Material Queen Episode 4 Recap

It’s official: Material Queen is the TW-drama equivalent of Firefly. No wonder I am so taken with this drama, and so damn appreciative and protective of it. Almost a decade later and I’m still stinging with the pain of what Fox did to the crew of the Serenity, allowing one of the best shows EVER on network television to get slaughtered in a Friday night time slot with zero marketing and a slapdash explanation of what’s to come. MQ cannot find an audience because it doesn’t have a premise that is easy for TW-viewers to digest and there are no big TW-acting stars in it.

I refuse to let it go quietly into the night, because it’s just that good of a drama to be ignored. The conversations. The understanding. The barest hint of scratching the surface. This drama has it all, and sometimes I’m just overwhelmed by what I’m watching. The directing continues to be top-notch, the music is simply breathtaking in every scene, and Lynn Xiong already has my nomination to contend for this year’s Golden Bell Best Actress. I realized that my MQ recaps are getting to be as long as the one for K-dramas, and that just means this baby is the real deal in terms of meaningful dialogue and thoughts to ponder afterwards.

4 Carat:

Peter meets up with Chu Man at the casting after bringing her a change of clothes. He notices she’s sick and tries to convince her to go see a doctor instead of staying for the casting. Even though today’s casting is to showcase the onsen amenity at the new luxury complex, in actuality the models will be bathing in freezing cold water sprinkled with dry ice to create a faux steam effect. Peter says Chu Man will die if she gets into the freezing water in her current state.

Sasha sees Chu Man and wonders why she has a right to be here. Chu Man lords it over Sasha that it was just a rumor that she got frozen by the agency, since she’s been invited here. Sasha thinks Chu Man ought to sincerely reflect on her transgression in Paris and not attend a casting today solely to trap another rich man.

Chu Man notices a bruise on Sasha’s arm covered by concealer and taunts her for getting liposuction to prep for today’s casting. She tells Sasha to stop worrying about her, and pay more attention to herself. Sasha is pissed, announcing to the sniggering models that whatever she does is because she wants to succeed in becoming the Top Model, not to sleep with dirty old men. Chu Man has no ready retort for that, and she looks over at the box of dry ice.

Jia Hao rushes to meet Mai Long, who is the director for this casting and allows Jia Hao to be a set runner for the day and earn some money. Jia Hao worries that the models bathing in dry ice will suffer but Mai Long says it’s their job to suffer. They can’t bathe in real hot water because the steam will fog up the camera lens, so it has to be faux-steam.

Jia Hao and Mai Long walk into the set and run into all the models, including Chu Man and Peter. Everyone recognizes Jia Hao as the fake William Norman. Both Chu Man and Jia Hao are horrified while the other models snark at the upcoming show to be had. Mai Long says that Chu Man is the woman responsible for Jia Hao’s current fate, and he’ll make sure she “pays” for what she did to his friend.

Mai Long tells the models what the performance is required of them – they need to film for three-minutes in the freezing water and act like they are in warm bliss. All the models deliver the performance one-by-one. Peter gets Chu Man something warm to drink before it’s her turn. When it’s Chu Man’s turn, and she gamely gets into the water.

Peter notices after awhile that it’s beyond three-minutes, and Jia Hao overhears that Chu Man is sick as a dog but would rather die than not do her best at any modeling assignment. Peter tells Jia Hao that he can’t stop Chu Man from doing something she’s set her mind to, and when it comes to modeling, she would rather die than fail. Mai Long confesses to Jia Hao that he’s torturing Chu Man on purpose to get back at her for Jia Hao’s sake.

Mai Long finally calls cuts but Chu Man is so cold she can’t get out of the pool. Jia Hao jumps into the pool to assist Chu Man. She tries to push him away but finally she succumbs to the cold and collapses. Jia Hao drags her out of the pool and screams for the staff to call the ambulance.

Yen Kai Ming is playing golf and getting an update that Sasha has been selected as the spokesmodel for the new housing development. It’s also discussed that Chu Man did a great job despite being sick, but taking into consideration the scandal from Paris, it was decided not to select her because her image isn’t currently very positive.

The government official who has been pressuring the Due South Market denizens to move meets up with Yen Kai Ming. He promises that he’s gotten every piece of property Yen Kai Ming has always asked for, except the Due South property is very dicey. Yen Kai Ming reminds him that his daughter goes to an expensive private school, and if he doesn’t get him the Due South Market, then he can’t earn his commission.

Peter looks around Chu Man’s new digs and bemoans that it’s not what Chu Man described to him. Her neighbor is a chicken, for god’s sake! Jia Hao matter-of-factly says that this room was formerly a chicken shed, and the closet Peter is leaning on was a chicken coop. Peter looks comically horrified. Jia Hao thinks Chu Man’s family ought to be contacted since she’s this ill, to which Peter lets slip that she’s an orphan, what kind of family can she possibly have.

Jia Hao is shocked and Peter regrets saying it, telling Jia Hao never to let Chu Man know that he revealed her past to Jia Hao. He thinks about their past in Paris, confessing to Peter that he thought Chu Man was a shallow superficial gold digger filled with a mouthful of lies. But now….. Peter cuts him off, saying Jia Hao is correct, Chu Man is selfish. She was abandoned by her only relative at an orphanage as a child, forced to accepted the reality that people are selfish. She doesn’t think there is anything wrong with lying if it can get her what she wants. She has relied on herself her entire life.

Peter says Chu Man is a materialistic gold digger, because the brand names, the jewelry, the numbers in her bank account, those things will never betray her or abandon her. But Chu Man is not superficial at all, she is more aware of what the real world is like than either Peter or Jia Hao. Everything Chu Man does, she’s thought carefully about it. Her childhood is a regret for her, so she will not allow her life to suffer another mistake. Jia Hao understands why Chu Man hates him because of Paris, since he ruined Chu Man’s future with Chairman Wang and her modeling reputation.

Peter considers it all Jia Hao’s fault for ruining Chu Man, and forcing Peter to work twice as hard to get her reputation in the modeling industry back. Peter calls it a night since he has an early morning call. He orders Jia Hao to take good care of Chu Man as payment to Peter for what he owed him. Peter heads out, past the sqwaking chickens (god, I love those chickens). Jia Hao covers Chu Man more securely and sits there looking at her.

It’s morning at the Due South Market and Chu Man wakes up to the sound of something bubbling in her room, plus an unique odor. She sees Jia Hui and the bra auntie sleeping on her floor. She notices a pot of Oriental medicine cooking in the corner and she rushes over to turn it off. Jia Hao comes in and asks if she burned herself? She doesn’t care, she just wants it taken outside since it’s stinking up her belongings. Jia Hui touches Chu Man’s forehead and notices that her fever has broken.

The Auntie says that all entertainers expose their body parts all the time so are wont to catch a cold, and she runs down a list of body parts until she gets to the breast, and Jia Hui adorably reminds Auntie that Chu Man didn’t show her breast, it was just an accident (since Chu Man was once in the scandal rags for a boob exposing dress). Auntie hands Chu Man a very unfashionable stomach wrapper that will keep her warm. Jia Hao comes back inside with a bowl of the Oriental medicine, telling Chu Man to drink it while its hot.

The butcher comes inside with a pot of freshly-slaughter pork ribs cooked with herbs, telling Chu Man this will be great for her health. He offers to take a sip first to test the temperature when suddenly Leo comes running in bearing a fresh lobster, which he promptly slices through the neck and blood drips into the soup. Chu Man is totally horrified! Jia Hui explains that lobster blood is the King of all nutritious elements, and only Leo can slice it so perfectly that the blood will drip cleanly out.

Chu Man stands up and tells everyone to get out, she doesn’t want any of their proffered items. She hates the smell of moth balls (on the blanket they brought her) and Oriental medicine. She also wants to eat vegetarian today. She reminds them again that she doesn’t want anything from them. But Auntie says she is a family member of the Due South Market now, and how can they ignore a sick family member. Everyone walks out and Jia Hao explains to the gang that Chu Man is probably upset because she lost her casting call.

Chu Man tries to go back to sleep, but she realizes that this is the first time she’s been sick and someone has taken care of her. She gets up and drinks the bowl of Oriental medicine. Suddenly Chu Man hears a commotion outside and she walks out to find Allen’s mom berating Jia Hao. Apparently Allen changed his test music to the theme song from SpongeBob Squarepants (LOL) and she’s furious at what Jia Hao said to her son.

Jia Hao calmly says that he just wants Allen to enjoy playing the violin, rather than being forced to. Jia Hui tries to explain that Jia Hao is qualified to teach Allen since he graduated from the Paris Music Academy. Allen’s mom walks over and looks at the framed diploma and announces that while she may not understand French, she knows that the paper hanging on the wall has the word “disqualified” on it. Jia Hui argues that it’s a graduation diploma.

Allen’s mom walks out angry that her son was taught by a complete fraud. She even disparages the market as a dirty uncouth place that couldn’t possible turn out a genuine musician. Everyone is finally fed up with this condescending broad and speaks up in defense of Jia Hao. She can accuse them of anything, but she cannot accuse Jia Hao’s character and his accomplishments.

Jia Hao finally tells everyone to be quiet, and confesses that it’s true, he was expelled from the Paris Music Academy. Jia Hui is shocked and Jia Hao apologizes to his sister. Jia Hui says he ought to apologize to Allen’s mom, who threatens to sue Jia Hao for lying about his credentials. Jia Hui starts begging her not to destroy Jia Hao’s future. Jia Hui offers to get on her knees, which is when Jia Hao gets down on his knees and apologizes.

Chu Man watches everything with a shocked expression. She walks over to Allen’s mom and starts insulting her horrifically ugly outfit, wondering how someone who lives in the luxury high rise next door could possibly have such bad taste. Plus she has a very dirty mouth. Did she win the lottery or something? Allen’s mom tries to explain but Chu Man gives her the hand, telling her to stay one feet away from her sight line otherwise her horrible fashion will ruin Chu Man’s sense of style.

The market folks start laughing at Chu Man deriding Allen’s mom’s outfit. Chu Man says that Allen’s mom looks like a Christmas tree, wrapped in seawood, with holes poked in her sweater. Chu Man then explains to the market folks that the reason Jia Hao was expelled from school was because he helped Chu Man in Paris. Back in Paris, Chu Man was hoodwinked by a rich guy named William Norman. Jia Hao found out and took on a part time job to make money to help Chu Man. He was expelled after the school found out. Chu Man thinks to herself that she said pretty much the truth, with only a little bit of white lies, but it’s to do a good thing.

Chu Man says that Jia Hao was trying to protect everyone which is why he lied, and everyone agrees that Jia Hao is still their pride and joy. Jia Hao is upset and rushes back to his room. He looks at the poster of his idol Eugene on his wall, thinking back to his father’s wish for Jia Hao to become an accomplished violinist. Jia Hao cries at yet another reminder of his failure.

The market gang is sitting in the living room. Auntie starts by remembering that on the night her husband died, she wanted to kill herself, but she heard the sound of a violin playing that stopped herself. She rushed outside and saw little Jia Hao standing under the moonlight playing his violin, and he was like an angel giving Auntie another reason to keep living. The butcher remembers that on the night when he had his first kiss, it was also Jia Hao’s violin that accompanied him.

Leo remembers in ’98, when all the fish got a disease and most died, Jia Hao’s violin music somehow made the few remaining fish breed successfully and help replenish his stock. Everyone looks expectantly at Chu Man, who wonders if everyone is playing a game of truth confession and she has to be next? She doesn’t think this has anything to do with her, but she finally sighs and says that the first time she met Jia Hao, she thought she was standing at the pinnacle of her life (i.e. Chairman Wang just proposed to her), but in truth it was the lowest she ever felt emotionally.

We flash back to Chu Man walking into that bar and hearing Jia Hao playing the violin. Even though other random stuff happened since then, but that night Jia Hao’s music gave her immense comfort. Jia Hui says that it doesn’t matter if the Paris Music Academy doesn’t appreciate her brother’s talent, she’ll find him another school. If she has to sell her blood or liver, she’ll come up with the money. Jia Hao rushes in and tells her it’s not necessary. He’s decided that he’s got no future in music since it’s a small industry and he’s been rejected everywhere already.

Perhaps his expulsion is God’s way of telling Jia Hao that he’s not anyone special, he’s just an average guy. Jia Hui cries and disagrees, reminding her brother that he has perfect pitch, listening to any music once and is able to play it by memory. Jia Hui says Jia Hao is a musical genius, and his music touches everyone at the market. Jia Hao says for her to wake up, he just wants to get a job and help her pay down the debt she’s incurred for his musical education.

Jia Hao runs out, screaming that it was his dad and Jia Hui’s dream for him to become a violinist. Jia Hao goes scuba diving, Jia Hui tells Chu Man that Jia Hao went to look for their dad and won’t be home anytime soon. While Jia Hao is scuba diving, he thinks back to his childhood.

He used to cry to his dad that he wants to go to amusement parks like other kids. Dad tells his son not to be envious of others or covet their world. If he’s sad, he goes for a swim. Deep in the water, there is no delineation between rich and poor, it’s simply a beautiful world surrounding him. He hands Jia Hao a picture of a coral reef and Jia Hao tapes it on his wall.

Chu Man asks if Jia Hao goes scuba diving everytime he encounters something unpleasant? Jia Hui say it was his dad’s coping mechanism and now Jia Hao uses it to remind himself that life can still be beautiful even in the face of adversity. Chu Man is upset that Jia Hao was sold a crock of optimism as his childhood philosphy. Jia Hui says that their dad was Jia Hao’s biggest influence. Since they knew Jia Hao has musical talent, he worked everyday at the market, and on nights and weekend he would go pick up bottles for recycling, all to pay for music lessons. Jia Hui knows Jia Hao doesn’t really want to give up music, because he still feels so much guilt towards their dad.

Turns out that on the day of Jia Hao’s violin recital, he was teased by other rich kids for smelling bad because his dad picked up trash and worked at a market. We see Jia Hao’s dad rushing to watch him perform. Jia Hao decides not to perform and walks out. His dad asks him why he didn’t perform today, and says that he is here to give Jia Hao something, It’s a handwritten and signed piece by Eugene. Jia Hao doesn’t believe his dad can have such a genuine item.

Jia Hao keeps ignoring his dad, who suddenly collapses on the ground. Jia Hao rushes back to assist and tries to give his dad medicine but it is too late. Jia Hao opens the manuscript and sees that it’s a genuine Eugene signature on it. He cries and asks his dad to please get up, he didn’t mean to ignore him.

Jia Hui explains to Chu Man that Jia Hao’s biggest regret was that the last words he ever said to his dad was to tell him to “go away.” Since that day, Jia Hao has worked tirelessly to make his dad’s dream come true. We see Jia Hao finally surfacing from his dive.

Jia Hui cries that the last ten years of hard work has just evaporated now that Jia Hao has been expelled. She cries to Chu Man that she was such an idiot sister for taking his expulsion letter and blowing it up and framing it. Chu Man grabs some tissue for Jia Hui and comforts her that she didn’t know what she was doing. To make Jia Hui feel better, Chu Man confesses that for years, she pronounced agnes b. as again b. Oh Chu Man, you are priceless.

Chu Man keeps awkwardly trying to comfort Jia Hui, until finally she gets uncomfortable and wants to go back to her room. Jia Hui grabs Chu Man, saying that she can help Jia Hui convince Jia Hao to not give up the violin. Chu Man says that she doesn’t know Jia Hao that well to get involved in his business. Jia Hui doesn’t think so, since Jia Hao helped Chu Man back in Paris, and when Chu Man was sick Jia Hao was extremely worried.

He’s nice to all girls, but Jia Hui can tell he’s especially nice to Chu Man. Jia Hui asks Chu Man to please convince her brother. Chu Man refuses, until Jia Hui says that next month’s rent will be waived if she does it, which is when Chu Man immediately agrees and tells Jia Hui she’ll take care of everything. LOL, Chu Man, I can always count on you to be motivated by money.

Chu Man gets a text later that night and it’s in French. She goes to Jia Hao’s room and finds him coming out of the shower shirtless. Chu Man quickly looks away while Jia Hao impatiently asks why she’s here.

Chu Man says Jia Hui is mad but she still cooked his favorite food for dinner. Jia Hao understands that it’s always like this between them, Jia Hui loves him too much to stay mad at him. Chu Man tells him to not give up violin then. Jia Hao throws her words back at her – they ought to acknowledge the cruel reality that Jia Hao has no choice but to give up since no one is willing to hire him as a violinist.

Chu Man admits there is nothing wrong with accepting harsh reality. She shares a story about her “friend” who has had a very hard life. When she was a kid, her mom took her to the amusement park for cotton candy and toys, and then deposited her at an orphanage afterwards. The girl was unhappy growing up, always sitting in front of the window, hoping one day her mom would come get her. Finally on her birthday, which was also Christmas Eve, her mom didn’t come or call or send a card. The little girl realized her mom was never coming, and accepted it.

Chu Man says as long as Jia Hao isn’t going to regret giving up violin ten or twenty years down the line, he’ll be fine making that decision now. Jia Hao asks if the friend still sits in front of the window sill and looks out? Chu Man says of course not, the friend isn’t a masochist who likes to remember the painful memories. Jia Hao asks if the friend is happy now, since she’s locked away all her hope because she’s afraid of experiencing loss again.

Both Jia Hao and Chu Man know they are talking directly to each other. Jia Hao tells Chu Man not to let her mother’s abandonment turn her cold and withdrawn, allowing her life to be empty. Jia Hao understands why Chu Man is a gold digger, confessing that if he grew up all alone, he’d probably value the same things she does. He wants to apologize for the harsh words he said to her the other day.

Chu Man tells him to stop looking at her with that disgusting look of pity. Her life doesn’t suck, if she sold her brand name items, she’s someone with a few zeros in her bank account. Jia Hao laughs that Chu Man is clearly feeling all better now, so he’ll stop worrying about her. He apologizes for dragging her out of the casting. Chu Man says it’s no big deal, crap happens in the entertainment world, she’s just sad she missed out on a chance with Yen Kai Ming.

Chu Man suffered in the cold water and then got sick, so it’s a shame Yen Kai Ming didn’t get a chance to see her sick-queen routine. Jia Hao feels Chu Man’s forehead and asks if she’s still feverish. Chu Man suddenly realizes that Jia Hao’s concern for her is perhaps a tad too interested, and warns him that all men are attracted to her, but he needs to remember they can never ever be because Jia Hao is not a rich man. Suddenly Chu Man remembers the text and asks Jia Hao to translate, and turns out Yen Kai Ming is inviting her to a party at his house to welcome the violinist Eugene to Taiwan.

Chu Man tells Jia Hao to send a response text in French, which will make her look better if she knows more languages. He reluctantly does so, but reminds Chu Man that a rich man like Yen Kai Ming won’t like these petty tactics and will appreciate a sincere woman with depth. Chu Man unfurls the poster of Eugene which Jai Hao has rolled up, and she asks him to accompany her to the party so that he can teach her more about Eugene and also meet his idol in person.

Chu Man reminds Jia Hao that she lost the casting because Mai Long tortured her at the casting and she got sick living in his house, so really it’s all his fault she’s in this state. She teases that he “owes” her, but really she’s totally pouting adorably to get him to agree to be her date. OMG they are so cute when they are just being relaxed and honest with each other.

The next day, Chu Man and Jia Hao are dressed to go shopping. She reminds him that he is her friend who just returned from Paris as a musician and is a second generation chaebol. She looks through his wallet and finds no credit cards, and sees that his clothes are all cheap threads. Chu Man needs Jia Hao to fit the role and so they need some proper items.

Chu Man starts her lesson on how Cinderella became the princess. Case 1: dress accordingly – rich people will only give you the time of day if they think you are in the same league as them. Even Cinderella needed a dress at the ball before the prince noticed her. Chu Man and Jia Hao go shopping and she charges it all on her card.

Jia Hao asks if Chu Man doesn’t think a person’s inner beauty is the most important thing? Chu Man laughs and asks Jia Hao if he was initially attracted to her back in Paris because of her “inner beauty”? LOL, touché, Ms. Lin Chu Man. Jia Hao has no response for that.

Case 2: understand the target. Rich people are either working hard to make more money or hanging out in their natural surroundings. Chu Man takes Jia Hao to learn about fine wine and cigars so he can appear knowledgeable in the same wealthy vernacular as the rich. He simply has to know the subjects to converse it. He also needs to read the luxury magazines. Chu Man says that soirees of the rich are the perfect place to meet them.

Case 3: lower their defenses. Chu Man takes Jia Hao drinking and says the best way is to drink and socialize with the rich to lower their shields. Jia Hao says just like Chu Man disarmed him in Paris, and she concedes she did just that. Case 4: lock in your prey. The target must be identified and researched thoroughly to make sure the person is as wealthy as he appears to be.

Chu Man says she needs to all this research because the competition is fierce amongst women to be the one chosen. She takes Jia Hao to a bookstore and grabs some business books which are necessary reading to have an understanding of how the rich actually make money. They go wine tasting, where Chu Man points out that men who like different alcohols have different personalities.

Back at the Due South Market, Leo approaches Jia Hui wielding a giant knife and hands her a piece of paper, telling her it’s for her. She thinks he’s giving her a love letter, but turns out it’s a letter left by the government official promising substantial compensation if they agree to move, but warning them this is their last chance. If they refuse, they will receive nothing. Oooh, evil tool.

Chu Man is hanging out with Jia Hao in his room and memorizing facts about Eugene while doing yoga. Jia Hao reminds her that knowing facts is not the same as understanding Eugene’s music. Chu Man agrees and asks to borrow Jia Hao’s violin. She goes to grab it which freaks Jia Hao out and he yells that it’s his precious baby! Chu Man smiles and wonders if Jia Hao still wants to give up the violin since he’s so protective of it.

Jia Hao grumbles that he just wants Chu Man to be careful with it. Chu Man takes the violin and starts to play it tentatively. Jia Hao aks if she’s playing the violin or attempting to slaughter chickens? He gets up and stands behind her, slowing adjusting her pose and helping her play some notes on the violin. It’s such a lovely moment between them, and both smile as the music starts to drift from the chords. Jia Hao finally steps away as he realizes the awkwardness of the mood.

Thoughts of Mine:

What a meaty episode, without any manufactured angst or fraught with unnecessary conflict or distractions. It was an episode where the truth is fully revealed for every single character out there, allowing everyone to accept the truth and move on. Sometimes even the harshest of realities don’t necessary require meltdowns. I’m glad Jia Hao getting expelled was not dragged out too long with respect to keeping Jia Hui and the rest of the market place in the dark. It was simply a misunderstanding on their parts that Jia Hao couldn’t explain on the day he returned, but he never intended to keep them in the dark.

Now everyone knows, but it changes nothing. They still believe in his talent, they still support him, and they still love him for the kind, considerate, and determined young man he is. Oh how I love these people! Chu Man is almost completely disarmed by their kindness as well, even if she acts like she doesn’t want it. Chu Man doesn’t know how to react to people who give without asking for anything in return, because she lives in a world where nothing is free, much less love and affection.

Chu Man is the guts of this story, while Jia Hao is the heart. Chu Man gives Jia Hao the courage to pursue his dreams despite any and all obstacles, which is exactly how Chu Man lives her life. Chairman Wang dumped her, no big deal. She loses her modeling gigs, so what. She’s so damn ballsy I love her to pieces. She’s not afraid of shame or embarrassment, she’s afraid of being unable to survive in the only way she knows how. Jia Hao is all heart, which is why he’s a talented musician, he plays with his soul on the line. But the barest of failures and he’s floundering. He needs Chu Man to remind him that his goal can be accomplished.

All the side characters feel fresh and funny, with understated eccentricities that aren’t overplayed for laughs. There is a humanity to this show, almost like we’re looking at the harshest of realities but through a soft filtered lens. Peter especially is such a great friend to Chu Man, a confidante who keeps her secrets and who looks out for her, all in a non-judgmental yet honest way.

As for the OTP, I love their burgeoning friendship, which is not based on attraction or even possible love at this moment, it’s based on honesty. In front of each other, there are no lies or pretense. Jia Hao knows Chu Man is a gold digger, Chu Man knows Jia Hao is a violinist with no proper credentials. But so what? He sees the little girl inside of her that has never dealt with being abandoned by her mother, she sees the hurt boy inside of him that has a mountain of regrets and a dream he doesn’t know how to accomplish.

My heart breaks for both of them, it’s really so moving to watch Chu Man and Jia Hao smile and try to face each day with impunity. She’s going to land Yen Kai Ming, and he’s going to figure out if what his dad envisioned for him is his true calling. They have reached a détente with each other, but the more they get to know each other, the more it might affect whether they can achieve their dreams in both good and bad ways. Episode 5 looks to be a doozy, and I’m dying to watch it.


Material Queen Episode 4 Recap — 24 Comments

  1. Yayyyy. Thanks, Mrs Koala.

    Would you consent for me to share this link on M. Van Ness Wu’s Twitter account, to cheer him up?

  2. One aspect of any show that really signals quality (of direction) to me is how the secondary/background characters are handled. Several of these actors I’ve seen before — Peter, Jia Hui — but this is the first time I’ve seen those two actors really come to life. Jia Hui’s frantic reaction at the thought of her brother being sued wasn’t played for laughs; it was gut-wrenching because it felt honestly anguished. And even if Peter sometimes walks the line of the stereotypical gay-guy-in-the-industry, he also has a gentle warmth and pragmatic humor that leavens the stereotype. It really feels like they (and the other secondary characters, even ones like Sasha) are getting direction that helps them be more than just cardboard.

    Also: I should probably say this more, but thank you so much for the recaps. I think you’re right that MQ is turning into a Firefly, which both annoys me and frustrates me. I mean, even on Viki — where I can reasonably expect a decent turn-around on subtitles — this episode is still incomplete. I’m far from fluent (school was, uhm, years ago so I’m rusty), but I got so frustrated with not knowing what was being said — and tired of waiting — that I started digging into the untranslated lines myself. Unfortunately, I keep running into casual language, or borderline slang, it seems, and I end up flailing. But all around me, crickets are chirping, it feels like! (Except for maybe one or two other folks like myself, I suppose.) It’s strange; it’s like even the potential English-language fandom isn’t sure what to make of the show.

    Your recaps have also given me insight into what some of those more opaque lines were supposed to mean. (Especially the bit about “winning the lottery” — those lines were killing me, just could not figure them out.) I know SUBlimes is doing the series, but I just can’t wait. I could wait patiently for other shows. Not this one!

    One other thing: Vanness must be borderline hyperactive, I swear. Compared to the other actors (including Xiong), he’s almost always moving. The more emphatic or passionate his character gets, the more he bounces, sways, moves his hands. It’s usually distracting, but a sign an actor’s not entirely confident in his ability to emote by face/voice alone — yet then the director turned around and used that quality brilliantly, I thought, in the scene where Chu Man is guilting him into going to the party with her. His shoulder-hunching, constant movement relays his insecurity/uncertainty; he’s a reactive kind of actor, and the script lets him do the reacting (almost like the straight man) while Chu Man is the active agent. Or maybe I’m just picking up on him finally ‘getting into’ his comfort zone, in terms of where he meshes with the script. But I still suspect the director had something to do with that (they usually do).

  3. Kaigou and Denali,

    If but only you two keep me company through the entirety of MQ, then I will have at least two kindred and thoughtful spirits to discuss, ruminate, and appreciate this drama with. And that is more than enough for me. 😀

    This drama is just so brilliant, and it’s brilliance makes it odd. Just like Firefly. And it frustrates the hell out of me, that neither TW-fandom, C-netizens, and even the English blogs know how to view it. Satire on the Cinderella story? Meta-musings on the pursuit of glory and money? Just a little love story in a big dirty world?

    *gnashes teeth* MQ is about a BILLION times better than AC, which subsisted solely on Xiao Xiao Bin’s cuteness, the amazing directing of PD Lin, and the stellar chemistry of Vanness and Ady. MQ is deep, it’s thought-provoking, it’s heart-warming in a real way. AC was just another romantic drama with all the right tropes but even then the writing was shoddy. I liked AC, but MQ is in a league of its own.

    @kaigou – lovelovelove how you picked up on Vanness’s slighty shifty body language in many scenes. I think it’s acting awkwardness that is perfectly translated into his character’s deeply held insecurities.

    And I love how NOT insecure the top model Chu Man is, which is so damn refreshing. And he appreciates that about her, it’s like this reluctant admiration he has for this gold digger because he sees her for more than who she believes herself to be worth. Gah, I love them together!

    • And that she calls him on stuff! I didn’t realize how rare it is to have a female character get that, on-screen (in Eastern or Western dramas): like when she asks him if this means he fell in love with her soul, not her looks? (I scared the cat from laughing, at that line.)

      That’s another example of something I think makes Vanness better in this role than Jerry Yan, because Vanness does have some pretty natural reactive/comic timing. Jerry is… well, he comes across as being too aware of needing to look cool, so his comic timing always feels off to me. Chou can do comedy, but he comes across as too shy, too self-contained, to manage it naturalistically. Vanness comes across as dorky, a little goofy, and he’s got the beats down pat of just that much delay before he reacts. Comedy is all in the timing, and I do think Vanness is showing he’s got plenty of it, when the role needs it.

      The plus side about Firefly as an analogy? That is one seriously diehard fandom. It’s quality over quantity, just like the show that grounds the fandom.

    • I’ve been a silent lurker for ages…mainly because my drama obsessions already get the praise and devotion that they rightfully deserve and I had nothing to add to the heaps of love.

      BUT there is nothing that gets me riled up more than a show that doesn’t get the love that it deserves, and gets screwed by bad networks: Firefly, Arrested Development, Pushing Daisies…etc etc. So I absolutely had to post about MQ and it’s awesomeness. Going into this drama, I had very little expectations mainly because I was only looking forward to seeing Jerry as Jia Hao and the gorgeous costumes. Once Jerry bowed out, I decided to watch casually. Now, I’m so glad I stuck by and continued watching. MQ has one of the freshest drama plots to date. Beyond the initial premise of the William Norman body double, there is no giant misunderstanding or blindside plot device used so commonly in Asian dramas. Everyone is aware of everybody’s motivations, however blunt and unattractive. The heroine isn’t some kindhearted doormat, she’s a shark that will do whatever it takes to survive. She has goals and she is willing to work hard to achieve them, even if those goals aren’t necessarily altruistic. I love that its that trait that gets Yen Kai Ming’s attention and interest…her Machiavellian will to do whatever it takes pairs well with his own shark like tendencies. He’s onto her tricks and he appreciates her for them. While Jia Hao also sees and appreciates the real her, but for totally different reasons. He sees the lonely girl inside who rolls with the punches and makes her own path to her goals. I can’t wait to see the battle between Jia Hao and Kai Ming that is sure to come 🙂 I also love that Kai Ming is not one of those wimpy second leads, he’s an unlikeable bastard but he’s filthy rich. But ultimately, MQ isn’t about which guy gets the girl, but about Chu Man and her journey to discovering herself and meaning in her life.

      In terms of acting, I definitely think that it improves with every episode. The first two episodes were good but not solid, I kept thinking how Jerry would have been better than Vanness in the Paris scenes because he looks like a spastic, weird elf (Don’t get me wrong, I really like him, but he’s not the greatest actor) …but once they returned to Taiwan and all the secrets were revealed…he became more earnest and natural. Vanness has a tendency to overact and spaz, especially in his mv for Is This All (I love the song to pieces, but I absolutely cannot watch the MV, he is beyond distracting), but now it works in his favour . His character has more depth when he’s with his South Facing Gang/Family, and I actually felt so bad for him when his back story with his dad was revealed. Previously, I didn’t think Chu Man and him had any chemistry, but now that they aren’t hiding things from each other anymore, you can actually feel how comfortable and honest they are with each other.

      Also I love all the secondary characters! So! Much! They are hilarious, especially the butcher Jiang Bao (I loved him in Kung Fu Hustle and his mandarin is so bad! I only know it’s bad because it sounds like how I talk, with bits of Cantonese thrown in) There are so many references and meta moments with these guys, but they also have so much heart. How could you not root for these guys!?

      Koala, please keep recapping this drama…it’s definitely one of those gems that people will learn to appreciate with time. I eagerly await your comments and thoughtful insights!

      • @Hot Tea: I totally agree! I feel like we should, I don’t know, start a movement or something. Herding readers to ockoala’s recaps, okay, maybe not ethical, but something!

        In hindsight, I think the slightly-spastic approach worked, because it makes sense for Jia Hao: “omg, omg, am I fooling her, I think I am, wait, maybe not, no, I am,” kind of insecure nervousness in playing a role for which the character, let’s face it, is absolutely unsuited and untrained for.

        Now, if he’d had Chu Man’s instructions before he did the body-double, then I’d expect a great deal more suave on his part… but that jittery sort of feel worked in Vanness’ favor as well. It didn’t ‘read’ very well, because I didn’t know the character’s backstory — but now that I do, rewatching is a real pleasure because his actions come across as someone seriously in over his head (if doing his best to hide it). Again, props to the PD for pulling that out of her actors.

        And Chu Man herself is just so nuanced and well-played that I can’t even find the words. It doesn’t hurt that she’s also really well-written, but the actress herself is taking the role beyond that, and it’s a real pleasure to watch.

      • Hot Tea and Kaigou,

        A billion percent agree. Lynn is blowing my brains with her performance. The millisecond facial twitch when she realizes people at the market care about her (in their silly, doofy, decent way) which instantly evaporates because it’s ALIEN to her and she can’t process it was unbelievable to watch.

        Vanness is really growing on me, and I really felt his characters guilt both when he cried over his dad’s bike in episode 3, and now in episode 4 when he faces Jia Hui and tells her it’s not his dream to be a violinist. It is his dream, because it was his daddy’s dream. It’s as much his dream as anything he conceived on his own, because it’s a dream built out of a father’s unwavering love for his son. A love that asks for nothing in return. It’s his dream that everyone around him wants him to accomplish. Now he just needs to find the backbone to do it. And Chu Man will show him the way. So what if every single orchestra or musical institution in Taiwan turns him down. If it was Chu Man, she’d march right back and make them turn her down over and over again until they take her because of her tenacity. Or she’d devise a brilliant plot to work in her favor. Jia Hao needs to grow a pair, just like Chu Man needs to grow a heart.

        The chemistry between the OTP really went from lukewarm to thrumming in one episode. And for me it was because they became friends based on candor. I foresee the love story to build with such clarity as they fall more in love despite knowing it’s impossible for Chu Man to ever find the security within to pick a man like Jia Hao.

        I was thrilled that Yen Kai Ming knew Chu Man’s real intention off the bat, AND he’s still interested. Awesomely subversive on the gold digger trope.

        I can’t get enough of the depth in this drama. And visual beauty of the presentation is simply the cherry on top.

  4. I love this show Auntie K, it’s so good. The characters have heart and soul like I can imagine this happening in real life plus the chemistry between the two main characters awww it’s so LTM. You can genuinely see the attraction between them. I just hope that the writing continues to be great as well as the direction of the show. Material Queen FIGHTING!!!!!!!! 🙂

  5. I haven’t watched a single episode of this drama yet (to be honest, I want to wait to be finished, I can’t be obsessed with one MORE drama yet), but I do read all of your recaps, and I m ”getting” in the mood.
    Chu man is a very-very interesting characters to follow, she is the first orphan in a drama ( I do watch), who really acts that way. If she was one-more-kindhearted-hit-by-fate-self-pittied girl, who not be interesting.
    Keep recaping ! 🙂

  6. yup.. will look forward to watch this drama. I love PD Lin. her style of directing is so awesome in AC and upon reading your blog, am excited to watch this. Love your blog, Koala.

  7. Nods nods … I am also waiting for the show to be nearly thru b4 marathoning it in 1 sitting. But yr recaps are so enticing …. gahhhh….
    Thank you very muchi Koala for your hard effort and quick recaps 🙂

    • This show has no hook, i.e. no cliffhangers, which are the hallmark of K-dramas. I wouldn’t wait to marathon it because it’s like the finest whiskey. Sipping it is the best way to savor its richness and heady aroma.

  8. Don’t quite like the way Yen Kai Ming comes off on screen… a little stiff somewhat. Thought he had a better range than that… oh well.

    The tutorial that Chu Man gave on how to be an MQ (MK for him?) – reminded me of Priceless … 🙂 and how JiaHao dissed it. lols.

    And the split second shift on her face when the horde of Due South descended on her and how they call her family. It was like a silver of her hopeful young self popping out 🙂 since that’s what she had buried inside for ages. Liked how Jia Hao called her out on that. I’m glad she didn’t overdo the cold haughty bitchy image bit.

    This show reminds me of ….hearty double-boiled soups…. … warm, feels good, goes down well…. and you don’t have any guilt enjoying it.. hehe

    Hope it goes down better as time passes. 🙂 Do we know how many eps there are in total?

  9. Hello Miss Koala

    You are not along in the your love for Material Queen
    I read your recaps, and now i am totally hooked on it.
    Cannot wait for the next episode on Friday
    It is a good show, well written and well directed
    Lynn Xiong surprised me pleasantly with her acting

  10. gahh! i so totally get the Firefly reference!! i was seething at the stupidity in their decision to pull the plug on that great show!!!!!! i’m still see red when i think of how badly that show was treated!! the movie was a but a very small consolation.

    i feel like i’ve got so many dramas to catch up on these days – but im definitely adding this to my list!! plus it’s a bonus that there’re musical elements to this show, cos i’m a sucker for dramas with music in them! hehe.

    i’m hoping that the show will pick up its ratings!! (i hate anything that resembles what happened to Firefly to happen to any show!)

  11. Oh Chu man, a gold digger with a heart of platinum that she shares with no one…I love her. Half the time I want to hit her on the head and tell her money is not everything and the rest of time I want her to ‘git that money!’ Especially when she’s dealing with men who just want her for her beauty/body…twisted.

    As much as I like the current Chu man I really want to see her transformation and where she ends up. I keep searching for that elusive drama heroine who’s smart and strong, but still honorable. (To many times the smartest and strongest women in dramas are made the villain characters) Chu man is strong, but her actions aren’t that honorable so I’ll be happy to see her be more sincere with her feelings and actions, but without losing her edginess.

    I’m enjoying MQ. Excited to see where the story goes. I don’t mind Van Ness’ acting. I think he’s cute. When Jia Hao was pretending to be that billionaire in Paris I thought Chu man was gonna eat him alive and spit him out! Meanwhile he was this puppy in love and actually surprised Chu man didn’t want anything to do with him once his real identity came out!

  12. Random, but isn’t Chu man’s model manager/friend guy the same guy that played the secretary from Fated to Love You? He’s hilarious and I love him!

  13. This is the only TW drama that I’m looking at now. It’s my first one. I tried watching Mars and Hayate, but it’s only MQ which has managed to catch my attention. But I think I’ll wait until they show/sub a couple more of episodes, because I think I’ll understand it better than compared to watching it raw.

  14. Soooo @#$% GOOD!!! I’ve slept over it and still in a befuddled disbelief, a VERY ecstatic/not safe for Playground one.

    I feel bad describing this as a Cinderella/GoldDigger Fairytale with blings to my Mom, it’s many depths and breadths more, even the locks on those designer bags have their own endearing backstory! I wanna hide in my shallow shameful hole when 4 short weeks ago, I set my mind droolzing over sparkles and CLOTHES!

    I’m still having problems with Vanness’ ‘acting’, allergy is stubborn, not really enough for a proper rant, but I can’t appreciate. Good thing: I’m fangirling MissPD even more with how she has all these tricks up her talented sleeve to make it a non-issue. It’s brilliant Vanness’ JH the Hot Catch, it’ll just put him in overdrive for trying harder…ie more spastic (so spot on, HotTea!! lolz) It’s sweet and thoughtful many of you can extrapolate the jitters as working towards JH’s awkwardness or insecurities when we unanimously agree it’s an actor unsure(or clueless, meanieme) of what to gesture and is jumpy at cue it’s his time to say lines. I just can’t suspend the belief an award winning classically trained concert violinist has these uncontrollable mannerisms (and the time and proteins to maintain those fine bulging biceps/chocoabs) I do not follow Vanness, though I just checked and can still sing the entire Meteor Rain *sigh*, is his game hiphop?

    I’ve been enjoying the steady brewing of our OTP, there’s no need of any more romantic chemistry earlier on, not that it’s without sparks and shadows of it barefoot on grass and how they hit it off that night, it’s not a Romance they tangoed. I’m still in pleasant shock at the trajectory, isn’t it sth they have boated, ONS to be exact! THEN that’s what conflicts r spun out of so seamlessly, before we’re back to the getting to know game. And now they r developing a, frank, honest friendship with that simmering undercurrent of their history that is not a bit forced, and nobody is faking anything, they know exactly what page he/she and the other party is on. Shxt’s happened, they deal with it (mostly the pragmatic CM way with sprinkle of feelings inspired by JH)

    Sweetie, you are ringing the Golden Bell already?!?!!?!?!? I can’t agree more, but don’t they award these biggies to winners of popularity? Can we have a Golden Koala Award here just to be sure our girl will get her bling?!

    Lynn!!! I’ll have a hard time after this drama ends to part with seeing her onscreen. I cant credit the natural force she’s on skills and techniques coz I don’t see any trace. All I know is considering how alien-ly gorgeous supermodel-ly she looks, she is able to make herself one of the Due South gang towering a head above them when the scene calls for it and be any normal girl/b8tch. There’s one fleeting moment of her CM that had me head-over-heels by surprise…when she’s peeping through the wall, to a view of JH eating a lovingly home-cooked meal just like his every dinner, sth she’s never seen, can’t imagine the taste before. Lynn gives me the curious bewilderment, the wide-eyed awe (opposite of the HYS/KTH tm) of an inquisitive child seeing a panda munching on bamboos for the first time with just the right intrigue and a tilt of her head. It’s not even half of a second, but it made me emotional.

    Yes, I would pack and room with CM so I can be near every one of them precious Due South Clan. Some made me laugh just by their sight, thanks to Stephan Chow /ShaoLin Soccer, often I teared up while smiling and awwwing this episode. After couple of these tissue moments, I smart up, after the 10th word or so, sth will hit me in my guts and I’ll need my box. The delivery is not sensationalized, the music may be hammering it in, but what these characters r saying r unembellished, not verbose, nor waxing poetic. The lines have so much thoughtful, endearing heart. I was ready to enjoy them as lovely cartoon characters and now they r breathing, caring friends. We all have an Aunt/Mom/Grandmama saying the same thing about catching a cold fr body parts exposed to air. And I have a hard time pronouncing Agnes B. :))))

    And how the Pretty (Wo)Man scene works in so many levels!!! We can see how CM’s gears shift in her fascinating pretty head and we have her playing dressup WHILE dressing him up. The scene has a subtlely, clever but not too self-aware of its own brilliance. So not a Hongsis! This is how I like my meta-ing done.

    I haven’t praised Miss PD enough because my words are failing me the worst in this dept. I sat through that glowing trance-like tutoring scene without a second not singing hymns and praises to her how easy this can go stale-cheesy fast, instead, I was swept off my feet, visually attested, revisited that similarly lit, lovely caressing embrace+kiss in Paris sunset on that grassy lawn of chateau as our OTP rekindled the magical spark that started this all.

  15. Did anyone watch episode 5 yet?! It’s so good! No spoilers, but I love how they don’t beat around the bush in this drama. Vanness has really upped his game…I really felt his emotion this time around.

    @ Lynx: Yen Kai Ming does come off pretty cold, but he’s super intense and knows what he wants! Especially in this episode…Oh dear, I fear I might be coming down with second lead syndrome for an entirely inappropriate guy. But I highly recommend everyone watch the BTS for episode 5, it was mainly Chen Xiao Dong aka Yen Kai Ming…and he’s such a goof in real life. He’s so adorable! Total contrast to his onscreen character… he was saying how tired YKM makes him because he has to look cool and scowl all the time in order to hide his natural babyfaceness. Awww…The BTS also has some good beats that show how hard Vanness works at his acting…I’m appreciating my spastic elf just a little bit more now 🙂

    • Hahaha, he’s less spastic in ep5 (I’ve been paying attention!) but boy, does he show some real nerd qualities. I mean, it makes sense, if you’ve studied one art form most of your life, you’d develop some nerdiness in that focus… but Vanness seems so unselfconscious about his geeky discomfort that I can completely believe he’s really just a music dork. I mean, we talk about “shallow” as a pejorative, but in a way, both characters are shallow — they wear their hearts on their sleeves, and they’ve both been long-time focused on single goals. Which is to say, the story seems to be using Jia Hao’s kind of shallowness (single-goaled exclusivity) to illustrate that Chu Man’s kind is equally valid; it’s just that she’s been using a different kind of instrument.

      • Oh good point! I didn’t really think about his awkwardness in relation to his whole musician status…he probably had limited interaction with females his whole life except for that childhood friend and his sister. No wonder he was totally blown away by the glamorous Chu Man when they first met. Things make more sense in retrospect…it’s nice to think that JH’s twitchyness can be attributed to an underlying reason than a case of serious overacting. Although it’s likely to be a mix of both.

        Also, interesting comparison of their superficialty…hmm food for thought…

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