This drama really knows how to pull tension out from all its plot threads in equal measure so that not a single element overwhelms all others. This is the first K-drama I can recollect where the central goal set forth in the beginning remains integral and pivotal as the story progresses. So many dramas use an interesting premise or objective but then it falls by the wayside as the characters end up mired in romance angst and villainous shallow maneuvering. A drama like My Princess which was about the discovery of the last princess descendant of the Joseon ruling family ended up wasting its time on pointless plotting rather than showing how a constitutional monarchy might impact Korea. Miss Korea hasn’t forgotten its goal despite the romance getting dialed up a notch with the passionate kissing between Hyung Joon and Ji Young at the end of episode 12. That kissing doesn’t suddenly make all their problems go away, but it does reveal the determination to face it together. Ji Young learns just how desperate Hyung Joon’s situation really is, which further underscores how difficult a choice it was for him to give her up. Hyung Joon sees that Ji Young is stronger and fiercer, as much his protector as he is her protector. They can save the kissing for later after she wins Miss Korea and he repays the debt, right now they have to lock arms back-to-back and climb a steep hill together.
I was spitting mad watching all the shady dealings going on in this episode around the pageant judging fix. I’m not so naive as to think beauty pageants are above board to begin with but this completely transparent attempt to sink the Miss Seoul contestants was infuriating because I feel like those girls are working hard to win and I think they are the prettiest contestants by far. Yeah, I’m Miss Seoul biased. Hyung Joon and Madam Ma’s big argument was really harsh but each had some valid points. I actually don’t know what the solution is and that is part of the good writing in this drama that keeps me surprised with each new development. It’s not a drama that uses twists to score ratings but instead shows us interesting characters using creative solutions to solve their problems. This episode pulls everyone even tighter into the pageant axis and even Ji Young’s entire family is on board because they love her that much. But the biggest moment was when both Hyung Joon and Ji Young learns that his life has a clock ticking down to a deadline and suddenly the stakes for both of them are laid bare. When I heard this drama was about the Miss Korea pageant I wondered what the male lead was going to do in this story other than be a supportive presence. The drama has instead made Hyung Joon’s stakes even higher than Ji Young’s and the question remaining is how the most promising Miss Korea contestant can possibly be judged on her merits rather than on everything else she has no control over.
Episode 13 recap:
Ji Young learns that Hyung Joon plans to break up with her after the pageant is over and she becomes Miss Korea. Her response is to fight for their love because her dreams are nothing without him. If he’s not there then it’s like she didn’t even make the cut to the top-15 of the pageant and her road ends at the first stage. Hyung Joon pulls her in for a kiss and they embrace each other tightly.
Jae Hee cries that she is glad the only other person who knows her birth is Madam Ma but now she’s worried that she will be a detriment to the beauty salon. Madam Ma realizes Jae Hee concealed her birth to keep people around her safe and that this current wave of anti-Miss Seoul sentiment was likely instigated by her dad to keep her from winning. Madam Ma wants to know if Jae Hee wants her dad or Miss Korea and Jae Hee immediately says Miss Korea. She wants to stand in the light and announce her identity as the daughter of Congressman Kim. Madam Ma calmly tells Jae Hee that they will go all the way then.
Hyung Joon and Ji Young sit awkwardly after all that kissing and Hyung Joon jokes that Ji Young has changed. When did she become a woman who clung onto a man, and she’s such a beautiful woman at that! Ji Young gets down from the sofa and stares at him, asking if he’ll stay beside her after the pageant? Hyung Joon wants her to focus on the pageant and not to worry.
He then yells at her for being an idiot because its clear that he likes her more than she likes him. Ji Young says that is not true but Hyung Joon retorts that it’s totally true. He pinches her on the cheek and says she knows nothing.
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They are so cute together!
Pageant training begins and the ladies are told that during the upcoming dress rehearsal the singer MC will hand roses to them and then they need to sing the song chosen.
Ji Young trains by herself in the empty conference room and she’s no joke serious about it. She finally collapses on the ground and calls her mom. Mom is worried that it’s so late but Ji Young is worried that the top-15 selection is coming up and what if she doesn’t make it. Mom doesn’t care but Ji Young does. She wants to go to the second stage otherwise her Oppa won’t want her anymore. If she fails to advance then she’ll be so embarrassed she won’t be able to face him. Then it’ll be the end for them.
Hyung Joon and Teacher Jang are in the suite when the rest of the Vivi team arrive. Heung Sam and Kang Woo are subdued and flank Hyung Joon who is confused at why they are so sad. Dr. Ko reveals she told them everything and Kang Woo says they will work hard to make the Vivi cream because the investment money was obtained by Hyung Joon selling his soul. Heung Sam curses out Yoon for being a dog bastard. Dr. Ko reminds the team that the top-15 selection is just around the corner because the top-15 need to be pre-determined before the pageant night so to assign which ladies get the best spots on stage during pageant night.
Hyung Joon emphasizes how important it is to get Ji Young to the top-15. Without it then he can’t stay beside her anymore. Forget his promise to Yoon, he will be too embarrassed to stay beside her.
Mom is brooding in the shop when uncle comes by. Mom reveals Ji Young just called and kept talking about oppa not wanting her. He wonder who this oppa is and guesses it’s Hyung Joon. Uncle tells Mom to go check on Ji Young in person.
Madam Ma writes a card and puts it in a beautiful rose bouquet and asks Director Yoon to deliver it to Jae Hee’s dad. He reads the note which says a pageant needs to be fair like an election and asks him to return all the same judges to the pageant. She promises to take good care of Jae Hee and won’t let anything happen before the election. Jae Hee’s dad crumples up the note and demands Jae Hee be brought to him.
Dr. Ko is analyzing Ji Young’s make up because of suspicions that it has been tampered with. She notices that the cream is not white anymore but yellowish. It’s bacteria and can cause breakouts on the face. The Vivi team go to report it to the pageant officials but the director says Ji Young should have used their make up and no one saw it so there is no proof.
Ji Young and Jae Hee are in the parking garage and Ji Young thanks Jae Hee for alerting her to the make up tampering. Two men in black suddenly step out of the car and approach Jae Hee. She refuses to go with them and they attempt to drag her off. Ji Young immediately grabs her hand and pulls her back and there is a tussle.
Thankfully Hyung Joon and Teacher Jang arrive and fight off the men. Jae Hee lies that she doesn’t know those men. Teacher Jang says those men don’t appear to be gangsters. The Vivi team walks the girls back to their rooms to keep them safe. Afterwards Madam Ma checks Jae Hee to make sure she is fine. She mutters that this is the response. She doesn’t want to worry Jae Hee and will assign a bodyguard to her from now on.
Everyone gathers to look at the list of judges and Hyung Joon is furious. He approaches Madam Ma and wants to do something about it otherwise none of the Miss Seoul girls will make the top-15. He reveals that Jae Hee and Ji Young were almost dragged off by men earlier and they need to alert the pageant officials as well. Madam Ma says the pageant will end up not taking place if he kicks up a huge fuss and what would that accomplish. Hyung Joon doesn’t want the pageant if it’s not going to be fair and their girls are just going to be supporting cast members.
Madam Ma scoffs at Hyung Joon’s ideals and asks if he plans to reveal the pageant is a crooked mess and then show off Ji Young as a lily in the pond untainted by all this backdoor dealing. Will she become a darling in the eyes of the public after that? Fat chance. Hyung Joon says the public already knows the pageant is run by rich companies bringing pretty girls in bathing suits and putting them onstage for entertainment. No one expects it to be above board to begin with. Madam Ma points out that Hyung Joon encouraged Ji Young to enter to save his company. After this year he’s done but to her it’s the source of her pride and she wants to protect the pageant. Hyung Joon derides her as living off the pageant and her status as the top dog in creating Miss Koreas. If the pageant is brought down then so will her station in life.
Madam Ma says this isn’t something Hyung Joon is equipped to handle but he’s not planning to let her ruin his Ji Young’s chances to save her own pride. If Ji Young fails then his company and Ji Young, it’s all over. Even if he has to call a news conference he will do it to change all the judges back.
The girls are practicing for the pageant dancing using three songs selected by the pageant director. Sun Young goes first and her dancing resembles that of a Teletubby and she’s so out of shape that she can’t dance and sing for very long and is called off the stage. Jae Hee is next and she’s as stiff as a robot as she’s clearly a model student who never went to clubs before. Her singing is also awful and worse is that she can’t sing and dance at the same time.
Ji Young immediately shows them all how it’s done. She’s just awesome onstage and all the rest of the girls stare slack jawed.
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The pageant director has fans brought up to blow her hair all pretty as she’s dancing and singing. We see a cut to Ji Young practicing her routine in the suite.
Ji Young’s old boss arrives to represent their company as a judge. He receives a list of all the pageant contestants and hears tomorrow is the top-15 selection.
Hyung Joon approaches the pageant director and immediately asks to switch out the judges otherwise it’s not fair. He threatens to call a press conference to reveal it.
The Vivi team is calling around to reporters to ask them to arrive for the press conference. Dr. Ko writes the press release to read to the reporters. Teacher Jang brings out coffee for everyone but not for Hyung Joon since he just got there. Hyung Joon takes the one he made for Dr. Ko and she complains and Teacher Jang just quietly takes it out of Hyung Joon’s hands and gives it back to Dr. Ko and moves it so Hyung Joon can’t get it. Heh.
Ji Young runs into Madam Ma near the elevator and is asked why she wants to become Miss Korea? Is it for money? Ji Young wants to make money but she also wants happiness. Madam Ma suggests she get a better boyfriend first if she wants happiness. Her boyfriend thinks lowly of the pageant but still wants to push Ji Young to become Miss Korea all to save his own company. Can she trust him? A man who thinks Miss Korea is dirty and still wants her to become Miss Korea, can he be trusted? Ji Young says Hyung Joon is not like that and Madam Ma should not speak poorly of him this way. Madam Ma tells her good luck and walks away coldly.
Ji Young comes down to the lobby and sees Hyung Joon waiting for her in the lobby. She thinks to herself that he’s not the kind of man Madam Ma says he is. They head out to buy some shoes and dresses for Ji Young. Hyung Joon watches a CF of a girl dancing and makes Ji Young sit down and he does a quick mambo to make her laugh before placing a pair of shoes before her. She puts it on and it fits perfectly. She wonders how he knows her size and Hyung Joon remembers from the time he fixed her shoes. Teacher Jang is browsing and asks the sales lady the price for a pair of lady’s low heel pumps.
Hyung Joon and Ji Young model a few dresses to pick the right one. Teacher Jang gets a page and heads out to return the call to President Hwang who asks where he is. Teacher Jang goes inside and calls Hyung Joon out because President Hwang wants to see him right now. Teacher Jang had to tell him otherwise he would have crashed the Miss Korea pageant site to look for him. Hyung Joon tries to send Ji Young away when President Hwang arrives. He calls out to him and Ji Young notices but Hyung Joon makes the cab driver quickly leave.
President Hwang beats up Hyung Joon and Teacher Jang, wondering how those two have become good friends now. Hyung Joon begs him to not do anything to the Miss Korea pageant and he’ll return the money soon. President Hwang tells Hyung Joon that his time is almost up, by year end if he doesn’t return the money then he’s dead. Hyung Joon is shocked and President Hwang hits Teacher Jang for not telling Hyung Joon that he’s dead by year end if the money isn’t returned. Hyung Joon promises that their product is almost ready to sell.
Ji Young has the cab driver turn back. She sees Hyung Joon getting more beaten up and President Hwang warning that he has only until year end. If he wants to welcome the new year then he knows what to do. President Hwang and his goons walk away which is when Teacher Jang and Hyung Joon turn around to see a crying Ji Young standing there.
Teacher Jang drives them back and Hyung Joon tells Ji Young to stop staring at him because it’s embarrassing. The van pulls up outside the hotel and Ji Young gets out but Hyung Joon doesn’t. She stares at him through the window until he rolls it down and tells her to hurry in. She wonders what about him and will he be alright? Hyung Joon gives a painful nod.
Teacher Jang walks Ji Young in and tells her to pretend she doesn’t know. Hyung Joon cannot handle having his weakest side seen by Ji Young. Teacher Jang looks at Ji Young and says “Hyung Joon, he’s putting his life on the line is how much he loves you.” Hyung Joon agreeing to break up with her isn’t something he said easily. Ji Young blinks back tears and asks Teacher Jang to go take care of her oppa.
Teacher Jang gets into the car and Hyung Joon laughingly asks if Teacher Jang would entrust his own younger sister to a guy like Hyung Joon? Teacher Jang laughs and says no way. He turns on the music and discusses how Ji Young is practicing so hard for the top-15 pageant where she gets the flower from the singer. Hyung Joon laughs and wonders if to Ji Young he really is a good catch?
Hyung Joon goes to the suite and is surprised to see Ji Young waiting there. Since she’s there he’ll practice the flower acceptance scene with her then. Hyung Joon takes a rose and sings his way to Ji Young and hands it to her. She grabs the rose and throws it on the ground and calls him an idiot! She starts crying and Hyung Joon wonders why he keeps making her cry? Ji Young wipes her tears away and says she will make him smile.
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Hyung Joon doesn’t want her pity and would rather she yell at him and not understand him. Even if everyone in the world understands him, she is allowed to not understand him.
Ji Young hugs Hyung Joon tightly and knows that he must really be hurting right now. She cries as she hugs him.
The Vivi team is discussing how to get the raw materials and wonder if they can buy it from shuttered cosmetics companies or from friends at other competitors. Teacher Jang stares at Dr. Ko’s feet and asks what size she wears? Heung Sam knows her size which makes Teacher Jang jealous. They notice his face is all beaten up but he runs out of the lobby happy after learning Dr. Ko’s shoe size. He goes to the car and takes out the ladies shoe he bought but his face falls when he realizes the size doesn’t fit and complains that her feet are too big.
The Vivi team gather at the hotel for the so-called press conference but none of the reporters have arrived. Dr. Ko calls around and the reporter hangs up on her. Turns out all the reporters have been at a press conference held by the pageant organizers. Hyung Joon goes to confront the pageant director who tells him to skip today’s preliminaries if he is that unhappy with the pageant.
The preliminaries are underway and all the ladies are wearing a purple swimsuit. Madam Ma goes to check on her two girls and runs them through drills. Madam Yang checks on Sun Young and gives her final reminders to keep her butt up.
Ji Young practices in a conference with Hyung Joon. She’s poised and ready but Hyung Joon looks very depressed.
Hyung Joon walks Ji Young to the judging room and watches her go in. She turns around and gives him a beaming smile before going in. Hyung Joon smiles back at her but loses his smile after the doors close.
The judges for the preliminaries are all representatives from companies that are sponsoring the pageant, including Kang Woo’s brother from Bada, Yoon, and Ji Young’s old boss. The ladies walk for the judges and then greet them. All the ladies are asked to step out of their heels. The judge says the swimsuit competition is about the beautiful collarbone. She calls Ji Young up as an example but is warned off by another judge so she asks Ji Young to step back and calls another girl up.
She does the same thing when the ladies are being judged on their back view. Yoon takes note of this as does all the Miss Seoul contestants who are purposely being ignored. Ji Young’s old boss is such a major dick and purposely taunts Ji Young by holding up the score card in his hand.
Ji Young’s family arrives at the pageant location to see Ji Young. Grandpa is grumpy until he hears that Ji Young misses him and then he makes sure they brought her favorite food.
The preliminaries are done and Hyung Joon waits outside to greet Ji Young. He runs inside to get her shoes which is when her old boss walks by to insult her. Hyung Joon asks who she was talking to and hears that it’s the person who gave her the lowest score today. She gets a call from Yoon who is avoiding her to not cause any impropriety. Ji Young asks what Yoon oppa thinks she did and he doesn’t answer other than ask her to get some rest before tomorrow’s recording.
Ji Young’s family runs into Ji Young’s old boss and they hide behind a wall as he takes a call. They know he’s the guy who used to torment their Ji Young and they cannot let him leave tonight without some payback. Love it! The Oh family men steel themselves and prepare for battle.
Ji Young’s family attack her old boss with mops in the bathroom, driving him into a bathroom stall and blocking the door behind him. As they walk out the concern is whether he saw them but since it was grandpa who attacked first and then everyone used the mops to conceal their faces the guys think he couldn’t have recognized them as Ji Young’s family.
The pageant director has tabulated all the scores for the top-15 and hands it to the assistant to put in the safe. He puts it in the safe and locks it.
Ji Young sits in the suite with her family who has brought food for her. They wonder why Ji Young looks nervous and hears that today was the preliminary. Hyung Joon explains that the results of today’s preliminary to select the top-15 won’t be revealed until the day before the final pageant. Ji Young’s family realizes that those who didn’t make the cut won’t even know until right before the pageant so they will continue to try hard to win not knowing they have already been eliminated.
Ji Young asks her grandpa to pray for her. Mom feeds his Ji Young a fresh fried shrimp and uncle hands her a cup of soup. Ji Young tells Hyung Joon oppa to eat as well.
The stage PD reminds the ladies to practice their song lyrics before tomorrow’s pageant where they will receive roses. Madam Yang tries to butter him up to find out if only 15 roses will be given tomorrow by the singer?
The pageant contestants and their handlers file into the auditorium for the filming of the pageant dress rehearsal. Sun Young and Soo Jung sneak into the pageant backstage and wonder who the singer is that will perform with them? They enter his dressing but only see roses on the table. They realize the rumor is true that he has only 15 roses to give and those ladies who get it will get more screen time.
Madam Ma arrives with Jae Hee and then Madam Yang runs in to say that the singer is going to give 15 roses and its likely to the top 15. Just like last year, the pageant dress rehearsal results ended up being the same as the Miss Korea pageant results. Hyung Joon and Ji Young are listening to this as well. Madam Yang thinks the pageant organizers have already told the singer and the stage PD beforehand which 15 girls get roses.
The dress rehearsal begins and everyone watches as the singer starts handing out the roses. The contestants are all wearing their sashes clearly to identify them so the singer is going to the girl he’s been told beforehand to hand out roses to. The first rose goes to the contestant from Gangwando. All the roses are handed out and not a single Miss Seoul contestant has received on.
The Miss Seoul contestants are looking increasingly despondent on stage and their handlers are freaking out in the audience. Finally there are two roses left. The singer is clearly getting cues from his earpiece and he hands one of the last two roses to Sun Young.
For the final rose he walks over to Ji Young and Jae Hee and puts it in front of Ji Young. As she stands up to receive it the singer gets a different cue from his ear piece and apologizes before pulling the rose away and handing it to the contestant sitting next to Ji Young who happens to be Miss Gangwando Jin (first place in the Miss Gangwando pageant).
Director Yoon blurts out that the rumors are all true, the final rose was handed to Miss Gangwando Jin and the camera focused on her the longest so clearly she’s being set up to win Miss Korea.
Thoughts of Mine:
Oh my god I was about to have a heart attack if this turned out not to be the dress rehearsal but the real top-15 reveal. I’m already hating on Miss Gangwando Jin who has this pinchy-faced smirk that makes me itch to rearrange her face. When she took the rose that was offered to Ji Young and then gave her this look, I think it’s game on between the Miss Seouls and their handlers versus the forces trying to shift the axis of power in the pageant. I also want that pageant director to be brought down hard and fast for so blatantly determining the results beforehand. What’s happening validates Yoon’s concern with Ji Young entering a pageant where she has no chance of winning. But seeing all these obstacles placed before Ji Young only makes me more interested to see how she overcomes these hurdles with the help of Hyung Joon and the Vivi team. Thank god a tiny bit of my frustration was relieved when Ji Young’s awesome family mop attacked her pathetic boss in the bathroom stall and then locked him in there. He deserved to get dunked in the toilet as well and got off easy. I’m happy that Ji Young has so many people who love her and protect her, but even happier that she’s not some damsel in distress that needs to be protected as she always tries to stand up for herself in the face of bullying and injustice. The Vivi cream development seems to have taken a backseat in this episode but I really need that magic product developed as soon as possible. Even if Ji Young becomes Miss Korea it won’t be much help to Vivi unless they have a breakthrough product for her to rep.
What more can I say about Ji Young and Hyung Joon’s rekindled romance? It’s epic, isn’t it? Epic and constrained by time and greater forces beyond their control. For once we don’t have a disease or disapproving parents or pointless denial. This time we have two people who love but hurt all over because their love isn’t easy. I thought there was no more misunderstandings left between them and then to have the ten ton brick of Hyung Joon’s life being on the line over the debt to President Hwang drop on both their heads was like a kick in the gut. Even with the knowledge nothing has changed, they still have to forge ahead together and cross every obstacle big and small. If Yoon can manage to make Ji Young stop loving Hyung Joon and give him a chance, then he can start distilling and selling whatever love potion be cooked up because that can only be magic. Ji Young is going down with Hyung Joon even if he tries to toss her to safety and her grit towards love and future is the stuff that more leading ladies need to have. Stop crying and go out there to fight for what you want. Ji Young may cry but her tears come as comfort and not as pity, it comes with the determination to change the future not as resignation of what is to come. I am genuinely worried about the Miss Seouls making it to the top-15 especially since Madam Ma doesn’t appear to have a solution to the problem. Thankfully this was just the dress rehearsal and whatever the Miss Seoul teams can band together and cook up to overturn the fix may be enough to alter the outcome on the top-15 which has yet to be officially revealed. Fingers-crossed and make it happen!
Click here to watch Miss Korea.