Did the ending of episode 4 of Cheongdamdong Alice make you sit up and holler “hell yes!” to the screen? Did the lack of a preview for episode 5 cause you to alternate between sobbing wildly like a loony and stifling the urge to punch your computer for failing to provide the goods to tide you over until next week? Yorobun, I can confirm that we have a full-fledged drama mania addiction on our hands! The drama continues to be so awesome it defies my ability to scrounge up enough superlatives to do it justice. Episode 4 continued episode 3’s momentum and then kicked it up a notch. I can’t believe how the drama has thoroughly won me over to the OTP ship of Seung Jo and Se Kyung, and the two of them aren’t even anywhere close to being in love yet. Yes, he’s falling for her because of her innate goodness and decency (traits he thought women didn’t possess anymore after Yoon Joo dumped him), but the twist is that the very event that caused him to see her loyalty and kindness is the same event that has made her knowingly reject that version of her and embrace the Yoon Joo model.
Now the motto is – marry rich by doing whatever it takes. I also can’t get enough of how Seung Jo is keeping up the whole “I’m just the measly Secretary Kim” ruse with Se Kyung, and actively going out of his way to not let her discover his true identity. He’s not even trying to test whether she can fall for him believing he’s just a low level employee, it appears that he enjoys showing Se Kyung his true self. He reverts to his saturi accent with her and shows her how petty and immature he is. Except he also shows her how he cares about her welfare, even if she chalks it up to his weirdness or acting on orders of the President of Artemis. They are so cute and funny together I just want to squish them. I also find myself truly enjoying every character, even smarmy Tommy Hong (there is way more to him then meets the eye and I can’t wait to see it, even if I was totally clapping like a trained seal when Seung Jo floored him with a totally deserving punch) and social climbing Yoon Joo. In fact, beyond the love line(s) in the drama, I’m also equally excited to watch the different friendship threads develop that will add such richness to the narrative. Is it next Saturday yet?
Episode 4 recap:
Se Kyung opens the envelope and takes out a journal. She flips open the first page and it says “If you want to go to the dark side, you have to go all the way.” Dayum, Yoon Joo means business, and I actually find myself admiring her guts and determination in the face of something socially frowned upon.
Seung Jo is still talking about how Se Kyung must’ve been really hurt by In Chan’s betrayal, and his doctor friend sits across and stares at him with this look like “mmmm hmmmm, tell me more….”. Friend asks outright if Seung Jo likes this girl? Seung Jo sputters and says no way! Friend points out Seung Jo cried because of her, to which Seung Jo brings up ahjummas crying when watching sad societal exposes. Then why does Seung Jo act like her daddy long legs? Seung Jo decrees that he’s doing it as therapy. Healing, its for healing!
Se Kyung goes home and hears her dad announce that he’s sold the bakery and put the house up for sale. He wished that after 30 years of running the bakery he would have more to show for it, and have at least a house he can pass down to his daughter. Sadly its not going to happen and he’s going to have to start over again. Se Kyung stares at her dad and appears to make up her mind. She remembers the first motto – to go to the dark side, one has to go all the way.
Se Kyung meets with Yoon Joo the next day at her brother’s cafe and they get down to discussing the details. Yoon Joo asks if she’s read the entire diary? If so, then she must know what Yoon Joo went through. Is Se Kyung prepared, because its impossible to predict what will happen and what temptation will be out there. Se Kyung says she’s ready. Chapter 2 says that one needs a White Rabbit as a guide into the Wonderland world of Cheongdamdong. That person is Tommy Hong, famous designer by day, Cheongdamdong matchmaker extraordinaire on the side. Tommy dines at Etoile restaurant and we see woman dressed to impress all dining there at the same time hoping he would notice them. Tommy has successfully found 58 daughter-in-laws for Cheongdamdong mothers wanting to find the right girl for their rich sons.
Se Kyung wonders if she has to go that way and Yoon Joo laughs at Se Kyung and sarcastically asks if she hopes for a meet cute with a rich eligible guy like in the dramas and hopes opposites attract and sparks fly? Yoon Joo asks Se Kyung to meet her at Etoile tomorrow, dressed the way Se Kyung would if she was a Cheongdamdong girl. After Yoon Joo walks away, she berates her brother for why this cafe isn’t doing better business. Brother asks why Yoon Joo wants to help Se Kyung? Yoon Joo says that Se Kyung is at least the kind of woman Yoon Joo doesn’t find distasteful – Se Kyung knows what she wants. Yoon Joo looks over and sees Se Kyung pouring over the journal intensely.
Se Kyung sits at home that time pouring through fashion magazines and sketching a look. Chapter 3 days that it’s not the product being counterfeit that makes it cheap, its what is in the heart of the person that matters.
Se Kyung meets up with Yoon Joo at Etoile and the latter sizes her up. She’s wearing six inch heels, a classic name brand bag, and a demure one-piece dress, all rented from a rental boutique. Yoon Joo tells Se Kyung that she failed the test – the Cheongdamdong look isn’t about classic items or even current name brands, it’s about having items that look expensive and catches the eye, all leading people to ask “Where did you buy that?”. Se Kyung tells Yoon Joo that she will approach Tommy Hong in her own way, starting with taking a part time job waitressing at Etoile. Yoon Joo thinks this might work in Se Kyung’s case.
Tommy meets up with In Hwa’s mom (and Yoon Joo’s mother-in-law), asking him to play matchmaker for her daughter In Hwa with the President of Artemis Korea. Tommy chuckles at how serendipitous it is, thinking of his recently meeting with Seung Jo’s dad asking him to check into any woman around Seung Jo.
Seung Jo is being driven to work and he fingers his bracelet and remembers how doctor friend thinks he likes Se Kyung. He scoffs at that idea and calls it crazy! Se Kyung calls her friend Ah Jung and asks her for help to do research on Tommy Hong.
When Seung Jo arrives at work, he hears from Secretary Moon about Seo In Chan and how poor Han Se Kyung must be feeling terrible. He orders the company to stop discussing Seo In Chan anymore, and then when Secretary Moon leaves, he scurries over to his desk and composes multiple texts to Se Kyung before settling on a very simple “How are you doing?” He sends it and then has to attend a meeting.
During the meeting, he has his phone out under the table and nervously wait for Se Kyung’s response, which is a short “I’m doing fine.” Seung Jo is concerned at what “fine” means and sends another text “what do you mean by fine?” Se Kyung is about to retort “none of your business” when she’s called away to run errands as GN Fashion’s errand girl. She leaves without replying to Seung Jo’s text.
Seung Jo sits in the meeting getting more and more agitated. He sends text after text, asking why she isn’t responding and wanting her to say it directly if it bothers her to have him texting. LOL, he is soooooo adorable I just want to pinch his cheeks. He snarls out loud and everyone in the meeting stares at him so he quickly makes a logical pronouncement relating to the discussion about collaborating with GN Fashion. He finally ends the meeting abruptly and issues a fast decree (to make sure it incorporates the latest NY style) before rushing out.
Se Kyung arrives back at GN Fashion with a trunkful of shopping bags of items she had to pick up. Seung Jo rushes up to her demanding to know why she ended their text conversation so abruptly! He talks in saturi now with her naturally, instead of the suave Seoul accent he purposely cultivated. She worried asks if anything happened and he yells at her for not texting him back because it could lead him to be worried something happened to her, like she was in an accident or fainted.
Se Kyung looks at him like the crazy dude he is and points out that its clear she’s really busy right now, which is why she didn’t text him back. She asks if he’s here because he’s mad but he claims to be simply curious why she didn’t respond. Se Kyung points out that he’s acting really weird right now. When she tells him the madam sent her on an errand, Seung Jo mutters under his breath “that damn Seo Yoon Joo!” He is not happy seeing her as the errand girl for the company and she snaps at him that she’s just a temporary employee and his company does the same thing in its hiring practices. She leaves him standing there all upset on her behalf.
Seung Jo rushes back to Artemis and looks through the portfolio of GN Fashion designers set to work on the collaboration with Artemis. He asks Secretary Moon why one designer is missing, Han Se Kyung. Even Secretary Moon knows why and says Se Kyung is just a temporary employee there and Artemis does the same thing. Seung Jo yells at poor Secretary Moon and says it doesn’t matter if she’s a temp or full time, she’s a designer and can’t be running errands for the madam! He demands Se Kyung’s resume be faxed over ASAP. Poor Secretary Moon has this look like “what the hell has gotten into him this time?”
In Hwa is told that Artemis wants to see Han Se Kyung’s resume as well and she orders it sent over. She then asks Se Kyung if she knows anyone at Artemis and Se Kyung says no, not wanting to discuss the complicated weird interactions she’s had with Artemis employees recently. In Hwa notices Se Kyung is wearing an eye-catching new pair of shoes.
Seung Jo reads Se Kyung’s resume and is impressed she’s won plenty of fashion design awards and also speaks French despite not studying abroad. Secretary Moon wonders why Seung Jo doesn’t just hire Se Kyung but is told that Artemis Korea doesn’t do any design work and the home office in France hires the designers. Seung Jo argues that Artemis is a global brand hence it hires people who have studied abroad but GN Fashion is just a domestic brand, how dare they be so snooty. How can someone as talented as Se Kyung suffer because of the attitude of those domestic fashion houses! Seung Jo then decides to call around for Se Kyung, but ends up yelling at his friends that Artemis is a global brand (for why he can’t hire Se Kyung) but they should.
Tommy Hong arrives at Etoile and Se Kyung serves him and reads the special of the night, ending with a suggestion that the ingredients can be swapped for vegetarian items. Tommy asks how she knew he was a vegetarian? Se Kyung points out that he wears clothes from designers that don’t work with leather and fur. When Se Kyung walks away, Tommy notices her shoes and the cell phone accessory, which is a braided item that matches the bracelet she gave Seung Jo. LOL, they already have couple accessories! I love it!
After dinner, he thanks Se Kyung for an enjoyable meal service and remembers her name as Han Se Kyung. All the other female diners look around jealously. Yoon Joo comes by afterwards and is impressed with Se Kyung’s diligence in researching Tommy thoroughly and learning all about his likes and schedule. Yoon Joo scoffs with a smile that there was a reason why she disliked Se Kyung back in high school – she’s so sincere and hardworking when she sets her mind to it.
Tommy goes to meet with Seung Jo and he immediately asks if Tommy is a domestic brand? If so, would he be willing to hire a talented young designer? Tommy smiles and agrees with meet with this designer and asks her name. Seung Jo says her name is Han Se Kyung. Tommy invites Seung Jo to attend a party at his store.
Seung Jo asks him to not let Se Kyung know that he recommended her and Tommy agrees. The two men shake hands and Tommy notices the bracelet on Seung Jo’s wrist. When asked what brand it is, Seung Jo smiles broadly and admits it is handmade and he got it as a present. Oh dude, you are so in lurve its not even funny.
After Tommy leaves, he calls Seung Jo’s dad to report that he thinks Seung Jo is indeed seeing a woman, and its likely someone Dad won’t approve of.
Dad is in the neighborhood where Se Kyung’s family lives scoping out a project to build a supermarket there. He sees a commotion outside JK supermarket where Se Kyung’s dad has bought up all their cheap bread and is throwing it everyone, arguing that no one can produce bread that cheap and its just a way to drive the good hardworking people out of business. Seung Jo’s dad tells his underlings to snap pictures of him at the exact moment he bows low. He walks over and bows to Se Kyung’s dad and introduces himself as the President of Royal Group and asks if he can do anything. All of this is captured on cameras to make for great publicity.
Seung Jo and Se Kyung’s dad meet and the former asks him to work together to survive. He likens business competition to a boxing match. Se Kyung’s dad says the unfairness lies in two fighters from different weight classes facing off, its a lopsided competition to begin with and he has no chance to win. The world is a dog-eat-dog place and Seung Jo’s dad doesn’t feel bad, but tells Se Kyung’s dad to work with him this time even if he knows he’s being used.
The media is gathered together as Seung Jo’s dad announces the opening of a bakery cafe in that neighborhood with Se Kyung’s dad as the head patissier. Se Kyung’s parents watch on TV and mom remarks that Seung Jo’s dad only signed them to a one year contract, obviously it’s not guaranteed. They both sigh and decide they still have to take this opportunity.
Seung Jo watches the same press conference on TV and scoffs at his dad’s tactics. Dad calls and they bicker back and forth. Seung Go calls Dad an opportunist, whereas Dad tells Seung Jo he still has a lot to learn. Dad warns Seung Jo not to do anything with a woman to bring a scandal. Seung Jo is about to put on Se Kyung’s bracelet and wonders why his dad cares if he’s with a woman or a man! It’s none of his business and he hangs up on Dad.
Tommy goes back to Etoile and Se Kyung is asked to bring him a cup of coffee. He asks about her cellphone accessory and she admits she made it herself. Tommy smirks as he thinks to himself “what is your exact relationship to Jean Thierry Sha?” He asks if she’s a designer and she says yes and admits she’s his fan. She wonders to herself if he’s already had her investigated? When asked why she is his fan, she says he worked hard to get to where he is now and has support to help him succeed.
Se Kyung says that she’s learned now that having support and connection can make a difference. Tommy asks Se Kyung bluntly if she has support to help her succeed. Se Kyung answers yes, thinking that the person she is referring to is Tommy himself, to help her enter the Cheongdamdong world. Tommy takes her answer to mean Se Kyung is being sponsored by a rich guy to become a designer. He invites her to the upcoming party and Se Kyung is thrilled she’s gotten her chance.
Tommy calls Seung Jo who asks if he’s met with Se Kyung. Tommy says yes and Seung Jo appears pleased to hear Tommy liked her. He promises to attend the party if he has the time. Se Kyung calls Yoon Joo about the party and Yoon Joo reveals some concern that things seem to be moving too fast. Se Kyung tells her that the sooner she succeeds the sooner Yoon Joo can be rid of her. She asks Yoon Joo for help since she’s never been to such parties before. Yoon Joo gives her lessons on what to expect. Se Kyung goes shopping to rent the expensive outfit she needs to attend the party.
Se Kyung arrives at the party and remembers Yoon Joo’s proclamation in chapter 4 “Do not be scared, do not be scared.” Se Kyung descends down the stairs and waits there like Yoon Joo directed her to, looking like she’s waiting for someone and also attracting everyone’s attention.
Tommy sees her and walks over to greet her, then bringing her to meet the other guests. She meets writers, actors, artists, a collection of successful men. She manages to be intelligent and witty and Tommy notices that she’s making a good impression.
Seung Jo arrives and Tommy goes to greet him, telling him that Han Se Kyung is here as well. He goes to get Se Kyung and we see Seung Jo freaking out and trying to sneak away (but hiding between two men walking up the stairs and pretending to talk on the cellphone). Se Kyung spots him nonetheless.
Seung Jo calls his driver to pick him up when Se Kyung taps him on the shoulder and asks why he’s here? Seung Jo lies that he’s here with the President of Artemis. Se Kyung asks where the President is, she wants to thank him for everything he’s done for her. Seung Jo gets a call and he uses that excuse to pretend he’s being called by the President and rushes outside.
Se Kyung is approached by a rich older man who brings her a drink. She accepts and they chat, with him clearly interested in her and she naively thinks she is just socializing as per Yoon Joo’s instructions.
Tommy approaches Se Kyung later and hands her a room key, telling her that the Chairman really liked her and wants to see her again. Se Kyung is confused and asks what he means? Tommy says he and Se Kyung are no different, they have to work hard to make it as a designer. He suggests this Chairman is a great sponsor for her.
Se Kyung realizes the misunderstanding and hands the key back to Tommy, explaining that she’s not here for that. Tommy is genuinely taken aback, asking if she’s not currently being sponsored by Jean Thierry Sha? If not, why did he suggest Tommy hire Se Kyung as a designer? Isn’t Se Kyung here to look for another sponsor? He asks what her relationship is with Jean Thierry Sha if he’s not her sponsor? Se Kyung says that its too complicated and even if she told him he wouldn’t believe her. Tommy thinks she’s playing hard ball and apologizes, suggesting he should have started by negotiating the price. He asks if she wants to discuss the nightly rate first?
Se Kyung tosses a glass of water on Tommy and the entire party gasps. Tommy stares at her in shock, and then splashes a dish of soy sauce on her. Se Kyung leaves the party embarrassed and angry, with everyone staring at her like she’s a leper.
Seung Jo is about to leave the party when he spots Se Kyung’s back walking away. He gets out of his car and chases at her. He initially is happy to see her but then notices her condition and smell and asks why she’s covered in soy sauce?
Se Kyung asks if the President of Artemis told Tommy Hong that she was a designer? Seung Jo admits it and Se Kyung says she is very grateful to the President for all he’s done for her but he doesn’t need to do anymore. Seung Jo asks if Tommy Hong said something to her back there but she won’t tell him.
Seung Jo gets increasingly agitated and keeps insisting she tell him what just happened back there? Se Kyung finally reveals that Tommy Hong asked if she was being sponsored by Jean Thierry Sha. Seung Jo’s face hardens with anger when he hears this. He asks if Tommy Hong did this to her? Se Kyung says this look suits who she is and then she walks way. Seung Jo stands there staring in anger at her dejected back and his hands clench into a fist. Oh yeah, please go kick some ass.
Se Kyung walks and then sits down when she gets a call. Turns out its Yoon Joo checking in to see how things went? Se Kyung says she has newfounded respect for Yoon Joo now, what determination and guts it must have took for Yoon Joo to succeed at this endeavor. Yoon Joo wonders if something happened at the party and hears that Tommy Hong asked if Se Kyung had a sponsor. Se Kyung explains what happened and Yoon Joo asks if Se Kyung got angry and left? Yoon Joo tells Se Kyung to buck up if facing this one set back and she’s a wreck already. Se Kyung repeats Yoon Joo’s chapter one header – to go to the dark side, one has to go all the way. Yoon Joo says Se Kyung has no idea the full extent of what she endured and was feeling to get to where she is now. If Tommy Hong can’t become Se Kyung’s White Rabbit into the Cheongdamdong world, then Se Kyung has only one other option left – find another White Rabbit.
Tommy changes and walks out to greet his guests and tells them to resume the party. He goes to apologize to the Chairman that wanted to sponsor Se Kyung, and the guy asks him to do better diligence in the future on finding him girls. Tommy is bowing down and agreeing to keep looking when suddenly a river of soy sauce is poured over his head.
Seung Jo, holding an entire cannister of soy cause, pours it slowly and deliberately over Tommy’s bent head. When Tommy stands up, he stares at Seung Jo and asks why he did that. Seung Jo leans in and whispers to his ear to remember this very well – the President of Artemis Korea has a very bad temper. And then Seung Jo leans back and sucker punches Tommy who goes down for the count. BOOYAH!
Thoughts of Mine:
In four episodes CA has taken me for a loop-di-loop that I never imagined was possible based on the promotional materials. This is indeed a plausible albeit subversive take on the Cinderella fantasy, but done in a way that is entertaining and intriguing. I care about all the main leads, even the sleazy-on-the-surface Tommy Hong, because we have already seen that there are two sides to every tale and sometimes bad choices don’t always mean a person is a complete and utter villain. Seo In Chan showed Se Kyung that when faced with a chance to leave behind his horrible life, he would take it, even if it meant taking advantage of her good intentions. But Se Kyung tells Seung Jo that In Chan isn’t a bad person, he’s simply a person who has nothing. She doesn’t fault him, she faults this unfair life that decides who can make it and who can struggle their entire life and still fail. We also hear Yoon Joo’s side of the story with respect to her decision to leave Seung Jo for a man that could better provide for her. Was she right? Who knows? Perhaps she and her husband really do love each other and he’s the better fit for her. But she did break Seung Jo’s heart and left him an emotional wreck, that much is true. However the right and wrong is parceled out, at least I now understand her motivations and determination to never be poor again. Even Se Kyung has gained a grudging respect for Yoon Joo, and I’m actually loving the frenemy interactions and how Yoon Joo seems to genuinely want Se Kyung to succeed. It’s going to be great seeing them team out to win over the Cheongdamdong types, but I’m also looking forward to the tension and fallout once Yoon Joo finds out Seung Jo likes Se Kyung.
Seung Jo and Se Kyung are so so amazing together even at this stage I can hardly wait to see what new sparks will fly between them. Will the writer hold off on Se Kyung finding out his true identity? Will he become her White Rabbit and lead her into Cheongdamdong? Will he do it willingly to her plan, or unwittingly as her daddy long legs behind the scenes? I actually don’t hate Tommy for pimping Se Kyung out, since he drew a very logical conclusion though he didn’t have to be such an ass about it or so totally demeaning. I wanted to high five someone when I saw Seung Jo pour an entire jar of soy sauce on Tommy, and then punch him out. That’s what I call avenging the honor of a lady. In many ways Seung Jo is really the idealistic romantic heroine of K-dramas, except he’s a guy who is maybe a few marbles shy of having a whole bag. But while Se Kyung clung onto her love with In Chan for as long as she could, she never struck me as the type who fantasizes about love in its pure glory. She was idealistic without falling into the love-for-the-sake-of-love clap trap. She believed that she could have a future with In Chan, but she finally gave up once she realized she couldn’t. Whereas Seung Jo is a bleeding heart romantic, which is why Yoon Joo’s betrayal was so traumatic for him. How will meeting Se Kyung change his dreams about love now that he’s tried once and been burned? I don’t know but I can’t wait to find out!
Click here to watch Cheongdamdong Alice.