps Ji An up and they stagger off, with him suggesting they keep drinking since it’s pouring rain now and they both are in a terrible mood.
They wonder what kind of alcohol they should drink. He suggests one and she counters with another. Is it the alcohol of abandoned people? Is it the alcohol of unfilial children? Is it the alcohol of raining? Is it the alcohol of not being able to go home? Is it the alcohol of how did I end up like this? Is it the alcohol of I don’t know? Is it the alcohol of this is the end?
The camera pans into bare entwined legs. I really like how the drama doesn’t milk their night together for the sake of generating sizzle, but instead allows it to be something that just happened between two drunk consenting adults who happened to form a connection last night though some shared disappointments. Ji An and Tae Kang wake up in bed naked, with their backs to each other. They awkwardly say good morning, and Tae Kang has to identify himself as the motorcycle guy from yesterday. Both of them are mortified but try to be casual about it. Ji An says she doesn’t remember anything about last night, which gives Tae Kang the same excuse that he doesn’t remember anything either. So they are going to feign lack of memory to avoid the embarrassment of a one night stand.
Ji An points out they should get going, which Tae Kang would do except he needs his underwear first, which is on her side. It’s adorable when she rolls over to look for it and pulls the covers causing him to scoot towards her. Same thing happens when she tosses his underwear and he lunges for it, causing her to roll into him. He hurriedly dresses and runs out of there.
After he leaves, Ji An covers her face and kicks her legs on the bed, wondering how the heck something like this happened? Tae Kang does the walk of shame as he hurries back to get his bike.
Ji An goes home and showers (yay, a female character getting a broody shower scene for a change!), getting dressed in a black shirt and red skirt power ensemble. She enters her insane walk-in shoe closet and picks her shoe for today.
Ji An arrives at work and her subordinates are quaking, thinking she’ll fire them for the mishap yesterday at the fashion shoe. Ji An tells him to get back to their work, and also offers her credit card to the one subordinate whose pink skirt was cut up to make emergency shoe ribbons, telling her to go buy herself a new skirt.
Tae Kang heads to the restaurant and runs into Choong Baek, who wonders where he spent the night? Tae Kang’s quick answer that nothing happened with that woman confirms for Choong Baek that they slept together. Choong Baek laughs at Tae Kang’s situation, where he lost precious virginity just like that. Poor Tae Kang looks so embarrassed.
Tae Kang heads home and his dad is furious, demanding to know if Tae Kang spent the night with a woman. He tells Tae Kang just to be careful and not get himself hitched just like that.
Ji An is at one of her shoe stores and finds out sales is stagnant because there are so many knock offs out in the market. When a finicky customer complains that their shoes are not comfortable, Ji An gets annoyed at her attitude and talks back, telling the customer to go elsewhere to buy comfortable running shoes if she wants comfort since they don’t sell that style here. When the customer throws the shoes down before storming out, Ji An has to be restrained from going after the customer. Ji An picks up the shoe, carefully cleaning it, asking if it was scared.
Tae Kang is selling the exact same knock off version of the shoe Ji An was holding on the streets. Turns out Dad is a master knock off shoe maker. Choong Baek comes by and shows Tae Kang a book with Ji An on the cover. Tae Kang realizes that Ji An is an uber-successful shoe designer business woman.
Ji An suggests her team take a day to go walk the markets and find the counterfeiters themselves. When her subordinate suggests they are already overworked and staying late, Ji An tells them to come in earlier in the day then. But she doesn’t make them do it alone, she’s planning to go as well, to make sure its done right and not turn into a fun shopping trip.
Ji An is told the hospital called, and she goes to the hospital. Before the doctor can tell her what is wrong, Ji An just announces that she cannot have surgery because she’s so busy. Turns out the doctor is telling Ji An that she’s got more male hormones than most women, so her female organs have aged to that of a fifty year old woman. In a few years, Ji An will enter menopause.
Ji An has lunch with her friend who is worried, telling her to get hormone therapy. Ji An is nonplussed, saying she doesn’t want to get married or have kids, so she doesn’t care. And if she did want kids, she can adopt. Ji An asks her friend how dating life is, now that her friend is a divorcee who has alimony and a house so she can just date for fun.
As Ji An walks down the street, she pauses before a window and looks at her own reflection. She thinks she still looks fine, but we can tell she’s not as unaffected by the news as she pretended to be. Her mom calls and tells Ji An that they scheduled a matseon for her with an OB/GYN doctor. Ji An doesn’t want to go but her mom uses the 70th birthday disappointment to guilt her into meeting the guy.
Ji An meets Jo Eun Seong. He compliments her as a beauty, the type his mother would like. Ji An yawns as Eun Seong asks to check out her forehead, because his mommy told him women with a wide forehead would be great. He keeps talking about his mom this, his mom that, all the while Ji An yawns. She tells him that she has a disease, the reproductive system of a fifty year old woman. He asks if she’s trying to get rid of him? She asks him to get rid of her, she has no desire to get married. She can’t reject him otherwise her parents will disown her, so can he please reject her.
Eun Seong laughs and says he wasted all the effort with his momma’s boy act with her, which he heard was the best way to get dumped. Heh, true dat. Eun Seong and Ji An go through all their methods for getting rid of matseon dates. Eun Seong has a tube of mascara on him that he was going to pretend to go to the bathroom to reapply, which always get rid of his dates. They share stories about their workaholic ways, with Ji An revealing that her subordinates refer to her as Medusa behind her back.
Ji An ends the matseon, saying she has to go catch some bad guys. Eun Seong walks her out as they thank each other for the candid conversation. Eun Seong asks if they can see each other in the future, as friends of course, friends who can talk with each other. Ji An thinks their fate is at an end and its best to stop right here. She thinks Eun Seong is a good guy. Eun Seong laughs that he’s been rejected twice in the same day by the same woman. They shake hands and he tells her to take good care of her health and not end up at the hospital again. Eun Seong watches Ji An drive away and smiles.
Tae Kang and his dad are running from the cops during a raid. They split up and each takes off carrying a sack of counterfeit shoes over their shoulders. Tae Kang runs down an alley and straight into Ji An, who is there to bust counterfeiters. He drops his bag of shoes.
She sees the shoes and picks one up, before looking up and recognizing Tae Kang at the same time he recognizes her as well. Tae Kang grimaces and then takes off running while Ji An yells at him to stop it right there!
Thoughts of Mine:
IDID starts off with a bang in my book by being so restrained it almost borders on a J-dorama at times. There is a slow cadence to the proceedings, and none of the K-drama penchant for manic antics to indicate how funny and interesting I ought to be finding a show. This story lets the characters breathe, lets a scene play out naturally, and is so restrained with the OST that I feel my ears sigh its relief from being spared the usual blaring musical cues. And what minimal use of the OST I’ve heard is so lovely, the slower pieces feel like a soft breeze wafting through the screen. For a drama about a noona-dongsaeng romance involving a dried up older career woman and a carefree kid just out of the block, I can’t believe how mature I find the narrative. Nothing is played for yuks and scenes aren’t milked for a wow factor. The one-night stand felt so natural (two emotionally needy people finding solace with each other), and the aftermath was so awkwardly realistic I covered my face in embarrassment for them.
Kim Sun Ah is just wonderful as Ji An, hitting all the nuances of Ji An’s competence mixed with her emotional shortcomings. She cares, about her career, her passion for shoes, and her parents. But she doesn’t have enough time to devote to all those things equally, so we see her parents get Ji An’s money more than they get her time. She’s not being callous, she simply made a choice and still she tries to be a good daughter to her parents. It hurts knowing she simply doesn’t have the time to balance it all, even if she wishes she could. I always lament how older actresses are faced with such a void in good roles for them to play, and I’m so happy Kim Sun Ah got her hands on the role of Hwang Ji An. Compared to poor Kim Ha Neul playing this bumbling talks-to-herself teacher in A Gentleman’s Dignity, Ji An feels so three-dimensional and realistic. She’s not played out to be some cold heartless snake woman, even if she can be exacting and demanding of those around her. She seems like a fair person in how she treats people and she cares, and those things ground her and make me root for her right off the bat.
Tae Kang is already beyond adorable in my eyes, even if Lee Jang Woo needs a bit of polishing in his delivery. I like everything about him, from his open attitude to his considerate heart. I like how the OTP don’t bicker like rom-coms love to do, and instead act like strangers who happen to interact and get to know each other. The dialogue isn’t quippy in the slightest, rather it feels so ordinary, which actually elevates it into being heartfelt. Episode one already tugged at my heart strings a few times, notably when Ji An’s dad left angry at her and she stood there watching the train pull away feeling all like she couldn’t fix things, and later when Tae Kang came back for her bearing the table umbrella and she looked at him with her nose all red and her unshed tears pooling in her eyes mixed with the rain. We see Ji An’s vulnerabilities so clearly already, and we see Tae Kang’s emotional maturity mixed with his youthful attitude. I can already buy into their romance, and that means this rom-com is off to a good start and headed in the right direction.