Sampling and enjoying My Lovely Girl (My Lovable Girl) is a guilt-free treat for me. There’s no explanation needed for basking in warm nostalgia as this drama so breezily delivers an entire bags worth of old school K-drama romance tricks with an updated cast of players from when dramas like this were the norm a decade ago. It’s grown out of fashion, and for good reason, simplicity built on coincidences and trite obstacles ends up churning out copycats that feel like a script generated by a machine. Having not seen such a straight up classic broken man finds new purpose through a new love story in so long, it actually paves the way for an easy watching experience that continues in episode 2. It’s a treat to see the interactions between the leads straddle a nice middle road between bickering and calm conversations. Hyun Wook clearly isn’t interested in Se Na other than as an older brother taking care of what would have been his younger sister had So Eun not died and they got married. He also feels doubly responsible since So Eun’s death left Se Na adrift and struggling to make ends meet.
It’s quaint how quickly this drama pounded through all the set up from Hyun Wook’s magical phone call all the way to finding Se Na, a self-awareness that making the hows more plausible doesn’t matter in a story like this. We want Se Na and Hyun Wook to meet and kick their respective lives back into gear as quickly as possible. Even if Hyun Wook’s three year long exile feels so pointless and random since we don’t connect with how much he loved So Eun and therefore suffered with her death, what does deliver is the frisson of excitement seeing Hyun Wook slowly step back into his old life again as a music producer. It helps that there is a great baddie around trying to take his place at AnA music so Hyun Wook’s return isn’t just to help Se Na but also to right the house of his familial enterprise. Much as L is one of the worst idol actors EVER, I’m enjoying his character a lot because Shi Woo’s assholery is fun to watch butt up against an uncowed Se Na, plus he is clearly being ostracized in his group and has major insecurity issues of his own. All in all, My Lovely Girl is off to a sweet and solid start without any aspirations beyond delivering one single romantic tale.
Episode 2 recap:
Hyun Wook finds out that the girl he just got fired from the hotel is the little sister of So Eun that he’s been looking for. He finds her at the bus stop and their eyes meet but Se Na coolly ignores him and gets on the bus. Hyun Wook follows Se Na to a street stall and sits down at a nearby table to listen in on her conversation with the just arrived Joo Hong.
Se Na worries that she’ll have to run again when she hears from Joo Hong that a man came by earlier tonight looking for her. Joo Hong assures her this guy was very good looking so likely not the gangster after her. She chides Se Na for drinking on an empty stomach and hears that Se Na got fired at the hotel by a dog loving bastard. Hyun Wook’s ears perk up and looks chastened to hear Se Na describe how he ruined her chance at a steady job. He walks off while Joo Hong pours Se Na a glass of soju and asks if Se Na managed to meet Infinite Power and hand over her demo CD? Se Na says that didn’t happen either and the two girls toast.
Hyun Wook goes back to his hotel room and asks the resting Dal Bong if he recognized immediately that Se Na was So Eun’s little sister?
Se Na runs into Joo Hong’s boyfriend shirtless around the apartment and chides him for walking around without getting dressed. He’s annoyed and takes away the cucumber she was planning to eat since he bought it.
Se Na gets a job interview call back and lands a gig delivering gourmet lunchboxes for a small company. She promises to work hard hearing that the pay is high but the job is tough since the customers are exceedingly picky.
Hyun Wook brings Dal Bong and best friend Sung Jin along to check out new digs he’s acquired to settle back in Seoul. Sung Jin marvels at the nice set up with plenty of outdoor space for Dal Bong. But he’s curious why Hyun Wook is back so suddenly after being in hiding for three years and whether it’s connected to finding So Eun’s little sister? Hyun Wook reveals he found her already and warns Sung Jin to keep his return to Seoul a secret from Hyun Wook’s dad and stepmom and Sung Jin promises not to tell anyone.
Se Na delivers lunchboxes to the broadcasting center and runs into Shi Woo in the elevator. He wonders if she’s a sasaeng fan since he keeps running into her. Se Na shoves the company’s name card at Shi Woo and tells him to order lunches from there as she’s working right now. He mocks her quick retreat from her composing dreams, or is she planning to shove her CD to music companies when she’s delivering lunchboxes? Se Na turns the tables and warns Shi Woo that if doesn’t stop irritating her then she’ll spread what happened that night all over the internet.
Shi Woo doesn’t care since no one will believe her anyways, and he can immediately whitewash it even if people believe her. An AnA employee gets into the elevator and Se Na calls Shi Woo’s bluff and brings up the night of the concert at L Hotel. Shi Woo immediately cuts her off and changes the subject to delicious lunchboxes and offers the employee the name card for Se Na’s company and suggests she order from there. The other employee thanks Shi Woo for being so considerate.
After getting off the elevator, Shi Woo demands Se Na not deliver lunchboxes here anymore since she is the first person to ever slap him and he can’t stand running into her again. Se Na suggests Shi Woo stop going on variety shows so he doesn’t run into her at the network. Ha! Se Na is glaring at Shi Woo as she walks off and bumps into another employee and drops her lunchbox. Shi Woo smirks at her before sauntering off.
Hyun Wook and Dal Bong are waiting in the courtyard for Se Na to arrive with lunch and he quickly runs inside when he sees her coming. Dal Bong welcomes Se Na with happy barks and she wonders if he’s the same dog from before? Hyun Wook walks out acting all surprised to see Se Na as the lunchbox delivery person. Se Na isn’t pleased to see him and asks if he’s trying to get her fired from this job? Hyun Wook plans to call everyday and order lunches from her new job and asks her to be more pleasant when she is delivering it. Se Na makes him pay and storms off while Hyun Wook vows to take his time to get her comfortable with him.
Hyun Wook basically turns into a stalker as he orchestrates various encounters with Se Na such as offering her ice cream when she’s posting flyers and making her deliver lunch everyday. All he gets for his attention is Se Na wondering if he’s a jobless bum to have so much time? He even offers to drive her home after work but the first time he asks she has her ear buds in and doesn’t hear him so he just gives up.
Hyun Wook takes Dal Bong out to a picnic and makes Se Na deliver lunch to him. She greets Dal Bong happily but has nothing nice to say to Hyun Wook who made her deliver lunch all the way out here. He plans to enjoy the nice day out and Se Na retorts that it’s supposed to rain. Just like that the skies burst open and a torrent of rain falls which makes Hyun Wook quickly pack up and find shelter under a tree.
Se Na can’t wait out the rain since she’s on the clock so Hyun Wook wraps a towel around her head before she runs back out into the rain. He doesn’t want her to dislike him even more if she catches a cold. Se Na darts off but turns back around to see Hyun Wook wrapping a towel around Dal Bong which makes her smile.
Chairman Lee sits with his AnA directors and asks if Hae Yoon knows Hyun Wook is back in Seoul? He heard from Sung Jin that Hyun Wook is back and urges Hae Yoon to stop liking him since a guy who disappears on a girl is the worst. Hae Yoon is confident Hyun Wook won’t do it again but Chairman Lee wants her to spend more time with producer Jae Young who has been working hard on the next musical hit for the company.
Talk turns to speeding up the development process and going to London for inspiration on the new outfits. Chairman Lee even knows that Rae Heon and Ra Eum went to the Maldives and wants to make sure there is no scandal and also to keep it from Shi Won. Before ending the meeting, Chairman Lee asks Hae Yoon to bring Hyun Wook a cactus plant that he likes if she does go visit his new place. As Hae Yoon walks out with Jae Young, he’s displeased to hear the reason she cancelled their dinner tonight to go see Hyun Wook. Hae Yoon points out that Sung Jin is going to have dinner there tonight as a group so Jae Young wants to tag along since he used to be good friends with Hyun Wook as well.
Hyun Wook and Dal Bong are watching animal shows on TV which Hyun Wook thinks will cheer up Dal Bong. He can tell Dal Bong isn’t interested and Dal Bong grabs a lunch flyer and brings it to Hyun Wook. He asks if all Dal Bong cares about is Se Na? And whether it’s because Se Na is So Eun’s little sister?
Hyun Wook welcomes Sung Jin, Hae Yoon, and Jae Young in for dinner. Jae Young immediately asks if Hyun Wook plans to resume music producing and Hyun Wook isn’t sure. Hyun Wook hears that Jae Young is doing well producing hits for Infinite Power and making money for AnA, he’s like Hyun Wook was three years ago. Jae Young gets jealous when he hears Hae Yoon getting excited about what new songs Hyun Wook will produce and snarks that Hyun Wook can write sad love songs about losing a loved one. What an ass.
Hyun Wook stares at Jae Young who takes it one step further and asks if Hyun Wook has forgotten So Eun already? Sung Jin defuses the situation by dragging a drunken belligerent Jae Young out. Hae Yoon apologizes for bringing Jae Young along tonight.
Hyun Wook walks Hae Yoon home and she reveals that the cactus housewarming present she brought was Hyun Wook’s dad’s idea since he still cares a lot. Hae Yoon remarks about what a lovely evening it is and perfect for falling in love. Hyun Wook suggests she find a guy and she compliments herself as pretty and smart and perfect so why doesn’t he fall for her? She teasingly tries to hypnotize him into falling for her but Hyun Wook just tells her to sober up before putting her in a taxi to go home.
The gangsters have located Se Na again and confront her as she makes her delivery. Se Na abandons her scooter and makes a run for it. Hyun Wook is walking home when he suddenly sees So Eun walking on the other side of the street. He chases after So Eun through a series of dark alleys until Se Na bumps into him in her haste to escape the gangsters. Hyun Wook sees what is happening and outruns the gangsters to grab an exhausted Se Na to safety.
Hyun Wook and Se Na run out to a street where a man is backing up his truck. They break the man’s rear view mirror and he gets out to yell at them and doesn’t put the car on brake so the car begins to slide down the embankment. Hyun Wook and Se Na do a turn around the neighborhood and end back where the truck is sliding out of control. The truck driver yells at them to move out of the way but Se Na has fallen so Hyun Wook goes back and wraps his body around her to shield her. Suddenly the street lights break and the truck brakes magically but does end up hitting Hyun Wook. Se Na freaks out to see Hyun Wook laying unconscious on the ground.
Hyun Wook has a dreamy encounter in the field with So Eun who smiles at him before walking away.
Hyun Wook wakes up in the hospital and Se Na is relieved he’s fine. She chides him for risking his life to protect a stranger like her but he says that she’s not a random person. He wants to know why the gangsters are chasing her but she asks if he saved her because he felt bad that he got her canned at the hotel. She assures him that she gets fired a lot from jobs so he doesn’t need to feel bad. Se Na thanks Hyun Wook as they are leaving the hospital since it’s the first time someone has looked out for her like that.
Se Na goes home and remembers the gangsters warning her that they will leave today but she has 10 days to pay up otherwise it’s over for her. Hyun Wook calls the investigator to ask for further probing into the gangsters who are chasing after Se Na.
Se Na gets fired from her job the next morning because the gangsters came to her job looking for her yesterday and upset everyone. Se Na accepts the firing but asks to deliver a final lunchbox.
Se Na delivers the final lunchbox to Hyun Wook and informs him that this is her last time since she got fired. Hyun Wook wonders where she’s going to work next and Se Na teases why he wants to know? If she delivers Chinese food will he order Chinese food going forward? Hyun Wook asks in all seriousness if it’s Chinese food next time? Se Na doesn’t know since she’s got to look for a job now. She hands him a present and bids farewell to Dal Bong. Hyun Wook offers her a part time job being Dal Bong’s dog nanny. Se Na negotiates for shorter work hours and asks for 9000 won an hour but Hyun Wook gives her 20,000 won an hour.
Se Na’s first task is to bathe Dal Bong in the backyard while Hyun Wook lounges to the side. He criticizes her technique and gets up to show her how to do it. Both of them are sprayed by Dal Bong shaking his fur and Hyun Wook gripes that he’s going to send Dal Bong to the doggie groomers in the future.
The members of Infinite Power do a sit down interview where they are asked whether any members dislike each other. Rae Heon and Shi Woo, who clearly can’t stand each other, both give chummy assurances that everyone in the group gets along swimmingly. After the interview ends, Rae Heon sighs that it’s exhausting to be so careful in speaking and wants to get a drink. He suggests a place that Shi Woo counters. Rae Heon glares at him to and tells him to go to that place alone while the other two members leave with Rae Heon.
Shi Woo climbs into the group van alone and finds his manager listening to Se Na’s demo CD. His manager likes it and doesn’t think passing it along will do any good since Jae Young won’t like it. Shi Woo stops his manager from turning it off and sits quietly listening to Se Na sing.
Se Na is snacking with Joo Hong who is envious about Se Na’s great job taking care of a dog and getting paid so well. Joo Hong is worried about the gangsters threats to come back and Se Na assures her that she won’t be around long enough to cause Joo Hong trouble. Joo Hong has a great idea which is for Se Na to live with Hyun Wook since he has such a big place with all these rooms. Se Na chides Joo Hong for the silly idea that she should go live with a strange man.
Joo Hong gets really into her romantic fantasy that Hyun Wook is so nice to Se Na because he likes her. She urges Se Na to embrace this chance for her to fall for the handsome doggie flower boy which is better than winning the lottery. Se Na can’t help but smile.
Se Na arrives at Hyun Wook’s place the next morning and sees him packing things into his SUV. She thinks back to Joo Hong saying that Hyun Wook must like Se Na. Hyun Wook tells Se Na to get in since he’s taking Dal Bong to the beach. On the drive over, Se Na wonders why she has to come along and Hyun Wook points out that she’s Dal Bong’s nanny and he’s going to the beach just for Dal Bong. Hyun Wook notices Se Na staring out the window and he leans over to roll the window down.
Hyun Wook and Se Na buy some fresh seafood at the local market and the seller ahjumma lights up to see handsome Hyun Wook and compliments Se Na on her awesome boyfriend. Se Na explains he’s not her boyfriend before toddling off behind Hyun Wook.
Hyun Wook is setting up at the beach while Se Na plays with Dal Bong. He stops to stare and visions of So Eun playing with Dal Bong overlap with Se Na playing with Dal Bong. He wonders if So Eun can see this now, her little sister playing with Dal Bong.
Hyun Wook and Se Na sit down to eat and she sighs that it’s been a long time since she came to the beach despite her hometown being by the beach. Hyun Wook asks why she came to Seoul and hears that Se Na is following in her smart and pretty unni’s footsteps. But while her unni can do anything Se Na just fails at everything. Se Na reveals her unni is like both a mother and sister since their mother was never around. So when they were small they would go to the beach often to catch clams and shells to eat.
A flashback shows us little So Eun plucking a leaf and playing a tune on it for little Se Na. Now Se Na plucks a leaf and plays a tune for Hyun Wook who just watches her sadly. Se Na lays in bed that night smiling as she thinks about Hyun Wook playing with Dal Bong at the beach and how the ahjumma complimented her handsome boyfriend.
Hyun Wook gets a call to rush to the hospital and he arrives to find his stepmother taking care of his ill father. Chairman Lee is impressed Hyun Wook is filial enough to rush to the hospital after hearing he collapsed. Chairman Lee asks his wife to step out for a moment before bringing up that he’s happy Hyun Wook is back in Seoul. He wants Hyun Wook to run AnA for him as a substitute chairman while he is in the hospital but Hyun Wook declines and walks out.
Hyun Wook’s stepmother stops him to share that his dad is much sicker than he looks. He has bleeding in the brain and the doctors worry that operating on it will be dangerous. She hands Hyun Wook his father’s will which he prepared in case anything happened.
The AnA management team is having a meeting about their Chairman falling ill. Hae Yoon wants the news kept under wraps for now but Jae Young wonders about all their upcoming engagements and who will run the show? Another director suggests having Jae Young run the show in the chairman’s absence but Hae Yoon doesn’t chime in her agreement and suggests discussing it later.
Hyun Wook stands watch over his sleeping dad and thinks about how his health is in worse shape than it looks.
Se Na feeds Dal Bong and wonders where his crazy owner went so early in the morning? She notices Hyun Wook’s sweater on the chair and picks it up before bring it close to sniff his scent. The doorbell rings and Se Na opens the door to find Hae Yoon standing there. Hae Yoon demands to know why Se Na is at Hyun Wook’s house even when he’s out and hears that she’s the dog nanny. Hae Yoon wants to go inside to wait for Hyun Wook and when Se Na asks who she is, Hae Yoon doesn’t know why she needs to tell Se Na.
Hyun Wook comes home and goes inside to talk with Hae Yoon who asks Se Na to step outside when Se Na follows them inside. Se Na takes Dal Bong out to the yard and remembers now that Hae Yoon is a director at music company AnA.
Hae Yoon asks Hyun Wook to be the new Chairman of AnA while his dad is ill. Hyun Wook suggests ambitious Jae Young but Hae Yoon refuses since Jae Young is likely not to give up the position even when Chairman Lee recovers and returns. Plus Jae Young has become dictatorial lately, deciding the lead off song for Infinite Power’s new album without even a team meeting to discuss it. Hyun Wook points out that Jae Young must be confident about his decision. Hae Yoon reminds Hyun Wook that she’s worked at AnA for 7 years and knows who the company needs to lead it so she’s not asking this because she likes him.
Hae Yoon plays the new Infinite Power song for Hyun Wook to have a hear and as the music drifts out in the courtyard Se Na perks up to hear a very familiar tune being sung by a male voice. Hae Yoon and Hyun Wook both realize this new song isn’t Jae Young’s style at all. Hyun Wook thinks this song might work because Infinite Power has debuted for four years now and it might be time for a change in musical style. He’s more curious about why Jae Young’s style changed.
After Hyun Wook walks Hae Yoon out, Se Na asks to listen to the song from earlier but Hyun Wook doesn’t have a copy. Se Na reveals that the song that was just played sounded just like her song, explaining that she brought a demo CD to the Infinite Power concert at L Hotel that night. Hyun Wook sighs before telling Se Na that the song is going to be Infinite Power’s new track off their upcoming album.
Se Na immediately storms to the AnA office and bypasses the guard at the front door to confront Jae Young in the lobby. She introduces herself as aspiring composer Yoon Se Na and recites the voice over at the beginning of her demo CD. She asks if Jae Young plagiarized her song from the demo CD and Jae Young immediately screams at her for the insult that he stole her song. Se Na is sure that the manager promised to pass the CD along to him but Jae Young claims that he gets demos from all sorts of losers and he tosses them in the trash immediately. Hyun Wook arrives in time to hear Jae Young deriding Se Na as having no talent and still thinking she can be a composer.
Hae Yoon and Shi Woo arrive in time to see Jae Young insulting Se Na and ordering her to leave. Se Na turns to leave and sees Hyun Wook standing there. She runs past him out the door and Hyun Wook walks over to ask Jae Young if he didn’t sample Se Na’s song. Shi Woo pipes up that the demo CD he left in the recording room recently was in fact Se Na’s demo and Jae Young looks chastened. Hyun Wook says Jae Young likely stole Se Na’s song but Jae Young is uncowed since even if the CD was left with him there is no proof he listened to it and stole the song.
Hyun Wook says to play Se Na’s demo and compare the two, and if there is stealing then Jae Young has three choices. He either admits to plagiarism, share songwriting credits with Se Na, or write a new song. Jae Young refuses to back down since he’s the very powerful composer but Hyun Wook doesn’t care because if he ruins his reputation then it also brings down the company. Jae Young orders Hyun Wook to leave since he doesn’t work at AnA anymore so he has no right to be here. Hyun Wook asks what Jae Young plans to do if Hyun Wook isn’t just a nobody? What if Hyun Wook is the next Chairman of AnA?
Se Na wanders through town and gets a text from the gangster who is nearby and reminding her to enjoy life since she has two days left before it’s over. Se Na goes back to the Joo Hong’s apartment and packs up all her belongings to leave. She hesitates when grabbing her guitar and decides to leave it with Joo Hong. She thanks Joo Hong and her boyfriend for helping her out recently and heads down to go back to her hometown. Joo Hong runs after Se Na with her precious guitar but Se Na wants to leave it with Joo Hong as a thank you gift.
Hyun Wook calls Se Ne but she continues to ignore his calls. He bangs on Joo Hong’s door to look for Se Na but she mistakes him for the gangsters and yells at him for why he keeps hounding Se Na since she’s already paid back the principal on the debt. Hyun Woon wonders why Joo Hong thinks he’s a gangster and reveals he hired Se Na to watch his dog. Joo Hong realizes he’s the doggie flower boy and sends him off to look for Se Na who left twenty minutes ago.
Hyun Wook finds Se Na at the bus stop and prevents her from getting on the bus to leave. Hyun Wook is disappointed that Se Na is giving up just like that after what Jae Young said to her. Se Na claims Hyun Wook knows nothing about her but Hyun Wook knows her dream is to be a song writer. But she’s giving up on her dreams so easily. Se Na yells back that she tried so hard to keep working towards her dreams but every day she just barely scrapes by and has to keep running from debt collectors.
Hyun Wook informs Se Na that AnA has bought her songs and her potential as a songwriter so her debt is paid off. Se Na wonders who Hyun Wook really is and he explains that he now works at AnA as well because he’s bored of just lazing away. He grabs her bag and starts to walk off but stops in his tracks when Se Na asks outright “ahjusshi, do you like me?”
Thoughts of Mine:
I genuinely like MLG without loving it yet and that allows for a calmer watching experience. To fall in love too quickly with a drama carries much too great a risk for abject disappointment down the road. If I sustain a warm like for MLG through its run then the drama will be a solid win for me. I just wanted it to embrace its throwback simplicity and settle down to tell the tale with heart. So far it’s done that, barreling through cliches and delivering the entertainment. Everyone got better in the second episode with acting and chemistry, even if Dal Bong remains the best actor still. Rain is still going through the paces and that’s mostly because this character and story really has outgrown his britches so it’s a tad awkward watching him shoved back into such limiting work.
Krystal makes out like a bandit because it’s not asking much for her to play the stereotypical Candy and she lucks out in looking like the Candy’s bitchy nemesis so the visual disconnects helps temper the dullness of seeing her struggling and being put down all the time. Hoya is totally wasted so far while L coasts on playing a character that works great as the soon to be tamed second male lead that will angst beautifully down the road when he falls for the heroine. Even his terrible non-acting is bearable because I enjoy watching him smirk and sulk as Shi Woo. The adult supporting cast presents a nice contrast to the idol youngsters even if everyone is basically acting out token roles of unrequited in love second female lead, buddy best friend, and insecure jealous asshole rival. With the increasingly fluid directing even the most unimaginative twists and turns elicit the proper levels of engagement from the viewers and leaves me wanting to see what else happens next.
Se Na and Hyun Wook’s relationship is progressing at just the right pace for me. No romantic interest yet even if Se Na is naturally flustered a little to have a handsome rich guy suddenly so interested in helping her. Of course it’s ridiculous that she would accept a dog sitting job since she knows nothing about him and yet agreed to work in his home. What if he was a Korean Christian Grey with his Red Room looking for his Korean Anastasia Steele? Thankfully Hyun Wook is the opposite of that and has shut down his heart to hibernate in the cave of guilt. Luckily big sister and dead ex-girlfriend So Eun is less bitchy in the afterlife and is playing matchmaker to bring her boyfriend and little sister together. That means as viewers we can already dispense with the ick factor of one guy loving two sisters, this moving on had big sister’s ghostly stamp of approval and mine as well.
Se Na is way less passive aggressive and I actually like that she stands up for herself when she gets pushed to the limit. Despite how easy it was for her to storm into AnA to confront Jae Young about stealing her song, at least she put up a fight and in the process unveiled Jae Young as a flagrant plagiarist of a composer. It also conveniently gives Hyun Wook the final push he needs to get back in the game whether to do his filial duty or to help out Se Na beyond hiring her for part time gigs or stalking her at her part time jobs. I’m sure the drama is telling us Se Na is some musical composing savant with how her demo CD immediately caught Shi Woo’s fancy and made Jae Young plagiarize it. If a spirit can bring two people together and a dog with cancer can recognize the younger sister of his owner’s dead girlfriend, then I can buy into Se Na being a talented prodigy and look forward to her making it in career and love.
Click here to watch My Lovely Girl.