Episode 17 of Miss Korea had the sensation of a time bomb that got defused and suddenly everyone leans back with a sigh of relief. It’s not that the danger has all passed since every thriller movie usually has a few more last minute tricks up the sleeve, more like an unexpected reprieve from keeping the tension high. The drama has truly done a superb job so far of building up conflicts, doling out resolutions, and delivering the satisfying feeling of wrapping up a plot thread before moving on to another. I felt like episode 16 ended on a really emotionally raw moment, yet all of episode 17 was calm, mature, sensible, and therefore rather placid. This was the first episode where I felt the tension of this drama completely seep away. It was’t necessarily slow but I was left really unsure of what to expect going forward. It’s almost like the lead characters are all so smart and wonderful and able to solve their own problems, leaving me like a proud parent who is relegated to the sidelines and not even needing to shout cheers or words of encouragement.
Hyung Joon isn’t down and out in the least, not only able to put Ji Young first but still working towards rebuilding his own future so he can give her happiness in the long run. Ji Young doesn’t let Hyung Joon’s insecurity and failure affect her determination in holding strong to their relationship. Someone unexpected solves Ji Young’s eligibility snafu and ensures that she keeps the crown, while someone expected steps in to guide Ji Young on the next phase of her beauty queen journey towards Miss Universe. The story continues to keep even the supporting cast integral to the narrative and their interactions meaningful in the subtlest of ways. Ji Young’s Miss Korea win almost feels like so long ago because in the bigger picture it’s just one victory in a life full of never ending challenges. She has a bigger hill to climb, Hyung Joon starts from scratch all over again, but this time they are holding tight to one another. I was a tad worried that my OTP would have a separation but so far the drama holds on to such a refreshing concept of eschewing pointless detours when the goal is still the same and there is a still mighty long road ahead.
Episode 17 recap:
Hyung Joon is already so ashamed to be beaten up in front of her and being looked down upon by his classmate, how can he accept her money? Ji Young refuses to live like a queen while watching him suffer but he refuses to accept the money because it means she will become his creditor. He asks her not to make him even more ashamed and then walks into the room where the Vivi team is waiting to celebrate her win.
Ji Young heads in and everyone happily toasts her win as Miss Korea. Ji Young swallows her soju shot and then brings up that she knows the company’s situation and asks how everyone is holding up? Kang Woo laughs that they are strong and can handle it. Dr. Ko wants to know what’s going to happen from Yoon’s side and Hyung Joon calmly explains that the factory will continue running and all the employees will have jobs as Yoon will take over the company. Ji Young just stares at him while Kang Woo says it’s good that the employees aren’t out on the street.
Dr. Ko points out that Hyung Joon has nothing now but he’s fine with that since he also has no debt. Kang Woo calls Yoon a rat bastard for not even giving Hyung Joon anything and Ji Young echoes that sentiment. Hyung Joon chides her for using dirty language since she’s Miss Korea now but Ji Young just feels like it. He tells everyone to stop talking about the company and go back to celebrate Ji Young’s win. He tells her to smile but she’s sick of smiling. Teacher Jung has been drinking too much and finally just gets up and walks out. Ji Young takes a swig of soju and smiles with a “Hawaii”.
Teacher Jung stumbles out of the room and Dr. Ko follows shortly after. She finds him sitting outside drunk on the park bench. She sits down and chides him for leaving so early. Teacher Jung asks if she really likes studying that much? She must look down on a guy like him who only graduated from middle school, right? To follow her, he has to graduate from high school, college, grad school, and even to France. There is no way he can catch her even if he tried until he was laying in a coffin. Dr. Ko looks sad and when she gets up Teacher Jung grabs her hand and asks if she can’t not go overseas to study?
Heung Sam and Kang Woo have followed Dr. Ko and stare in shock at this scene.
Ji Young continues to offer the prize money to Hyung Joon and he smiles this time but takes the money. She’s shocked that he is so obedient this time. Hyung Joon tells her not to be shocked but he’s going to climb up to her level using the money, and it’ll be soon. They drink and smile at each other.
Heung Sam and Kang Woo wander around mumbling about Teacher Jung liking their Dr. Ko. Heung Sam is shocked since they have never dared to cross the line with her. Kang Woo wonders if she likes him back and Heung Sam says no way, it’s easier for North and South Korea to reunite than for that to happen. Teacher Jung is thinking back to Dr. Ko’s answer which is the IMF crisis is affecting everyone and as a woman she needs to keep studying otherwise she has no prospects.
The neighborhood ahjummas and ahjusshis are all gathered at the convenience store to congratulate the family on Ji Young’s winning Miss Korea. Ji Young and Hyung Joon come home and see everyone there and quietly hold hands and walk away.
They head up to the hill but Hyung Joon quickly pulls his hand away warning Ji Young that she hasn’t even signed her Miss Korea contract yet and needs to be careful not to be caught dating. Ji Young wants to do everything in dating, just secretly. Hyung Joon says no but Ji Young insists and pouts. Hyung Joon tells her that until her term is up, he’s not a man to her. He’s simple a street lamp that is lighting her way. Ji Young scoffs at that and says she intends to just secretly date.
Hyung Joon goes to see Madam Ma and hands the prize money envelope to her. He hands Ji Young to her care from now on.
The Oh family men storm into Ji Young’s room and demand to know if she gave all the prize money to Hyung Joon? They ask if he’s trying to borrow money from her? Ji Young says Hyung Joon didn’t want to take her money and even if she wants to date in secret he doesn’t want to either. Uncle is upset that Ji Young is throwing herself and money at Hyung Joon and he still rejected her? Ji Young nods and Grandpa is upset that his Miss Korea is being rejected by Hyung Joon. She asks what she can do to make Hyung Joon like her more than she likes him? Oh baby, he loves you just as much. She’s a girl and she has her pride as well. Mom wants Ji Young to wake up and smell the roses but she just goes back to sleep.
Hyung Joon knows he has no ability to guide Ji Young on her continued journey and asks Madam Ma to be Ji Young’s chaperone going forward. She points out Ji Young can fly beyond his reach and Hyung Joon’s response is to ask Madam Ma to please help Ji Young fly higher. She points that the moment she helps Ji Young then Hyung Joon is putting his love for her at risk. He knows that but he’s willing to believe in overcoming the odds. He wants Madam Ma to make Ji Young into a real queen.
Madam Ma knows he’s lost his company and wonders if he’s brave or stupid. She agrees to do it since the moment Ji Young became Miss Korea she is walking on thin ice. One misstep and she can disappear under the surface never to be seen again. Madam Ma won’t tell them to break up but asks Hyung Joon to restrain the relationship until after the Miss Universe pageant. He agrees and Madam Ma orders him to not even secretly be dating. He agrees again and she tells him that he can’t interfere in how she manages Ji Young. Hyung Joon wants Madam Ma to make Ji Young into a queen while he’s in charge of bringing her happiness.
Hyung Joon comes home and peeks into Ji Young’s room to find her sleeping already. He turns to walk away and Ji Young speaks up “I told you that we’re going to secretly date, got it.”
Madam Ma gets an update from Director Yoon that the Miss Universe pageant preparations are underway. Madam Yang arrives all in tears but Madam Ma already knows that Cherry Beauty Salon has changed owners. Madam Yang cries that all her savings and hard work to open her own salon is all gone now. Madam Ma hits her and yells that she messed up by throwing money around to buy Miss Korea when before she was so cheap. Madam Yang begs Madam Ma to let her stay and she’ll return to working under her.
Madam Ma thinks she’s gone crazy as does Director Yoon. She reminds Madam Ma that she loved her once and Director Yoon says that is why Madam Yang’s betrayal was so painful. Madam Yang says she didn’t betray she merely tried to be independent once she had the ability. Madam Yang refuses to leave until she gets an answer today but Madam Ma barks out that she needs to think about it. Madam Yang is all smiles that her hyungnim is so nice and kind and then begs for some food to eat. She’s so shameless she’s adorable about it.
Hyung Joon walks Ji Young out of the house in the morning and then puts her in Director Yoon’s car. He explains that she needs to work with professionals to prepare for Miss Universe.
Kang Sik hears from the Miss Korea pageant director that the lawyer has verified that Ji Young’s age is 26 when she was crowned Miss Korea Jin. Normally the pageant takes place in May and this year it was postponed until December which caused this oversight. Kang Sik is all smiles to hear that Ji Young never qualified for the competition in the first place. The director asks him to let it go since they already switched the winner of Miss Seoul once. Due to the date switch the organizers made lots of mistakes in all sorts of applications, plus it was just one day difference in Ji Young’s birthday. Kang Sik refuses to agree and says he’ll have to think about it, and if necessary perhaps Miss Korea Jin will need to be switched.
Ji Young is brought to a clothing boutique where Madam Ma is waiting for her. All the items hanging there were worn previously by a part Miss Korea winner during her Miss Universe pageant. Ji Young is shocked at all the different outfits and hears that in the days leading up to the pageant is a camera moment. Every piece of clothing from head to toe needs to be coordinated. They can’t re-use these outfits and need to buy news ones that reflect the current fashion trends.
Ji Young’s prize money isn’t even enough to get started. Since she won’t accept Madam Ma’s help then she needs to start preparing now by earning money. Madam Ma will start sifting through CF and program offers for her and Ji Young agrees. Madam Ma tells Ji Young that the difficult ahead is way more than what she experienced to become Miss Korea and if she doesn’t have the determination she might as well go home now. Ji Young bows her head and asks Madam Ma to please take care of her.
Hyung Joon is at a cosmetics shops with Heung Sam and Kang Woo and he’s interested in finding a new product to complement the Vivi cream that Bada will sell. Since the Vivi cream makes a girl look like she doesn’t wear make up, then she can’t wear heavy lipstick with it otherwise it’s clear she’s wearing make up. Hyung Joon takes out a clear lip gloss and says they can make a colored lip gloss to go with the Vivi cream since they know exactly how the Vivi cream will be received by the public. The guys love his idea.
Yoon meets with Kang Sik and tells him that if he wants to buy the Vivi cream rights then he needs to buy the entire company. Kang Sik accepts since Yoon has lined up other buyers. He hands Kang Sik the contract and his eyes widen to see that one requirement is Ji Young must be the model. Kang Sik laughs that Ji Young might not even be Miss Korea for much longer since her birthday was on the date of the pageant. Yoon wonders if he will strip her of the title for a one day difference. Kang Sik says one day or one month, it’s still a technical violation. Yoon immediately lowers the sale price of Vivi by 3% and tells Kang Sik to end the Ji Young eligibility question now. Otherwise he won’t sell Vivi and the Vivi cream to Bada no matter what price.
The Vivi team gathers at Ji Young’s house to discuss manufacturing a colored lip gloss. Dr. Ko worries that the women are so used to dark lipstick and lip gloss also doesn’t last as long. Teacher Jung arrives carrying a box of Vivi cream they still kept in their van. Hyung Joon wants him to sit down but both Kang Woo and Heung Sam immediately block him from sitting next to Dr. Ko. Hyung Joon asks him to join them since he doesn’t have a job. Teacher Jung asks if he can be president and Hyung Joon tells him to go ahead since its a thankless position. It’s a lot of work and needs to go borrow money.
The other two guys says no since the president needs to be someone who got a high education. Dr. Ko chews out Heung Sam for having smarts but did nothing when the factory was being stolen. Heung Sam tells Dr. Ko to wake up, how can she date Teacher Jung since it’s such a vast class difference between them. They all treasure Dr. Ko so and wants to protect her, he’s not going to let her get ruined by being with a guy like Teacher Jung. Dr. Ko yells that she’s not dating him so be quiet. Teacher Jung speaks up and says he was just joking, he knows nothing about being president or cosmetics and he’ll just be their guard. He wants them to get back on their feet is all. He gets up and leaves and the clueless Hyung Joon asks what’s gotten into the group. Teacher Jung leaves and as he’s walking out Uncle glares at him.
Hyung Joon tells Ji Young that Teacher Jung and Dr. Ko appear to like each other, but Heung Sam is against it since he’s never even dared to confess his feelings to Dr. Ko. Ji Young asks Hyung Joon what to do about signing a contract with Bada? She doesn’t want to do it since it feels like a betrayal but Hyung Joon tells her that she has to do it. She not only has to do it, she needs to do well at selling the product. If the Vivi cream sells well, he’s developing a new lip gloss to go with it and usher in an era of less make up look. Then they can rebuild their company on the backs of Bada’s success in selling the Vivi cream.
Heung Sam keeps trying to apologize to Dr. Ko later that night and she reveals that she’s leaving soon to study overseas. She’ll finish developing the lip gloss with them and then leave. Heung Sam asks if she likes him or Teacher Jung more? Dr. Ko says she likes both guys the same now and he jokes to want to know how much she likes them both. She tells him to go apologize to Teacher Jung and not her.
Teacher Jung checks his bank balance and thinks to himself that the team needs money to develop a new lip gloss. He goes to buy a lottery ticket but scratches off all losing tickets.
Director Yoon brings Ji Young, Jae Hee, and Soo Jung to their new training facility. He wants them to treat their training as serious, just because they did well domestically means nothing. Up next is like the Olympics of their sport of beauty pageants.
The ladies are shown the performance art of the five drums which showcases Korean culture, the beautiful female form, and a high degree of difficulty.
Madam Yang drags Sun Young there to be near the Miss Korea Jin Seon Mis and maybe get spotted by other companies and also keep learning more. She heads inside and starts bickering with Director Yoon, who reveals that there is a prohibition against her coming into the training rooms. He asks if she brought Sun Young along as well and Madam Yang laughs that just because she re-married doesn’t mean she leaves her kid behind.
Ji Young gets called out and heads to meet Kang Sik to sign the Bada modeling contract. Ji Young happily shakes his hand and then Kang Sik smiles very oddly which catches Madam Ma’s attention. She wonders if he’s gotten something on Ji Young and doesn’t feel good about it.
At Ji Young’s old work place department store, her old boss hears from the company head that he wants Ji Young be their spokesmodel next year especially since she came from their department store. He’s told to make it happen.
Teacher Jung is paged by Dr. Ko and goes out to have noodles with her. He tells her to stop fighting with the kids because of him but she thinks someone with a middle school education can be a company president. He asks her if the same is true of love. Can she date someone with a middle school education? She says nothing and he thinks she’ll be embarrassed. Dr. Ko says it’s not that, she has no confidence in it so not starting is better for both of them. Teacher Jung agrees and digs into his noodles.
Madam Yang accompanies Ji Young to her Vivi cream photo shoot and reveals that Madam Ma is busy looking for sponsors to help her Miss Universe preparation. Madam Yang tells Ji Young to eat more since she’s too skinny. Kang Sik walks in with a new lipstick called Wine Ever that Bada is planning to promote as their Spring color along with the Vivi cream launch. Madam Yang crows that it’s such a pretty color and name. She puts it on Ji Young who points out that it’s such a dark color. Kang Sik explains that the Vivi cream is too natural so they want to pair it with a lipstick color that pops. She thinks back to Hyung Joon saying the opposite, that Vivi cream will make people want natural lipstick colors. Ji Young smiles and tells Kang Sik she wants to do more Vivi cream promotions in the future since she really cares about the product.
The Vivi team is working out of Hyung Joon’s room to develop the new color lip gloss. They come up with a batch that looks good in both shine, texture, and color. Dr. Ko will put some stabilizers in this batch and when Ji Young comes then they will have her try it on with the Vivi cream.
Ji Young is filming the Vivi cream CF and doing a good job. Yoon arrives and stands in the back to watch her filming.
After Ji Young finishes her shoot, Yoon walks up to her to say hello. He compliments her on looking even prettier after winning Miss Korea but she’s not in the mood to be nice. She asks if he’s here to confirm the Vivi cream was indeed sold to Bada like he orchestrated? Yoon doesn’t respond and tells her that she doesn’t need to worry about things anymore and just enjoy the experience and work hard. He’ll be patient and wait because he thinks that after some time she’ll consider coming to his side. Ji Young scoffs and says that if he thinks that she will dump Hyung Joon just because his lost his company, then that pisses Ji Young off that Yoon thinks so low of her.
Ji Young calls Teacher Jung out and hands him the money she got paid to do the Vivi cream CF to give to Hyung Joon. She knows he won’t accept her money and wants Teacher Jung to find a way to give it to him by lying about where it came from. Teacher Jung refuses because he doesn’t know how to do it. He tells Ji Young to go lie to Hyung Joon but she would rather die then tell even one lie to Hyung Joon.
None of the Vivi team can do it so that leaves only Teacher Jung. He points out that he can take the money and run and she tells him to try, how can he do it since he likes Dr. Ko. Ji Young plans to give more money to Teacher Jung as she earns more endorsements so he can pass it along. He’s frustrated that she’s giving him such a hard job to do but she just aegyos him to do it.
Teacher Jung goes to Hyung Joon and hands him money to use for the lip gloss development, lying that it came from his investments.
Ji Young applies Vivi cream and then puts on the new sample lip gloss. She shows Hyung Joon the Bada lipstick for the Spring. Hyung Joon says this color has always sold well for Bada so they decide to take the two ideas for a test.
Ji Young assembles the Oh men and tells them to vote on what they prefer. She puts on the new lip gloss and then the Bada lipstick. The votes are split half-half, Mom and Uncle like the lip gloss but Grandpa and Oppa like the Bada lipstick.
Ji Young and Hyung Joon go to the busiest cosmetics store that is carrying the new Vivi cream and lipstick from Bada all accompanied by Ji Young’s ad campaign. They lurk outside, with Ji Young all wrapped up in sunglasses and scarf, and when she tries to take his hand he quickly pulls away since she’s standing right next to her ad campaign picture and can be recognized. They watch as some girls go inside and ask for the new Vivi cream.
Thoughts of Mine:
I’m a little annoyed that this week only gave us one episode of Miss Korea since it clearly ended on a rather uneventful moment. It was adorable how cute and cuddly Ji Young is whenever she’s with her Hyung Joon oppa, but I rather wanted to see what was the next obstacle for them to overcome together. I appreciate that this story is never maudlin and the solutions to problems doesn’t resort to cheap tricks. Vivi wasn’t saved by the Vivi cream being a success, and sometimes bad guys like Yoon and Kang Sik can get away with taking advantage of others. But conversely this drama refuses to let people either rest on their laurels or take a beating and lay there wallowing in misery. Hyung Joon’s resilience is pretty remarkable as well, the way he hands off Vivi to Yoon the best he can and then moves forward to find the next great make up product to launch another enterprise on. I love that the guts of the leads isn’t based on noble principles but rooted in willing to work their way up to success. It’d be stupid for Ji Young to refuse to be Bada’s model simply because of its underhanded business methods. If she can use Bada to resurrect Hyung Joon’s business then it makes both of them even smarter for beating the bad guys at their own game. I was a bit taken aback at how Ji Young’s eligibility question seemed to be resolved so quickly, and by Yoon no less, though Kang Sik forever gives me the creeps and I don’t know if he’ll renege later on. I sure hope not since even the pageant director said it’s just a one day technicality that she is over the age limit, and it’s by the pageant’s own mistake that she was allowed to compete in the first place. Dr. Ko’s decision to go study overseas makes so much sense, a choice made not as a fall back measure but a pragmatic and smart decision unrelated to wanting to running away from her problems. Poor Teacher Jung accepts his limitations in life and dares to ask Dr. Ko for a chance even when he knows it’s not really possible. When life brings these folks down, they use their mind and heart to find another way. And if there is no other way, they endure it and then brush themselves off to start again. Watching MK always leaves me with a sweet sensation, a feeling of contentment and a reassuring takeaway.
Click here to watch Miss Korea.