Where is a real life Liu Chuan and can I have one of my own? He is so much love I can’t even, upping his sheer awesomeness in episode 2 above and beyond anything I could have predicted. For a drama that purports to be quite slice of life and has captured that vibe wonderfully, In A Good Way moves remarkably fast and doesn’t waste time on useless interactions. Every conversation reveals something important whether in character development or narrative momentum. Every interaction incites some emotion from me, and if it involves Jia En and Liu Chuan I am literally squeeing already and it’s only episode 2. I wonder already if I’ll make it out of this drama alive if I’m already so invested. What’s lovely is how the drama knows it has a lot of story to tell about kids growing up, learning to be independent and responsible, finding their own path in life, all the great stuff that a college drama can tackle. So all that stuff is woken into the narrative and the romance is so understated that it lacks all the “love as the central purpose” drivers that mire so many dramas into being overwrought. Male lead Liu Chuan may be fully aware of Jia En as a girl and might even be subconsciously drawn to her, but nothing is forced and so far they are just very strangely brought together friends.
Jia En’s arrival in Taipei reminds me a bit of one of my favorite Hayao Miyazaki movies Spirited Away where Chihiro steps into a strange fantasy land and meets Haku who becomes her confidante and guide. Taipei for a country girl like Jia En really is like a strange foreign place, all big city airs and metropolis anonymity. She was already a very sheltered girl lacking in self-motivation and direction, so plopping her into Taipei as well as into a foreign environment like a college campus really shows us how jarring it must be for her. As a character she’s a bit dense and a tad lacking in self-confidence, but in the course of one episode Jia En makes some major strides into adulthood and it’s believably developed. I even find her friendship with childhood BFF Ren Wei really nicely rendered, with a comfortable camaraderie that shows how much they care about each other, but with Ren Wei it’s also clear he doesn’t care about her more than he’s interested in his own college pursuits such as girls and guy fun times. Right now the story is tightly centered around Jia En as she prepares to retake the college entrance exams but once she gets into college then I’m sure more sparks will fly as friendships and rivalries all get tested.
Episode 2 recap:
Ren Wei and Jia En head off to find a pay phone to call her parents back. While Jia En is on the phone, Liu Chuan runs up near her but misses seeing her because Ren Wei happens to be blocking her from view. He runs off in another direction to keep looking for her to get his necklace back.
Ren Wei takes Jia En back to her parents tea house on his scooter. Jia En is happily reunited with her folks, with mom missing her daughter so much that she’s waiting by the door for her to arrive. Her parents wonder why Ren Wei hasn’t come by to visit since he came to Taipei and Ren Wei claims he’s just been too busy. Jia En explains her plan to study to retake the college entrance exam in Taipei. Dad worries she can’t concentrate here but she promises to study hard. Mom makes it happen for Jia En and Dad wants her to go to a retake study center. Jia En suggests Ren Wei tutor her but Ren Wei says his score was lower than Jia En’s.
The four of them head inside for lunch and its a wonderful warm atmosphere. Mom asks where Jia En slept last night and there is silence so they ask if she spent the night with Ren Wei. Dad tells her to be more conservative since she’s a girl and suggests they wait until she finishes college before dating. Jia En claims she went to stay at hotel and used her New Year money. Her dad is still annoyed she came up without telling them but mom is fine that she wanted to surprise them.
Liu Chuan and Qing Yo are hanging at their college social club called Treasure Hunting club where Liu Chuan is the president. The other students complain that Liu Chuan’s treasure map is too complicated this time. Qing Yo jokes that he may not win the treasure hunts but at least he’s scored with chicks before.
Qing Yo finds Liu Chuan shockingly sketching the face of a girl. Campus hot dude Liu Chuan has never shown any interest in all the girls throwing themselves at him so Qing Yo’s interest in piqued because he recognizes her from that night. He’s even more interested when he hears that the girl took something from Liu Chuan after their night together. Qing Yo of course jumps to conclusions and chides Liu Chuan for moving so fast with the girl and admits that his first time was quite precious to him as well when a girl took it. LOL. Liu Chuan tells him to stop blabbering nonsense and help him find this girl. Qing Yo guarantees he’ll find the girl for Liu Chuan and takes the sketch of Jia En.
The students are in computer lab and LOL all the old computers from back in the day. Bai Xue is there along with Ren Wei, Liu Chuan, and Qing Yo.
Liu Chuan and Qing Yo message each other online about whether the girl has been located. Qing Yo knows all the girls on campus so thinks this girl isn’t a student here. Liu Chuan offers up the clue that she was looking for a guy Cheng Ren Wei who lives in the same room number but in Dorm #2. Qing Yo promises to check it out.
Ren Wei only has eyes for Bai Xue and gets up the courage to talk to her after class to borrow her notes. She happily lends it to Ren Wei and then walks away to join Liu Chuan and Qing Yo. Clearly she’s part of the in-crowd and out of his league.
Jia En hears a delivery order to CDU Foreign Languages department and she offers to do it. Dad asks if she is really studying since she’s always running around. He suggests getting her a tutor but she promises she’s studying hard. Mom hands her some flyers to deliver to the school for the upcoming Black Tea Confession Gathering. Mom tells Dad to stop being so hard on her since she has no friends in Taipei so what’s wrong with going to find Ren Wei.
Jia En runs to CDU to look for Ren Wei and finds him hanging with his roommates. She shows them the flyers and asks if they are going to attend? Zai Zai says that the cruelty of that day will be seen by all, some will have tea they can’t give out, others will have none at all, and some will have handfuls of tea. When asked who will receive the most tea this year, of course the assumption is Liu Chuan and Bai Xue. Jia En recognizes Liu Chuan’s name and the guys think he is so famous even non-student girls know him. Jia En invites the guys to the tea shop but Ren Wei hems and haws so his two buddies make up an excuse to play pool and get him out of it. Jia En is still pretty clueless she’s getting blown off by Ren Wei all the time.
Liu Chuan and Bai Xue are discussing club activities with Liu Chuan getting them sponsorships. Jia En walks past the club but doesn’t see Liu Chuan. He gets up from his seat and suddenly spots her from the corner of his eyes and he runs out after her. Qing Yo notices as well and runs out to help look.
Jia En walks around club building to deliver the tea and overhears some girls gossiping about how a girl was rumored to have spent the night in Men’s Dorm #1 and how the girls these days are getting more and more loose. Qing Yo runs into her and recognizes her as the girl in Liu Chuan’s sketch but she runs away before he has a chance to talk with her.
Ren Wei comes by the tea house later that day and hands Jia En a flyer for retake testing center study groups. He notices she looks very preoccupied and asks what’s bothering her? Jia En is worried that news of her spending the night in the men’s dorm is spreading like wildfire and finally tells Ren Wei the truth about where she spent that first night in Taipei.
Ren Wei is shocked to hear that the male student who took her in that night is big guy on campus Liu Chuan. Jia En is afraid to get near the dorm and asks Ren Wei to find the guy because she’s worried he’s gotten in trouble because of her. He huffs off to find Liu Chuan and warn him to keep his mouth shut.
Ren Wen storms into Liu Chuan’s room to find it empty except for the excited Momo who keeps trying to gnaw on his finger. Liu Chuan and Qing Yo come home and demand to know who Ren Wei is and why he’s in their room? Ren Wei reveals that he’s Jia En’s friend and here to warn Liu Chuan to not take advantage of a poor country girl and keep quiet about her staying here that night.
Liu Chuan asks Ren Wei to take him to Jia En because he has something to say to her. Ren Wei’s roommate Zai Zai overhears this discussion about how Jia En spent the night in Liu Chuan’s room. How come no one remembers Momo being a very diligent chaperone.
Ren Wei takes Liu Chuan to the tea shop and turns out Jia En’s parents know him since he’s a regular. Dad recalls Liu Chuan is a great student and asks him to tutor his Jia En. She gets called down to meet him and there is awkwardness all around.
Liu Chuan, Jia En, and Ren Wei step outside to talk. She asks if people are talking about them? Liu Chuan says the gossip is about a Tourism department couple who spent the night together. She worries about her but Liu Chuan says no one can prove it was her who spent the night in Men’s Dorm #1.
Liu Chuan asks Jia En if she saw a necklace pendant that looks like an antique. Jia En says she never saw it. Liu Chuan leaves her his pager number and asks her to call if she finds the necklace. He leaves without telling Jia En whether he’ll keep their night a secret for her.
Mom comes to talk with Jia En that night and she can tell Jia En has been distracted lately. Mom tells her to learn to be more independent and solve her problems, but she can always come to them if she encounters any problem she can’t solve. Jia En tries to tell herself it’s not a big problem so she needs to stop worrying.
The CDU campus Black Tea Confession Gathering begins. The confessor goes on the roof and yells out a love confession and if the person accepts then he/she drinks the proffered tea. It’s silly but harmless. Apparently Liu Chuan received the most love confessions last year but accepted no one’s tea. Jia En’s parents run the tea stand on campus providing the tea and Jia En goes to help out. Ren Wei also comes by to help. Some girls come by to buy tea and Mom asks if all the girls are planning to confess to Liu Chuan. A girl says no, she heard he has a girlfriend because a girl spent the night in his room. She’s here to see who that girl is and what she looks like.
The confession party starts. A student confesses to Mary the dorm lady. Liu Chuan gets a confession from an older girl in class who is part of the Treasure Hunters club. He drinks her tea and then offers it to all the guys in the club to drink, yelling back that he likes her as much as all the guys in the club like her because she’s such a wonderful older sister to them. The girl thanks Liu Chuan for his tender sweet way of turning her down.
The captain of the swim team gets up to yell out his confession to Bai Xue who turns him down. The guy demands to know if she likes Liu Chuan, and then accuses her of being the one who spent the night in Liu Chuan’s dorm. Bai Xue says she didn’t spend the night with Liu Chuan but she also doesn’t like this guy back.
Liu Chuan can’t speak up without revealing it was Jia En, but he also can’t clear Bai Xue’s name. Ren Wei tries to help but he also can’t out Jia En. Finally Zai Zai blurts out that it wasn’t Bai Xue but instead was Jia En, pointing to poor Jia En standing by the tea stand. *headdesk* Everyone turns to stare at Jia En, while Bai Xue looks at Liu Chuan like she’s about to cry. Mom asks Jia En what is going on?
Ren Wei is asked if that is true and he has no choice but to admit it when Mary comes by to demand that he tells the truth. Ren Wei tells Jia En that he didn’t reveal it because he promised to keep it a secret for her.
Liu Chuan then ups his awesome by about a billion percentage points by what he does next. He tells Jia En not to worry because they did nothing wrong. Liu Chuan says he even in a court of law the defendant can make his defense. Liu Chuan looks up at the roof and asks Qing Yo to give him “that’s night’s weather please”. Qing Yo to turn on the hose from the roof which sends all the students running to seek shelter under the building.
Liu Chuan stands alone in the middle of the courtyard as the water is coming down on him like it’s raining. All the students tell him to hurry up and get somewhere dry but Liu Chuan says it was raining that night like it is right now. He saw Jia En all alone in the rain in the dark and offered her a helping hand like the students want to help Liu Chuan right now.
He knows he broke school rules but he would do it again if faced with the same choice. Because he was doing the right and proper thing. Liu Chuan is willing to take the punishment because he did not do feel he did wrong. Some student go out and stand in under the water with him in solidarity. This gets the entire situation deflated promptly. The other students even swarm Mary to get her to let Liu Chuan off the hook this time.
Jia En runs away in embarrassment, wanting to literally dig a hole to go hide under. Ren Wei runs after Jia Eun and she asks if he told her secret. Ren Wei keeps saying he didn’t say anything but then runs after Bai Xue when she walks by rather than continuing to talk with Jia En. Her heart is totally hurt and Liu Chuan sees her running off.
Liu Chuan finds her and consoles her as she’s hiding against a wall with her jacket pulled over her head. She remembers Ren Wei running off with Bai Xue which leads her to cry about how much Taipei sucks and its totally not fun at all! Liu Chuan asks why she’s crying here all alone and she stops crying and apologizes for getting him in trouble. She tells him not to worry – from now on she’ll pretend she doesn’t know him and he won’t need to tutor her like her parents asked.
Liu Chuan says he isn’t bothered by this silly gossip and he doesn’t let what people think affect him. That is strange to Jia En because it bothers her a lot. She wonders if people in Taipei are all like Liu Chuan. Some girls walk by and Jia En immediately duck her head and Liu Chuan notices and asks if she doesn’t want others to see her because they will talk about her yet she knows she did nothing wrong. Liu Chuan says this time doesn’t call for hiding, it calls for barreling straight through.
Liu Chuan takes her on his motorcycle and offers to take her wherever she wants to go. Damn, did Jia En win the guy lottery or what by running into Liu Chuan on her first day on campus. Jia En wants to go to Live-a-Go-Go, a live performance club she heard about from Ren Wei. She then realizes all the things she wants to do in Taipei are what Ren Wei wanted to do. Jia En changes her mind and says she doesn’t want to go anymore.
Liu Chuan takes Jia En to the beach and its nighttime by the time they arrive and build a nice fire pit. I can’t believe Liu Chuan is both so smooth and so completely without subtext with her. He genuinely wants to be a friend when she needs one. Jia En builds a sand castle which Liu Chuan compliments. Jia En says she didn’t have any friends growing up except for Ren Wei and he was so good at building sand castles so she learned from him.
One time he built a huge sand castle but then built a moat around it saying no one could go in. Jia En wanted to go in so she asked if she could be a deputy king if he’s king of the castle. She begged until he agreed and he built a bridge for her to go in. Jia En always thought they were in the same castle but today she realized she was always standing outside the castle staring wistfully at Ren Wei inside the castle. Liu Chuan doesn’t say anything as he listens to Jia En tells her story through her tears. He turns to look out towards the ocean and she does as well.
Ren Wei is walking with his friends and they say he did well in trying to protect Bai Xue. But Zai Zai says poor Jia En for being betrayed by them. Ren Wei says Jia En took a knife for Bai Xue today but she’s strong and can handle it. Ren Wei thinks Jia En is his buddy and will understand. Bai Xue walks by and totally ignores Ren Wen which confuses him since he thinks she ought to be really grateful for what he did.
Jia En wakes up to find that its almost sunrise. She’s worried about her parents since she stayed out all night but Liu Chuan encourages her to soak on the moment of the breathtaking sunrise.
As they are leaving the beach, Liu Chuan hands Jia En a stick and tells her to tear down her sandcastle so she can build one from scratch. If a person wants to be independent she can’t be trapped inside someone else’s castle. If she can take a step out, she can find her own path in life. Jia En takes the stick and breaks down the sandcastle as Liu Chuan watches.
Liu Chuan takes Jia En back home and her parents are relieved she’s back safe. Jia En explains she went to see the sunrise with Liu Chuan and mom asks if they are dating? Jia En says no and apologizes for worrying them. She assures them nothing happened. Dad tells her to just be careful now that she’s in Taipei. They are even more surprised that she seems to have recovered well from her mortifying embarrassment of yesterday and actually seems to have matured a bit. Dad reminds mom that they went on a date to watch the night stars and that was when they also grew up.
Jia En goes back to her room and finds Liu Chuan’s antique necklace pendant in her purse. Jia En goes to the CDU campus to find Liu Chuan and bypasses Mary who worries that she’s here to see Liu Chuan after all that gossip yesterday. She passes by other guys who are curious why she is here?
Jia En doesn’t care anymore about what they think and just smiles at Liu Chuan and hands him the pendant back. He says she seems more courageous all of a sudden and Jia En says she’s just more independent now. She beams at him and he beams right back at her.
Jia En runs into Ren Wei as she’s making a delivery and he wonders why she went back to Men’s Dorm #1. Jia En candidly says she went to return a pendant to Liu Chuan. Ren Wei apologizes for what happened that day and Jia En says it’s fine. Ren Wei thinks she’s lying but Jia En is really fine with it. She doesn’t care what people say so she’s not mad at Ren Wei anymore.
Liu Chuan is now Jia En’s tutor and they are studying at the CDU library. Other students see them and start gossiping but neither pay any attention. Jia En is learning about the ceramics of the various dynasties. Jia En has a good memory but she’s just memorizing it so Liu Chuan suggests she get some interesting books about that time period so she can learn about it rather than memorizing. He sends her to the exact stacks where the books are kept.
Jia En goes to the stacks to get a book and looks through the check out cards for books on the topic and sees that Liu Chuan was the last person to check those books out. Hhhmm, I hope there is a stacks make out session in the cards for Jia En and Liu Chuan sometime in the future. How can one go to college and not make out with the hot guy on campus in the library stacks. She slips when grabbing a book from the top shelf and Liu Chuan catches her fall. Seriously, what country did this girl save in her past life. There is awkwardness and he quickly sets her upright.
Liu Chuan compliments her on picking good books. Jia En says the test is coming up soon so she doesn’t have time to read these now to learn it. Liu Chuan suggests she imagine the era and how people lived so she can memorize it. Liu Chuan asks her test score and hears that it was 390 and wonders how she didn’t get into college? Liu Chuan suggests that she be careful when filling out her college+major ranking this year. Jia En agrees and sets a goal to get an even better test score this year.
They finish tutoring and Liu Chuan leaves heading to an antique market. Ren Wei walks by and asks what she’s doing with Liu Chuan? He hears that Liu Chuan is tutoring her and says she should go to a retake center. Jia En says Liu Chuan is really smart and a good tutor with his suggestions. Ren Wei tells her to go with it then.
Liu Chuan is at the antique market and is clearly a regular here as some stall owners know him. Jia En comes by and greets him. He asks what she is doing here? Jia En says she wanted to go out to treat herself for studying so hard today. She ran into Ren Wei and wanted to hang out with him but reminded herself not to be so clingy. So she decided to come here instead. Oh girl, don’t switch from clinging onto one friend to another. Liu Chuan teaches Jia En about antique jade and porcelain. The owner of a stall comes by and gives Liu Chuan a book because he knows a good kid who appreciates antiques so he’ll like it. The book is about ancient forms of Chinese code and Liu Chuan starts to explain to Jia En as she is totally amazed at how much he knows.
Thoughts of Mine:
I feel like all fixation on Jia En spending the night in Liu Chuan’s room was much ado about nothing. But it really isn’t, because in the more innocent age of 1995, its absolutely conceivable that college students would gossip about each other’s dating news. And the juicy on dits about a girl spending the night at the men’s dorm would be the stuff to set campus chatter on fire. Jia En was also understandably upset about her reputation, she’s a 19 year old sheltered girl and nowhere near a jaded city girl who can shake off rumors and innuendo. I was upset that Ren Wei sold her out to save Bai Xue’s reputation and to impress her. Bai Xue is such a cipher right now I can’t feel any emotion for her so it annoys me when she’s used as a plot device to out Jia En and Liu Chuan’s night as well as to get Ren Wei to behave like an ass towards Jia En. But taking a step back, it’s clear both things needed to happen to push Jia En forward in her growth. She can’t always live in fear of other people’s perception of her, and she definitely needs to get a clue that Ren Wei may care about her but right now she’s not a priority to him. Jia En is smart enough to pick up on cues, but she doesn’t have enough social experiences to develop her own personality in life. Until now she’s been aping Ren Wei, and I worry a bit that she’ll transfer some of it to Liu Chuan. She memorizes things rather than thinks outside the box, but good thing Liu Chuan seems to genuinely want to prod her a bit rather than simply hand her answers to problems. I’m not sure what motivates him though, he’s an incredibly hard guy to read. That’s part of his charm, and I can’t wait to chip away at his perfect guy exterior and find what moves the considerate and whip smart Liu Shan Feng.
Click here to watch In A Good Way.