With the recent sageuk glut, a passel of melodramas one-after-another, and even the last so-called rom-com Flower Boy Next Door really not fitting the bill in either tone or narrative, it’s with an appreciative heart that I embrace the delicious wonder that is Cyrano Dating Agency. It’s not groundbreaking or even all that original (which is hardly a knock against it since it’s adapted from the same-name movie from 2010), but it has a firm grasp on both the comedy and the romance in equal measures. Everything about it feels constructed for this very drama, yet it doesn’t bug me because it’s got an easygoing charm that doesn’t try too hard. There is nothing more subjective than fashion and what I love the most is seeing a real trend setter pull together an outfit that is striking but wears it in a way like it was casually put together as opposed to trying too hard to construct a look. CDA wears it rom-com roots like a confident fashionista, understanding that it’s not terribly meaningful in the greater scheme of things but exists as a form of satisfying eye and heart candy.
So far this drama doesn’t inspire me to write meta-thoughts about it, but I’ve not enjoyed such breezy fun in a long time while watching each episode. The world of the Agency is so small, its cases so narratively manufactured, and obviously both male leads Byung Hoon and Seung Pyo have quite a background that will slowly be fleshed out to add more depth to their characters. But leading lady Min Young speaks to and for all the romantics in us, and she does so with this youthful naïveté that is clearly setting herself up for some hard lessons going forward. I don’t think either her approach or Byung Hoon’s point of view is right or wrong, in love both the constructed persona and the real heart all play a part in determining whether there is the initial attraction followed by the inner workings to go from lust to love. The drama deftly weaves the missions in with character behavior that reveal their personalities little by little, allowing us time to slowly get to know the denizens of the Agency along with one very mysterious Chef. So far the humor is low key and the romance is on the backburner for all the main leads.
Episode 2 recap:
Byung Hoon grabs Min Young to avoid being seen by Librarian, and in the process notices that she is affected by their sudden closeness. When conversation goes to whether this Operation First Impression was a success, Min Young isn’t sure this calculated method is right but Byung Hoon points out that Vet has been frequenting the library for 6 months and has never gotten Librarian’s interest until now.
Byung Hoon says that first impressions are very important in romance, and asks if she knows what is the hit rate of love when a couple has a favorable first impression. She doesn’t and he tells her to find out online and stop expecting easy answers from him. After he walks away she grumbles that her first impression of him was bad,
Chef Seung Pyo sits in his restaurant looking through picture of Byung Hoon strewn over the table, noting that he seems very happy now that Min Young is around. He tsk tsks that Byung Hoon isn’t allowed to be happy. Suddenly the two loan sharks arrive and call Seung Pyo “hyung” (Big Brother), clearly they work for him. Interesting.
Min Young is back at HQ with the team and tries to find out from A Rang or Moo Jin what the next step is. Moo Jin ignores her and Byung Hoon mentions their “little chicken” strategy will work – save a little chicken and it leads to curiosity about how it survived for so long. Turns out a library card with Vet’s name on it was slipped into Librarian’s purse and she scans it to read his info.
Min Young wonders why the operation doesn’t just have Vet confess directly to Librarian now that she has a good impression of him, but Byung Hoon says they are earning a livelihood so this operation can’t end that quickly because they need to earn more money from their client.
Min Young is shocked at his attitude and even more distressed to learn that no one at the Agency believes or longs for love, which destroys her belief that every human being dreams about love. She’s even more incensed that three guys who don’t believe in love are in the business of getting people to fall in love. Oh the irony!
Moo Jin hears a ping and says Librarian has snapped the bait and is trying to call Vet but the call is intercepted to Agency and they let it ring out Vet’s mysteriousness.
Min Young leaves work that day especially unhappy that she is working with people who don’t believe in love. Seung Pyo is driving and notices Min Young waiting for the bus. He smirks and pulls over to offer her a ride. He notes that she must’ve had a long day and she laughs that long day just tired her out physically but she thinks she won’t last mentally there very long. Seung Pyo thinks she’ll last very long and she asks if he’s wishing her well or cursing her? During the ride, Min Young complains to Seung Pyo about the irony of guys who don’t believe in love running a love agency, that is like someone who hates potatoes opening a potato-only restaurant. Seung Pyo suggests that it’s a stretch to make that analogy. Byung Hoon sits in the agency and thinks about what Min Young said, how everyone longs for romance. Moo Jin is building something and A Rang asks him to take a break from it tonight, he keeps thinking back to what Min Young noona said about how they are all broken cans at love.
Librarian leaves work and goes to feed her stray cats, which is when she notices Mommy Cat laying sick on the ground. She grabs the cat and books it into a taxi for the nearest pet hospital. Seung Pyo and Min Young happen to drive past the public library and Min Young notices this incident and realizes that Librarian may accidentally meet Vet as his real self.
Min Young calls Byung Hoon, who hops on a motorcycle with Moo Jin while ordering Min Young to stall Librarian. Seung Pyo joins in the mission and drives Min Young to tail the Librarian’s taxi, finally cutting the taxi off right in front of the pet hospital.
Librarian runs into the pet hospital and Min Young chases after her, with Byung Hoon on the phone saying he needs a bit more time to get there.
Min Young has no choice but to forcibly try and stall Librarian by making inane small talk about how they met before at the library.
By the time Librarian rushes into the treatment room, the vet who turns around is none other than Byung Hoon, with Moo Jin hiding around the corner and Vet lurking outside. Byung Hoon appears scared of the cat and tells Librarian to put the cat on the table and he’ll take care of it.
Afterwards Byung Hoon is sneezing his head off and turns out he is deathly allergic to cats. He gripes about why it just had to be a cat. Min Young wonders why he didn’t have Moo Jin pretend to be the vet and Byung Hoon hilariously says he can’t have someone who looks like he eats cats pretending to be a vet, can he? LOL.
The next day Min Young goes to the library to see Librarian and makes small talk about how she tried to delay her yesterday because their pet hospital has two vets and she wanted the cat to be seen by their experienced vet, who is a super awesome guy. Her attempt to increase Vet’s appeal falls on deaf ears as it just confirms for Librarian that the vet she did meet last night was totally weird. Heh.
Vet has treated Mommy cat who just ate some bad food and is now recovering nicely. Byung Hoon goes to discuss with him the next steps, but wears a mask and stays behind the protective glass to avoid getting too close to the cat.
Vet expresses reservations about continuing this charade since even if Librarian falls for him, she’s not falling for the real him. Byung Hoon disagrees, Vet will always be himself, this charade is much like when a woman pads her bra, it just enhances his real appeal.
Moo Jin drives Byung Hoon home and they see Min Young get off a bus. Moo Jin pulls over to pick her up though Byung Hoon wanted to keep on driving. The three of them squeeze into this teeny tiny car. Byung Hoon deducts correctly that Min Young was just at the library to try and influence Librarian to show interest in Vet. Min Young says they should go celebrate her new job with the Agency and it’ll be her treat.
The four members of the Agency sit in Seung Pyo’s restaurant, with the three guys totally sober and somber, staring at a drunk Min Young. They wonder if she’s drunk or totally gone crazy, with Byung Hoon noting that she’s the type who keeps getting dumped by men and not even knowing why.
She flounces around discussing how she believes in love and aims to bring people together. Her heart is filled with so many FEELINGS, which Byung Hoon says is her way of living vicariously through others. Min Young gets up and yells a thank you to Byung Hoon, meeting Byung Hoon she realizes that she likes who she is and she knows she’s a good person (implication that he’s not).
Min Young staggers over to talk with Seung Pyo and digs around her purse to give him a gift, which turns out to be a swiss army knife that she bought while traveling abroad.
Byung Hoon stares at Min Young talking with Seung Pyo.
Byung Hoon has Moo Jin and A Rang drag Min Young out of the restaurant while he goes to talk with Seung Pyo. When he gets the check for the dinner, he tells Seung Pyo to collect it from Min Young. I am really curious about the relationship of these two. Byung Hoon remarks on the present Min Young gave Seung Pyo, who says it’s the unexpected presents that bring happiness. Seung Pyo wonders if Byung Hoon doesn’t know what happiness is and Byung Hoon confirms he probably doesn’t. Byung Hoon notes that Seung Pyo has quite the knife skills and Seung Pyo says he will show it off soon.
After Byung Hoon leaves, the two loan sharks get up from behind the counter where they have been hiding this entire time. Seung Pyo tells them going forward they don’t need to hide anymore, they can be a part of the Agency missions.
Min Young wakes up at the Agency and after grabbing a soda, notices that Byung Hoon is watching an old video of some high school kids.
He notices her peeking and turns the video off to summon her in. He chides her for being such a lousy drunk but she thinks she’s a fantastic drunk since everything she says is from the heart. He calls her Air Rock because her head is filled with half air and half rock. She thinks its better than being a creep who watches videos of high school kids late at night. He notes that she sure gets over being drunk fast. Min Young says she’s not embarrassed about being drunk and will instead reflect on what she wants to get out of being a part of the Agency.
Byung Hoon beckons her closer and asks why she thinks she’s better than him? Min Young says it’s because she has a heart and he doesn’t. Byung Hoon points out that is why he can do his job well. If she doesn’t want to get hurt doing this job, then she should toss her heart in the toilet out back. He reminds her that before she leaves she can go back to the restaurant and pay the tab.
Phase 2 of the operation begins on the one night of the month Librarian attends her detective mystery book club. As she leaves the subway station Vet is waiting there to look mysterious and catch her eye. Min Young and Byung Hoon sit in the van and monitor everything, with Byung Hoon feeding cues to Vet through his ear piece.
They make it look like Vet is intercepting a drug transaction between Moo Jin and another miscreant, and when Librarian gets too close and is almost run down by Moo Jin’s motorcycle, Vet darts out and pulls her out of harms way. Librarian immediately asks if he remembers her, and then wants to have dinner together.
Vet and Librarian sit down to dinner and Min Young pouts that Librarian is doing the type of boring dinners she told a friend she wasn’t interested in. Byung Hoon points out that Librarian wasn’t against the activity, it was the person she was doing it with.
During dinner, Byung Hoon calls Vet away and Librarian sits there anxiously waiting for him to return. She fantasizes that he’s off kicking the butt of drug dealers and looking very cool when he does it. In her fantasy she even shows up at the end looking very cool.
Vet is in the van as A Rang applies fake blood to his cheek. Min Young does not look happy about this deception. When Vet returns to dinner, Librarian notices the blood on his cheek and she promises not to ask any questions about what he does for a living. She announces that she is his fan forever.
Min Young sits by herself dining at Seung Pyo’s restaurant and she’s still not happy about love happening under such a pretense. She asks if someone does love potatoes, should that person stick up for the potato? Seung Pyo tells her to do things her way thing, and if she’s fired she can come work for him since he’s hiring at the restaurant.
The next day Min Young goes to see Vet and encourages him to confess to Librarian as himself. He is a kind and caring person, Min Young says Librarian would definitely fall in love with the real him. Vet agrees and they head off to the public library together.
Turns out Byung Hoon has arranged for a phase 3 that would require the loan sharks to play bad guys and the Librarian would go to the address on the library card thinking it was the mystery man’s house and there she would discover that her mystery man was also the vet who saved the life of Mommy cat, thereby bringing the two personas together in success. In her excitement and confusion her hormones would kick into action and she would fall in love with Vet. Game over.
Moo Jin is at the public library and has successfully piqued Librarian’s attention since she remembers him as the shady guy from the night before that Vet was chasing.
When Byung Hoon calls Min Young and she ignores his call, he realizes something is up. It’s confirmed even further when he calls Vet and also doesn’t get an answer.
Min Young rushes into the library to ask Librarian to come outside and meet Vet (as himself), when she’s grabbed in the lobby by Byung Hoon. He knew she went AWOL and betrayed him, but sadly he’s disappointed at how she’s so transparent and clueless. Byung Hoon can’t have someone around that he can’t trust, so he fires her on the spot. He tells her never to show up in front of him again.