What a lovely episode of Miss Korea, even if the sweet warmth accompanies a very tension-sapped episode that marks this drama’s turn towards the finish as a happy outing rather than a nail biting final push. I’ve long complained that K-dramas tend to drag out conflict until the end, then have the happily ever after be literally ten seconds and then the credits roll. There is knowing the story ended happily versus seeing the happily actually happen onscreen. We’re getting that in MK and I will not look a gift horse in the mouth. I thought it was a brave creative decision to end the Miss Korea pageant at the end of episode 15, upending viewer expectation and creating a different set of stakes in the final arc. Because this drama is populated by smart and mature characters, all of whom talk through their problems and handle adversity with both courage and resilience, there is really nothing left to genuinely fret over. Hyung Joon and team Vivi pick themselves up and dive right back into another cosmetics endeavor. Ji Young is her usual awesome self whether doing her Miss Korea duties, preparing for Miss Universe, or being the best girlfriend a guy could ask for. Teacher Jung and Dr. Ko finally stop skirting around each other and take their feelings to the next level. While Yoon actually stops being a douchebag in this episode and is instrumental resolving Ji Young’s age eligibility problem by getting Hyung Joon involved (bravo for that), worst brother ever Kang Sik picks up the slack to continue trying to destroy Vivi’s tiny little lip gloss endeavor. I’m hoping he gets his comeuppance soon the same way Ji Young delivered a long overdue smack down on her odious boss in this episode. Without a major crisis looming for the wonderful beloved characters that populate this story, it’s a comforting watch for the final episodes heading down to what is hopefully an ending that gives a proper send off for all the characters and not just the leads. I want Vivi to be successful in its niche space, Ji Young to transition into perhaps a modeling career after she’s done with her term, Dr. Ko and Teacher Jung to get married and settle down, and the Madams to keep on being fabulous and churning out more Miss Korea hopefuls.
Episode 18 recap:
Hyung Joon and an incognito Ji Young are lurking outside a big cosmetics store checking out the sales pattern inside. Ji Young holds Hyung Joon’s hand but he shakes her off and reminds her that people can recognize her, especially since her poster for Vivi cream is right next to her.
The two Madams Ma and Yang are watching the Vivi cream CF on TV and Madam Ma wonders if the dark lipstick color is right since the sales pitch for the Vivi cream is that it doesn’t look like one is wearing any make up. Madam Yang is more interested in Madam Ma’s clothes rather than listening to her discuss how the red wine color lipstick makes the face look rather overdone. When prodded, Madam Yang agrees and candidly says such a dark color is more suited for ladies their age and it ages someone young to wear it. To wear the Vivi cream to look younger and then matched with this lipstick, it doesn’t pair well.
Madam Yang says there is nothing they can do since Ji Young has to wear that color as the Bada model. Madam Ma yells that she needs to wear it for official Bada events but other times she can wear something else and they need to find the right color for her. She chews out Madam Yang for being so lazy even after begging to come back to work for her. She wants Madam Yang to go through a thousand lipsticks if she needs to to find the right color for Ji Young!
Hyung Joon and Ji Young sit down to eat and discuss how college students aren’t interested in make up these days. Hyung Joon believes once they try the Vivi cream then they will like it, that’ll lead them to think about what lipstick to wear with it. Ji Young agrees since lipstick is cheap and girls will be more willing to shell out for it. She takes off her sunglasses since its in the way and is happy no one recognizes her. Hyung Joon wants her to put it back on but Ji Young is happy to be able to show her face here since when she used to come with her elevator girl colleagues she felt embarrassed.
Ji Young asks if Hyung Joon has been here before and he admits he did with another girl. She stares at him and he tells her that he doesn’t want to lie. She asks how long he dated that girl in college but he doesn’t want to give her the details. Hyung Joon points out that he wouldn’t be a normal guy if he held on to his first love for ten years and never dated another girl. Ji Young wants him to ask her past but he’s not interested in what she did in the last ten years because he’s the guy sitting across from her now. Just like ten years ago.
Ji Young smiles and goes to sit next to him but Hyung Joon gets up and goes to her old seat. The ahjumma comes with their food and recognizes Ji Young as this year’s Miss Korea Jin. Hyung Joon puts on her sunglasses to lay low while the ahjumma compliments Ji Young on being so beautiful.
Yoon gets a thank you call from Hyung Joon about taking over the Vivi operations well but he instead asks to meet. Yoon reveal that Ji Young’s birthday fell on the day of the pageant so she’s 26 years old and over the age limit. Hyung Joon thinks it’s fine since the pageant organizers are okay with it but Yoon reveals that Kang Sik was the one who told him. Kang Sik appears to be willing to let it go once Yoon lowered the price for selling the Vivi cream, but he knows Kang Sik is not trustworthy so he wants Hyung Joon to find a permanent solution so that Ji Young isn’t hurt when Kang Sik tries to bring this up at a later time.
Hyung Joon wonders why Yoon isn’t telling Ji Young and is instead being a white knight to help her behind the scenes. Yoon wants Hyung Joon not to tell Ji Young. Hyung Joon realizes that Yoon genuinely likes Ji Young a lot. He used to think Yoon was just trying to take Ji Young away from him but today he realizes that Yoon sincerely likes her.
Hyung Joon runs back to talk to the Oh men to ask Ji Young’s birthday. He wonders if maybe it was incorrectly recorded. Grandpa says it’s accurate as December 22 since it was a cold Winter night when Ji Young’s mom went into labor. Hyung Joon asks the exact time Ji Young was born and the men argue over whether it was 8 pm, 9 pm, or 10 pm. Hyung Joon runs out thinking over this new information. The Oh men think Hyung Joon is getting Ji Young’s birthday information to go see a fortune teller/matchmaking.
The Vivi team is trying out the new lip gloss and Teacher Ko puts some on. Heung Sam helps her apply it and they discuss the pros and cons of using a tube versus an application wand. They discuss the price and Teacher Jung says the Bada lipstick is priced three times their lip gloss and the lure is that the ladies can have three different colors for the same price. Everyone stares at him and he thinks he said something wrong and wants to leave but Heung Sam tells him to stay since his insight is correct.
Uncle and oppa comes to deliver steam buns for them to eat and there is a round of awkward greetings all around. Dr. Ko gestures for Heung Sam to hand a bun to Teacher Jung. Heung Sam hands a bun over and apologizes for last time, he spoke out of jealousy and wasn’t trying to look down on Teacher Jung for only graduating middle school.
Ji Young comes in and sees them only eating steamed buns and runs downstairs to raid the store for drinks and snacks for the group. The guys in the family stare at her grabbing stuff for the Vivi team to eat. Ji Young runs back upstairs and delivers the good and snacks so they can have the energy to think of better ideas. She wonders where Hyung Joon went?
Hyung Joon is at the medical clinic where Ji Young was born. He thinks back to his conversation with Yoon about the Miss Korea pageant being held between 6-9 pm so if Ji Young was born after 9 pm then she’s fine.
The Vivi cream is starting to fly off the shelves and Kang Sik heads to the store and watches as the products are a bestseller, including the new Wine Ever dark lipstick.
Hyung Joon hands the new Vivi lip gloss to Madam Ma and asks for a fair competition with all the lip colors to be used on Ji Young. Madam Ma wants to find the right color and won’t use the Vivi ones just because it was made by her boyfriend. Hyung Joon and Ji Young understand that and agree to let her decide.
Ji Young sits down across from Madam Yang as she goes through color after color on Ji Young’s lips as everyone at Queen Beauty Salon gather around to watch. After each new color, Madam Yang asks Madam Ma’s opinion and it’s a series of nos. Finally it’s time for the Vivi lip gloss and once applied Madam Yang’s eyes light up. Ji Young smiles to try and show off the lip gloss but Madam Ma tells her not to smile.
The Vivi team sit around discussing how their lip gloss isn’t selling and instead the Vivi cream is selling along with the Bada lip color since that is what is on the advertisement. Hyung Joon suggests giving out the lip gloss as a sample with people buying the Vivi cream and he’s willing to borrow money for this big expense. Teacher Jung tosses a packet of money at them for this idea and tells them to spend it.
Dr. Ko walks with Teacher Jung and yells at him for going to borrow more money. She yells at him for putting his life in danger but he yells back that he knows they will sell the product well and he will make his money back twofold. They yell at each other, both caring so much about each other’s well being. He tells her to go study abroad because he won’t keep her from her future. She sits down and asks through tears if she really can leave? He really wants her to leave?
Teacher Jung says yes and Dr. Ko hugs him. He pulls back and tells her not to because once she leaves……Dr. Ko leans in and kisses him on the cheek. He turns to look at her and she asks if he’ll beat her up if she leaves like this to go study? She laughs that she would rather be beaten up and then leans her head on his shoulder. Teacher Jung finally tells her not to go abroad to study. Can she not go? Dr. Ko leans in and kisses him.
Ji Young comes home but stops outside and opens the bun steamer as a natural humidifier. Hyung Joon comes out and asks what she’s doing? Ji Young reveals her lips weren’t hers today and she’s tried on hundreds of lipstick and her lips hurt.
She sits down and Hyung Joon asks to see it. Ji Young puckers her lips for him and he notes that her lips are all wrinkly. Ji Young counters that his eyes are all wrinkly from stress and Hyung Joon sighs that in his next lifetime he won’t start his own company. He’s so tired to death. He laughs that he better not waste Teacher Jung’s money this time. Ji Young rubs his forehead and tells him this time will be fine. She kisses his gently with a smile and says this time will be fine.
Ji Young hands more money to Teacher Jung because this is her contract renewal money and the company needs more for the sample. Teacher Jung hands it back because he doesn’t want to lie anymore. Hyung Joon runs out of the medical clinic with a piece of paper and he’s all smiles. He calls Ji Young out to meet him but she can’t and hangs up. He decides its better for her not to know.
Ji Young is with Sun Young, Soo Jung, and Jae Hee undertaking social etiquette training with Director Yoon. He says the entire training will be done in English from now on. Sun Young asks why he’s leading the training and hears from Madam Yang that he studied overseas in NY so handles all the English training. Soo Jung snipes about Sun Young being here since she doesn’t need to go to any international pageants but Madam Yang says there is no harm in learning.
Director Yoon starts with “Thank you for inviting me” and keeps correcting Ji Young’s pronunciation. He then asks for Ji Young’s hand to show the Latin American greeting and when Madam Yang shoves her hand in his the shocked Director Yoon goes “What the hell?” LOLOLOL. He kisses Madam Yang’s hand which makes her giggle with glee. He then tells them to be prepared for cheek kisses from European countries and Madam Yang runs up to kiss him on both cheeks. Madam Yang gets totally into it and wants to know what is next and hears about embracing and then totally picks Director Yoon up and twirls with him.
The next training is to drink wine without leaving any trace of lipstick. Everyone except Jae Hee fails and he asks her to explain. She explains that all you need to do is wipe the rim of the glass with your thumb after taking a drink. Next comes eating finger foods and reapplying make up during a party.
Hyung Joon runs to meet with the pageant director and Kang Sik. He shows them the birth certificate that shows Ji Young was born at 10:10 pm on the night of December 22nd. Since the pageant ended at 9 pm on December 22nd, that means she is eligible. Kang Sik snidely asks if Hyung Joon needs any help now that his company is bankrupt? Hyung Joon tells him to just sell a lot of Vivi cream. Later than night, Ji Young hears that Hyung Joon solved her eligibility problem and it’s taken care of.
Ji Young’s picture with the restaurant owner ahjumma hangs in her restaurant and when customers see it they marvel at how pretty Ji Young is and the fact that she’s wearing very light lipstick color. The Vivi lip gloss samples are going out the store for free with any Vivi cream purchase.
Ji Young is getting her hair done by Madam Yang when she gets a call from her old boss to attend a meeting at her old department store to be their spokesperson. She tells him to contact Madam Ma to discuss CF opportunities but he yells at her to not be so stuck up now that she is Miss Korea. He hangs up and his boss comes by telling him to do whatever he needs to bring Ji Young in as their model.
Madam Ma brings Jae Hee to meet her dad for lunch. It starts off awkwardly until Jae Hee’s dad reveals that if she doesn’t want to go study abroad in England then she doesn’t need to go. He saw her as an obstacle in his political career but now he’s an obstacle in her life. Even though its been crazy around him but before he’s a politician he wants to be a better person. He asks if he can walk her down the aisle when she gets married one day. Jae Hee cries and says yes.
Madam Ma asks for some of his time another day and he wonders if she needs to talk to him about anything else. Madam Ma offers to do his hair since a politician’s image is important and she promises to help improve his look. Jae Hee’s dad laughs and agrees.
Hyung Joon is at the cosmetic’s store when Kang Sik comes in to chew out the owner for handing out the Vivi lip gloss as a free sample with the Vivi cream purchase. He asks if Hyung Joon wants to battle with him but Hyung Joon says they can coexist even in this tough time. Kang Sik has no intention of coexisting with him.
Madam Ma sits down with Madam Yang to discuss the lip color for Ji Young. Madam Yang picks the Vivi lip gloss without knowing it’s Hyung Joon’s lip gloss. She suggests Ji Young is so pale and older when she became Miss Korea it’s best for her to look fresh faced and younger. Madam Ma tells her to put the lip gloss on the counter as a sample for customers at the salon to try out. Madam Yang finally notices that it’s the Vivi brand and is surprised Hyung Joon is still hanging in there.
Ji Young arrives at the department store and gets into the elevator. She holds it for two customers and asks which floor they are going to and explains what is on that floor, falling back into her old job effortlessly. Once the elevator is empty she looks around wistfully because there is no more elevator girl in there anymore. She thinks back to her conversation with her former colleagues when they wondered if they were the last of a dying breed. She remembers secretly eating and also taking off her shoes because her feet hurt. She remembers getting insulted by her old boss for daring to fart in the elevator and getting slapped around.
Ji Young meets with the president of the department store and pastes on a smiling face even when sitting across from her old boss. The president assigns her old boss to handle the CF negotiations but Ji Young asks for someone else from the department store to work with her. The president asks why she wants someone else but Ji Young says she would rather not explain the reason.
As Ji Young is leaving, her old boss comes running out to confront her and asks how she dares to betray him and the years he took care of her. Ji Young chews him out for all the harassment he inflicted on her as the “care” he inflicted on her for the last 7 years. He brings up her theft incident and asks if she could become Miss Korea if he didn’t cover up for her and suggests he can destroy her now if he revealed it. Ji Young tells him to reveal it now. She borrowed an item from the department store and she’s willing to apologize for it. But then he’ll have to explain how he took her severance and the last 6 months of her salary. He sputters and Ji Young thanks him for allowing her to have pride in returning to her old work place. But does he think she can smile being the model for the place where all her former friends are now longer employed?
Madam Ma is looking at pictures of Ji Young with various lip colors when she comes and asks to have a drink. Ji Young makes a wrap for Madam Ma and feeds her before helping her to a sip of soju. Ji Young wants to asks if this lip gloss color looks good and Madam Ma knows she’s definitely here with an ulterior motive. Madam Ma wants to know where she went earlier and hears it’s to the department store. She can tell Ji Young doesn’t want to to be the model but Ji Young says it’s money how she can she not take it. She wants to be the model because it’s money and she needs it. Madam Ma points out that Ji Young isn’t buying a car, or expensive purses, or spending the money on herself.
Madam Ma asks if Ji Young is happy being Miss Korea? Ji Young asks the same question back since Madam Ma has been Miss Korea for the past 30 years. Madam Ma says she’s happy. Ji Young doesn’t have an answer yet since she’s only been for the past 3 months but Madam Ma’s answer gives her hope.
Hyung Joon waits for Ji Young to come home and Teacher Jung joins him outside. Hyung Joon tells him to go inside but Teacher Jung says its awkward with just him alone in there with Dr. Ko. Hyung Joon laughs at him for being so brave to date her and asks if she’s still going to France. Teacher Jung doesn’t know but he’s going to work hard so she doesn’t leave. Hyung Joon tells him to just live with her but Teacher Jung tells Hyung Joon to manage his own relationship first. Hyung Joon says he is already living with Ji Young but Teacher Jung says it’s not living together until they are sharing the same blanket. Both guys laugh with each other.
Hyung Joon hears the bad news from one of the cosmetic’s store owners that he can’t hand out free lip gloss anymore with the Vivi cream purpose since Kang Sik has threatened to pull Bada products if any store does that.
Team Vivi sits around deciding what to do and Hyung Joon says to open their own free standing store and give out lip gloss for free during a period of time when a customer brings in the Vivi cream purchase. He asks if everyone is in with this plan? Ji Young says she’ll go if the product is being given for free.
Team Vivi is inside a store ready to hand out free lip gloss to anyone who has purchased a Vivi cream. Heung Sam is outside handing out flyers and making the announcement but no one goes in.
Ji Young is dining by herself at a restaurant and makes a point to take off her sunglasses and reapply her Vivi lip gloss very slowly. LOL, it’s adorable and totally works as all the ladies around her stare.
The customers start to trickle into the Vivi store one by one until there is a crowd gathered to get their free Vivi lip gloss.
Thoughts of Mine:
I’m starting to enjoy watching MK more than recapping it. It’s a different experience altogether, and as a drama watcher the very act of recapping simply adds another level of joy to the process. Right now the drama beckons me to watch like observing a painting rather than leading a discussing on the art itself. Hyung Joon and Ji Young are merely living their lives but together now rather than apart due to youthful stubbornness. Will the lip gloss take off and Vivi get a second life? Perhaps, but the bigger feeling I get is that the stakes no longer matter as much anymore. Jae Hee has a future ahead of her regardless of not winning Miss Korea and outing her paternity. Yoon keeps on raking in money buying low and selling high. Bada isn’t being taken down even if Kang Sik deserves a toss in the pig sty. I enjoy seeing all the characters talk and share, to smile and work hard together and apart. Rarely has a K-drama captured a feeling close to being effortlessly slice of life in mood but dealing with typical drama heightened situations. I’m glad Ji Young’s age eligibility was finally resolved, and this time in a definitive way rather than hinging on Kang Sik to hold his trump card and bide his time. The two Madams working together again is entertaining and the etiquette training sequence a fun diversion. It’s cute to see Teacher Jung and Dr. Ko get together so naturally and devoid of angst beyond whether she’ll go study abroad. Watching MK feels like being an adult in a room full of tweens, able to enjoy the proceedings but perhaps without that raging energy highs and lows. Like Hyung Joon said to Ji Young that he didn’t care about the ten years they were apart and she lived her own life, because she’s with him now. Such a mature thing to say, but it saps the fun of watching them bicker about their romantic foibles during their time apart. I can’t complain though, it’s still a rarity to find such a concisely crafted story told with so much heart.
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