It’s too bad that My Lovely Girl (My Lovable Girl) didn’t premiere on a Thursday because this K-drama fairly screams a perfect fit for Throwback Thursdays. There is absolutely nothing/zero/nada about MLG that hasn’t been done before and probably done better. This is the most benign and unimaginative work to arrive in a long time, yet it has one thing going for it that will either make or break this drama for each viewer. It is completely easy to watch. It’s like pressing play and for an hour there will be the exact same rigmarole that we’ve come to expect for a K-drama romance except this one has an additional cute canine. Episode 1 flew by for me in watching and recapping and barely put a dent in my thought process. Even the wide swath of bad acting, some absolutely cringeworthy and others simply not up to par, doesn’t ruin the delivery of brisk entertainment. There is the niggling feeling like Rain is babysitting an entire drama worth of youngsters to develop their acting careers rather than showcasing his own, but if this is his comeback drama in four years then so be it.
I was expecting the drama to be lovely to behold since it comes from the PD behind Scent of a Woman and Dr. Champ, but oddly even the visuals are uninspiring and the story telling herky jerky with narrative jumps aplenty. Krystal feels way more suited for her character than Rain does in this whole drama, her age and relative inexperience pairs well with her character’s career and life struggles, not to mention she does make her Candy less saccharine and more edgy. This is probably the weakest Wed-Thurs line up in a long time with MLG going up against two newly premiered dramas in Iron Man (Blade Man) and My Spring Days. You can pick your poison/treat but I’m throwing the dice with MLG for being the one that kept my attention and/or sanity intact the most. If you’re game for yet another Candy heroine, rich talented and prone to yelling male lead, unexpected death and upcoming cancer, daddy disapproval issues, clingy second female lead, wise best friends who show up just to help out the leads, and the only happens in dramas almost fell in the swimming pool but the guy catches the girl in time twirl, then MLG might be the right drama for you.
Episode 1 recap:
A couple is arguing in the car with the girl complaining about why he has to keep upsetting her all the time? The guy Hyun Wook tries to defuse her anger by suggesting that she nap and bringing up how she was the one who wanted to go see his dad. The girl So Eun plans to break up with Hyun Wook so none of this will happen again. Hyun Wook turns on the radio and then turns it off after he hears what song is playing. So Eun turns it back on and compliments the new song he wrote for the new singer in his company and how the media keeps speculating why he has something happen in the recording studios with the girls?
Hyun Woo argues back that nothing happens in the recording studios and he just met that singer he wrote the song for. It was his first time handling a new singer which is why he put so much effort into it. And to spend time with So Eun he’s put his work aside to be here. So Eun doesn’t care about this explanation and Hyun Wook accuses her of testing how much he loves her. So Eun tells him to leave then and Hyun Wook angrily gets out of the car to calm down after he pulls over to the shoulder.
A passing SUV busts a tire and slides sideways into an oncoming car. The two cars collide and then create a blockage in the road whereby an incoming truck flips over and directly slams into the parked car that So Eun is still inside. Hyun Wook tries to get So Eun out of the car as he sees the truck coming but he’s too late.
The truck hits the car and Hyun Wook manages to get So Eun out before she dies in his arms. Hyun Wook cries for So Eun to wake up but the final words she leaves with him are “We fought for nothing.”
Three years later and So Eun’s little sister Se Na is taking out the trash at her part time job. She runs into a regular stray cat in the alley and feeds it come snacks while encouraging the cat to hang in there in this tough life. Two debt collectors track down Se Na and corner her in the alley but she manages to distract them before grabbing her bag and guitar to run away.
AnA music company Director Shin Hae Yoon is walking through the backstage of a music show recording and ordering her underlings around. She gets a call from a friend who is currently at Jeju island and claims to have run into Lee Hyun Wook.
Hyun Wook is living the simply life in Jeju tending to his backyard organic garden. He plucks some fruits and vegetables and prepares a salad for a lady. She suggests he hang a sign and make it an official business since word has spread of his cooking talents. Hyun Wook isn’t interested and is even less interested when the lady tries to invite him back to her house. Hyun Wook claims to have a girlfriend and the arrival of Hae Yoon makes the lady leave thinking she’s Hyun Wook’s girlfriend.
Hae Yoon rails at Hyun Wook for leaving three years ago and not letting anyone know his whereabouts. Hyun Wook reveals he only recently settled in Jeju and likes it here. He has no desire to go back to Seoul despite Hae Yoon pointing out his music genius going to waste. Hyun Wook declares he’s given up only two things in his life, music and romance, and he plans to stick to it. Hae Yoon darts up to kiss Hyun Wook who has no reaction and afterwards chides her for being a mannerless drunk in stealing kisses after drinking.
Se Na sits by the Han River feeling sad about her plight while over in Jeju Hyun Wook stands out in the courtyard to watch the wind blow the arrival of a storm. His lights go out and then he hears a phone ringing from inside the house. Hyun Wook goes inside and opens a drawer where the ringing is coming from a shattered cell phone inside a box.
It’s Se Na calling her dead unni So Eun’s broken cell phone wishing her sister could be with her since all around her by the Han River are families and couples while she’s so alone. She wonders where she’ll go from here and what she should do? Se Na asks why So Eun left her just like that? The call cuts off and Hyun Wook looks very affected after hearing the call.
Se Na goes to her friend Joo Hong’s apartment to crash for the night and she brings a gift and compliments for Joo Hong’s boyfriend to get him to agree to let her crash. Se Na explains later to Joo Hong that she ran away from the gangsters and didn’t even get her owed salary before leaving. Se Na asks to borrow Joo Hong’s name to look for another job since the gangsters know how to look for Se Na. Joo Hong readily agrees since she can’t lend money to help out Se Na.
Hyun Wook goes to the cell phone store to ask why the phone rang last night with a call? The store employee assures him that the phone is broken and number disconnected so there is no way a call could have come into that phone. Hyun Wook goes back to his car but doesn’t plan on giving up his search and gets a woof woof confirmation from his dog to continue.
Se Na is now working at a hotel and finds a crying child by the pool being yelled at by her mom who is also arguing with the useless dad. Se Na plays a tune with the wine glasses which distracts the crying child and stops her tears. She then offers the kid ice cream and the dad gives Se Na a nice fat tip for calming his child down.
Hyun Wook hires a private investigator to look for Yoon Se Na, describing her as the younger sister of deceased indie group member Yoon So Eun. Hyun Wook goes drinking with his BFF Sung Jin and explains his search for Se Na and how she sounded in dire straights when he listened to her call. A song plays over the radio and is the one that was playing the day So Eun and Hyun Wook fought before she died. Hyun Wook has a panic attack and has to quickly leave the bar.
Se Na sits by the pool after dark and all the guests have gone inside the hotel. She hums a tune which attracts the attention of Hyun Wook’s dog. He bounds over to Se Na who kneels down to talk to the dog about how he can’t come to the pool since he has too much fur. The dog raises a paw to shake with Se Na before barking once at her.
Hyun Wook walks over to the pool and sees Se Na humming a barking tune to his dog. He walks up to introduce himself as the dog’s good friend and explains the dog’s name is Dal Bong.
Dal Bong gets up on his hind legs to paw Se Na and she leans backwards and almost falls into the pool. Hyun Wook grabs her and explains that Dal Hong must like her since it’s the first time he acted this way. He reads Se Na’s name tag which says Joo Hong and takes in her name before bidding her good night and leaving with Dal Bong.
The hotel manager is informing all the employees about the big AnA music company concert tonight at the hotel with its group Infinite Power. She reminds the whole staff to do a good job with the expected crowd. Se Na is then directed to go to the suite where a guest has asked for her. Another employee is impressed since they call the guest “doggie flower boy”. Se Na realizes she met the guest last night and her manager doesn’t seem happy about it.
Se Na reports to Hyun Wook’s suite and hears that he wants her to watch Dal Bong whenever he needs to head out since Dal Bong barks at everyone else. Se Na accepts the task and smiles later at getting to work for the doggie flower boy.
Se Na is serving out by the pool and another employee points out Hae Yoon as a director at AnA, admiring her for being so beautiful and talented. Hae Yoon runs into Sung Jin in the hotel lobby and finds her way to Hyun Wook’s suite to drag him out to lunch with her. Hyun Wook agrees but asks her to wait since he’s meeting someone.
Se Na arrives at Hyun Wook’s suite and he asks her to watch Dal Bong since he’s heading out. Hae Yoon puts tip in Se Na’s hands since they will be out for awhile.
Hae Yoon brings Hyun Wook to a restaurant he used to frequent with So Eun. The ahjumma asks about the girl Hyun Wook used to bring around all the time and can see by his expression that she mentioned something awkward. She quickly goes to get food while Hae Yoon wants to leave this restaurant. Hyun Wook refuses and explains to the ahjumma that Hae Yoon is not his girlfriend. Hae Yoon storms out and is upset Hyun Wook didn’t follow her, grumbling about why Hyun Wook still can’t let So Eun go.
Se Na is getting ready to eat a snack when Dal Bong stares at her with pleading eyes so she feeds him a few bites. Se Na asks Dal Bong what that woman’s relationship is with Dal Bong’s master? A few minutes later Dal Bong has collapsed on the floor which is when Hyun Wook comes back. He finds out she fed him a human food sausage and screams at her before taking Dal Bong to the vet.
The vet informs Hyun Wook that the Dal Bong had his stomach pumped to get the sausage out, but during the process a cancerous tumor was discovered in his stomach. The vet doesn’t recommend surgery since Dal Bong’s age is so advanced and might die during surgery. He suggests Hyun Wook to let Dal Bong enjoy his remaining days left.
Hyun Wook tearfully checks on the resting Dal Bong and remembers getting a puppy Dal Bong with So Eun. Hyun Wook later takes Dal Bong to to the same park and lets Dal Bong rest on the park bench. He calls the investigator for an update on the search for So Eun’s little sister.
Hyun Wook returns to the hotel with Dal Bong and Se Na is worriedly waiting for them outside. She is relieved Dal Bong is fine and offers to pay his medical bills. Hyun Wook is about dismiss her but then brings her back to his hotel room to offer her a job taking care of Dal Bong full time.
Se Na is surprised thinking Hyun Wook must be furious at her. Hyun Wook is but Dal Bong likes her so he has to let her take care of him. Hyun Wook has Se Na take down very detailed notes on what Dal Bong can and cannot eat as well as his daily routine.
Se Na brings various food items to Hyun Wook and he nitpicks at everything she prepares for Dal Bong and even has her pick out chicken bones from the porridge since it was meant for Dal Bong and not himself. He then has her toss it and make beef stew instead.
Se Na sits at home that night and strums her guitar to sing a ditty about that crazy bastard ordering her around all day. She then stops complaining and starts composing for real.
The members of Infinite Power arrive at the hotel the next day to the screaming throngs gathered outside. Hyun Woon asks why it’s so loud at the hotel today and hears that the idol group is performing at the hotel tonight. Hyun Woon hands off Dal Bong to Se Na and informs her that he will be back late today.
Hyun Wook’s meeting with the investigator nets him good news that Se Na has been located and she’s currently staying with a friend. He gets the address and goes to Joo Hong’s apartment but can’t bring himself to knock on the door.
The boys of Infinite Power start their poolside performance that night at the hotel while the directors of AnA watch from the VIP booth. Se Na is with Dal Bong and can see the performance from the window. She brings Dal Bong down for a walk and runs into her hotel employee unni who is complaining about all the hard work to come as the guests will surely party all night long. Se Na asks to switch jobs with her tonight so she can work the pool concert and we see Se Na slip her demo CD into the serving cart.
The concert is over and everyone goes to the nightclub to party. Lead singer Shi Woo lights up to see the arrival of Ra Eum but his face falls when he sees fellow band mate Rae Heon greet her first. Se Na arrives at the party with the drinks and starts to serve the guests.
Hyun Wook waits outside Joo Hong’s apartment until the real Joo Hong comes home and asks her about Se Na. Joo Hong claims to not know Se Na’s whereabouts and quickly runs off. Hyun Wook gets a call from Hae Yoon to meet her quickly at the hotel lobby. Dal Bong gets lose from Se Na’s friend who is watching him at the hotel.
Hyun Wook returns to the hotel and runs into his dad in the hotel lobby. He calls him President and his dad wonders why he seems to be doing well despite giving up on life. Hyun Wook assures his dad that he still has royalties to collect from old songs and doesn’t plan to live his life according to his dad’s dictates. Hyun Wook storms off and Hae Yoon tries to convince Hyun Wook to reconcile with his dad and reveals that Hyun Wook’s dad health is poor lately. There is an announcement over the loudspeaker about a missing golden retriever and Hyun Wook quickly goes to the front desk and orders the hotel staff to find Dal Bong no matter what.
Shi Woo is downing whiskey shots while staring angrily at Ra Eum dancing with Rae Heon. He finally storms onto the dance floor and drags Ra Eum off.
Shi Woo drags Ra Eum out to talk and Se Na happens to be outside so she quickly hides behind the serving cart. Shi Woo wants to take Ra Eum home but she refuses to go and plans to continue having fun. Shi Woo demands that she not hang around Rae Heon and confesses that he likes her. Ra Eum shoots his confession down flat since she’s not interested in guys who like her first.
After Ra Eum saunters off, Shi Woo notices Se Na and goes to confront her. He demands her cell phone and then checks the entire cart for a recording device. He finds Se Na’s demo CD and hears that she’s a music composer. He drags her off back to the party. Hyun Wook searches the hotel grounds for Dal Bong and finds Dal Bong’s necktie on the ground.
Shi Woo pulls Se Na on the stage informs the party guests that Se Na is an aspiring composer and puts her CD into the player. Se Na turns off the music and tells Shi Woo that her music was never intended to be heard this way. He asks if she wants to play it in a room to seduce a guy and for that gets a slap across the face. Se Na apologizes to the guests and storms off.
Shi Woo chases after her and announces that he’s Infinite Power’s Shi Woo and she’s just a lowly hotel employee so how dare she! Se Na calls him on being embarrassed that she saw him get dumped by a girl and is taking out his anger on her. Shi Woo’s manager arrives to drag Shi Woo away and apologizes to Se Na for the scene Shi Woo caused before telling her that he will pass on the CD.
Hyun Wook arrives and accuses Se Na of chasing after idols and leaving her job of watching Dal Bong. Se Na explains she had a personal reason for being here but Hyun Wook screams that he lost his dog because of her. She’s going to get fired regardless of whether he finds Dal Bong or not and is upset that he handed his dog to someone like her. Se Na asks what he means by that? That she’s not as good as a dog? Hyun Wook says Dal Bong is his family while she’s just a random hotel employee. Se Na asks why he’s treating her this way since she didn’t lose Dal Bong and didn’t feed Dal Bong anything poisonous.
The hotel manager arrives to announce that Dal Bong has been found and then takes Se N away to fire her. The manager derides Se Na for thinking she can be a composer with her lowly education and series of part time jobs. Se Na apologizes for changing jobs but asks the manager not to insult her background. The manager orders Se Na to grab her things and leave.
Hyun Wook gets a call from the investigator asking if he’s seen the little sister yet? Turns out she is working at the same hotel and using her friend’s name Joo Hong. Hyun Wook rushes to the front desk and hears from the manager that Se Na has just been fired.
Se Na takes her things and walks dejectedly to catch a bus. Hyun Wook runs after her and sees her sitting at the bus stop. Hyun Wook calls the cell number for Se Na and she takes out her phone to answer it, confirming for Hyun Wook that she’s really So Eun’s little sister. Hyun Wook doesn’t speak and just stares at Se Na who notices him from across the street.
Thoughts of Mine:
I’m so curious whether this episode worked for folks? I really clicked with me despite ticking off every cliche in the K-drama book and leaping like a hyperactive frog from scene to scene. The music was decent, the cinematography serviceable, and the acting averaging out to barely mediocre, and yet I still watched and felt the urge to recap. Diving into the story, it may be redundant central in terms of having nothing unique to offer, but still what was presented has enough hook to keep the narrative going. I felt zip for Hyun Wook’s relationship with So Eun, her death was neither sad nor meaningful since we got nothing of why their romance should matter before she bit the dust. As least she went out with a bang, literally getting hit by a random truck out of nowhere. Was it a homage to Rain and Gong Hyo Jin in Sang Doo, Let’s Go to School but without any context? Maybe.
With that said, Se Na missing sister So Eun was actually heartfelt, both in the way Krystal sold the solo phone call scene and knowing that most sisterly bonds are very touching. The problem with Hyun Wook and So Eun is meeting her for the first time when she’s in full bitch mode, I’m sad she had to die since there is nothing wrong with being a bitch, but that also means I’m unconvinced of the central reason for Hyun Wook’s three years of wandering angst. Same goes for Hae Yoon’s crush on Hyun Wook which just feels obligatory since the drama needs her to like him and play a future third wheel between the OTP. He seems as warm towards her as he is to a random hotel employee, how the heck does she sustain liking him for ten years? She’s better off remaining a successful career woman rather than traipsing around Jeju and Seoul looking for Hyun Wook to harass into doing things he doesn’t want to do.
Krystal as Se Na is mostly a spectre of a character with a Candy life and pluckiness but nothing beyond that to fill in the blanks. She really is playing Cha Eun Sang from Heirs except even more woeful since she doesn’t have a dead mute mom or older sister around. She also doesn’t quite have the dynamic charisma that is required to step into leading lady shoes and command the screen, it’s the same reason a veteran actress like Cha Ye Ryun playing Hae Yoon here never has the chops to move up. Krystal gets the lead because she’s a big name idol and I like her well enough in the past and here to accept it, but honestly she needs to work on really commanding the screen and own in the camera. That’s a big reason why Rain succeeded right out of the gate as an actor in how he blazes a direct connection with the audience through the screen.
L is so laughable “acting” here it makes his cringeworthy cameo performance in The Master’s Sun award fodder. I thought he was okay in Sly and Single Again but having a bigger role just highlights his awkwardness. But he looks the part and has good chemistry with Krystal so I can handle him going forward already dialed down the expectation of emoting properly to zero. I can’t wait until he falls for Se Na and starts moping over her since he was such an ass in their first meeting. I hope doggie Dal Bong survives the entirety of this drama’s run and succumbs to cancer only in the last episode, so far he’s the best actor by far in the entire cast not to mention the most naturally pretty onscreen. MLG is a drama lifted straight from a decade ago in the heyday of early Hallyu in every conceivable trope and perhaps I’m in a nostalgic mood because this first episode tickled my happy nodes just enough to keep giving it a chance.
Click here to watch My Lovely Girl.