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Even though I’ve been an avid K-drama fan for over five years now, I just got around to watching my first drama special last year. So far, I’ve only seen two. But I really liked them both so I definitely plan to watch some more in the upcoming year. Call it a New Year’s resolution if you will. The good thing about drama specials is that they are really short so recapping a “series” is pretty easy. That’s why I’ve decided to recap the two-episode Korean drama special Hope for Dating in the midst of the current regularly scheduled recaps. I found this one particularly cute and endearing, and it has the happy distinction of featuring Im Si-wan, who ended 2014 with a breakout role in Misaeng. Enjoy!

DRAMA INFO

Title(s): Anticipate Love, Hope for Dating, Hope for Love, Looking Forward to Love, Looking Forward to Romance, Waiting for Love

Starring: BoA, Daniel Choi, Im Si-wan and Kim Ji-won

Original Air Dates: September 11, 2013 and September 12, 2013

Broadcaster: KBS

Episodes: 2

EPISODE 1 RECAP

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It’s raining outside and a woman wearing rain boots and a poncho walks into a restaurant. She’s carrying a pail and walks up to a couple enjoying their dinner as ominous music plays. It’s Joo Yeon-ae (BoA) and she unceremoniously plunks the bucket (of live octopus) on their table. Her face is obscured and they have no idea who she is until she pulls the hood down to reveal her face. Then the guy at the table gasps—it’s his girlfriend.

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She’s remarkably calm as she points out he only treats her to octopus, but he buys lobster for another woman. He pretends he doesn’t know her, yet he asks her to go outside to talk. She’s totally not having it though. She grabs an octopus and throws it at him. It hits him squarely in the face. That’s followed by another and another until she finally turns to his date and asks her what she likes about him. It must be his style, she says. If so, she understands, especially considering he’s wearing the clothes she bought him.

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She grabs him by the collar and demands he take off the outfit she bought.  With the situation getting out of control, the wait staff intervene and try to pull her away. They’re not much help though. Her boyfriend falls to the floor, sending the pail of octopus to the ground as well. Yeon-ae continues her assault, and the camera pans out to reveal that a patron is recording the whole sordid affair.

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Unbeknownst to Jeon-ae, the ‘Octopus Girl’ video goes viral. She’s mortified when she finds the instructor at a dating skills seminar using the video as an example of what not to do. Luckily, you can’t see her face in the video so no one knows it was her, but her best friend Kang Do-kyung (Park Jin-joo) looks at the video curiously and thinks she’s seen the back of that head before.

When the instructor, ‘Pick Up Artist Philip’ (Oh Jung-se) says Octopus Girl’s problem was that she was too obsessed, she can’t help defending herself. She asks why he’s accusing the victim of being the foolish one. She doesn’t see anything wrong with pretending to like octopus because the guy you’re dating likes it, or holding onto someone you love, or even using your heart instead of your head to buy clothes for the guy who wouldn’t buy you lobster.

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Philip gets tongue-tied trying to think of a reply to her rant, but another student in the back of the class says what she’s describing isn’t love, it’s abuse. It’s Cha Ki-dae (Daniel Choi). He says she’s the bad guy because she tried to force another person into accepting her love out of gratitude for the sacrifices she made. The guy probably wasn’t a jerk to begin with either, he adds, because men change based on how women treat them. Yeon-ae vehemently disagrees, but she catches herself when she sees everyone staring at her. I’m not sure how no one has figured out she’s Octopus Girl yet, but this is dramaland so let’s just roll with it.

Philip uses her passion to solicit the students to join his service. For a monthly fee, he’ll show them how to get and maintain a long-term relationship. He’ll teach them face-to-face or, if they’re too embarrassed to reveal their identity, via text.

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After class, Do-kyung signs up for a dating consultation subscription with Philip. Yeon-ae thinks she’s pathetic and shouldn’t waste her money, but Do-kyung ignores her.

Philip and Ki-dae walk out of class together too. Ki-dae marvels that people fall for Philip’s spiel, but Philip’s phone pings and he shows Ki-dae he has a taker already. It’s a subscriber with the username Yeonae, which means dating!

Outside, Do-kyung says she actually used Yeon-ae’s phone to register for the dating service. She has figured out Yeon-ae is Octopus Girl and says she only asked Yeon-ae to the lecture to help her out. Do-kyung has no need for a dating consultant. In fact, she has a boyfriend but has kept it from Yeon-ae all this time.

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Just then, Do-kyung’s boyfriend pulls up. He waves at the girls as Yeon-ae’s jaw drops to see it’s one of the men she rejected on a past sogaeting.

Meanwhile, Philip and Ki-dae make it outside too. Apparently Ki-dae only came to the lecture to borrow money. Instead of lending him money, Philip puts him in charge of the dating service’s virtual subscriptions. Ki-dae tries to demur, but Philip hands him the phone and drives away.

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On the subway heading home, Yeon-ae and Ki-dae sit across from each other staring at their phones. Yeon-ae sees another passenger watching the Octopus Girl video (and laughing) and she thinks everyone on the train knows she’s the girl in the video. She hurries off at the next stop and leaves her phone behind. Ki-dae goes to pick it up, but someone else is faster.

It’s Jung Jin-gook (Im Si-wan). He grabs the phone and takes it to Yeon-ae. She thanks him and turns to leave, but he calls her by name. She finally looks up and he shyly introduces himself, reminding her that they’re in the same club at school. It seems like he has a crush on her too! But she’s so self-conscious she rushes away before he can start a conversation with her.

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Ki-dae goes shopping with his girlfriend Choi Sae-rom (Kim Ji-won). She picks out an expensive dress and wants him to buy it for her. She tells herself the dress is for his sake, not hers, so she will look good when she meets his friends. He tries to dissuade her, but she sweetly reminds him she brought him a brand name shirt and the dress matches it. A salesperson comes over and gushes over how considerate of a boyfriend she has and Ki-dae breaks down and buys it.

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Afterwards he goes to his favorite blood sausage stew restaurant.  Yeon-ae is at the table right behind him. (Apparently, she’s a fan of blood sausage stew too.) He looks over at a couple at another table and flashes back to when he sat at the same table with Philip. He was sad over a recent breakup and declared he never wanted to love again. He’s still staring at the lovey-dovey couple when he gets a text message. It’s an alert from his credit card company about the dress he just bought. He sighs as he says to himself dating is really expensive.

When another text comes through, he looks around in confusion. It’s not his cell phone. Then he remembers the cell phone from Philip and checks it. There are a slew of texts from clients with pleas for advice on their love lives. He decides he may have to take Philip up on the job offer to earn money to pay his credit card bills.

One of the texts catches his eye. It’s from Yeon-ae, who declares she doesn’t want to love anymore. From now on she just wants to date instead of focusing on love or a long-term relationship. He thinks back to the lecture and asks if she’s really the Octopus Girl. She’s horrified and doesn’t respond so he guesses he’s right.

The next day, their lessons begin. The first lesson is Chapter 1: Taking stock of the potential men around her.

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She finds prospect number one right away when she collides with Jin-gook on the stairs outside of a building on campus. Ki-dae advises her to take a logical approach and gather data on him so she takes a long look at Jin-gook. He’s still holding onto her from when he caught her to stop her from falling. He awkwardly releases her and stares at the ground. Yeon-ae surprises him by asking if he wants to grab lunch. He’s so adorkably cute as he looks around a bit and wonders if she’s talking to him.

Ki-dae texts that she should play hard to get and let the man make the first move, but Yeon-ae seems to be doing just fine without him. After he texts Yeon-ae, he meets Sae-rom for a date and they end up at the same restaurant as Yeon-ae and Jin-gook. Thus, Ki-dae moves on to Chapter 2: Seeing what the other person is like.

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At lunch, Yeon-ae and Ki-dae surreptiously text each other under the table. Yeon-ae wants to know what she should do next. He says she should just enjoy the meal, but she insists there’s something he should be able to tell her. He finally texts back that she needs to be herself while removing some of the less attractive aspects.

Unattractive aspects include: (1) Letting the man pay but asking for reward points to go on your card, which we see Do-kyung do when her date pays for their meal; and (2) going dutch after a meal, which Yeon-ae does when she and Jin-gook go to pay their bill.

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Apparently, Sae-rom is the only one who gets it right. She nonchalantly lets Ki-dae pay then offers to treat him to coffee later. According to Ki-dae, letting the man pay is about assuaging his pride (excuse the gagging sounds, that’s just me puking a little at the antiquated notions he’s spouting, but forgive me, I digress).

Later when Ki-dae introduces Sae-rom to his friends, she sweetly feeds him fruit and gushes over how well he treats her. Ki-dae narrates that saving a man’s pride in front of his friends is another plus. He’ll feel like he could probably even give up his life for you. (Note the use of the word “probably” . . . ijs.)

Yeon-ae has another dating fail when she embarrasses Jin-gook in front of his friends. She takes a shot for him when he loses a drinking game. He thinks she’s cool, but it totally deflates him.

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Ki-dae tells her to move on to Chapter 3: Push and Pull. She claims she’s an expert at the push-pull game, but she fails again when Jin-gook asks if they should leave together after studying at the library. She cheerfully agrees, then immediately puts her books away to head out.

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Sae-rom shows us how it’s done though. She makes Ki-dae wait for her outside school. When he offers her a ride home on his bike, she poutingly points out she’s wearing high heels (to look good for him) and her feet hurt. He ends up sending her home in a taxi instead.

In the meantime, Yeon-ae and Jin-gook make their way to the subway. Yeon-ae is still leery of taking the subway and she lies that she bikes to and from school for the exercise now. Jin-gook excitedly invites her on a bike ride. She readily accepts and looks pained when she realizes she failed again at the push-pull game.

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She also doesn’t actually know how to ride a bike, hence it’s time for Chapter 4: The Reality. She crashes to the ground before she can move two feet on the bike. Jin-gook rushes to help her up, but he happens to stand in front of her as he tries to pull her to her feet, and she gets a full view of his crotch. This is made even more hilarious because Jin-gook is in full riding gear, i.e. tight spandex with a jock strap. She cowers back to the ground to avoid the sight. Jin-gook thinks she’s just embarrassed because she doesn’t know how to ride a bike and offers to teach her.

As expected, the bike riding lessons don’t go well. Jin-gook is absolutely determined to succeed, but Yeon-ae quits after falling one too many times. She returns home that night dejected. She thinks she should apologize, but Ki-dae insists she shouldn’t ever apologize. He predicts Jin-gook will call first. Within moments, Jin-gook calls and Yeon-ae primps in the mirror before going down to see him.

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A fresh-faced Yeon-ae greets Jin-gook outside her house. Jin-gook smiles dopily at her and slurs hello. He’s been drinking. He needed liquid courage to apologize for the biking debacle. He also admits he doesn’t know about dating. He always ends up in the friend zone when he likes a woman. He thought about getting dating advice because he’s mastered everything else by studying hard. He figured he could master dating too. But he was inspired by her defending the idea of loving with your heart instead of your head and wants to date like she does. In fact, he wants to date her.

His confession jumpstarts their relationship. She sends a smug text to Ki-dae, but he knows the real power struggle has just begun. It’s time for Chapter 5: Progress.

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One night after a date, Ki-dae and Sae-rom sit on a park bench making out. He’s obviously more into it than she is. When he gets too touchy feely, she claims she wants their first time together to be special and not just because they got caught up in a moment. Ki-dae pretends he agrees with her, and he advises Yeon-ae to play the game similarly and regulate the distance between her body and Jin-gook’s.

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As she and Jin-gook take a stroll in a park, Jin-gook clearly wants to hold her hand. Ki-dae tells her the one who leads the progress of physical affection has the most power in the relationship. So when Jin-gook finally musters the courage to take her hand, she chooses that moment to flick her hair back and show off her neckline. Jin-gook salivates at the sight of her skin and Yeon-ae uses his momentary distraction to make a move. She interlocks their arms and holds onto him as they walk.

After their date, Yeon-ae is so into her text conversation with Ki-dae, she doesn’t realize she’s gotten on the subway. She finally looks up from her phone and realizes her mistake. She texts Ki-dae in a panic, and he helps her calm down by telling her to focus on when she was texting him and didn’t feel alone. Then he sends her a song and they imagine they’re standing next to each other sharing earphones.

Do-kyung notices the changes in Yeon-ae and observes that it looks like the dating consultations have yielded positive results. She asks why Yeon-ae never mentioned Jin-gook. Yeon-ae says she didn’t say anything about him because she thinks he’s kind of ordinary.

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Sae-rom calls Ki-dae ordinary too. She’s with her friends waiting to introduce him to them. He hasn’t arrived yet and, while they wait, Sae-rom tells them she likes that his family is lacking compared to hers. She won’t have to be subservient to her in-laws and her higher status gives her just enough room to voice her opinions and live comfortably. Ki-dae arrives outside the private room and hears her. He pauses outside the door, but a waiter happens to open it just as they are wondering where he is. He’s flustered at first, but he recovers quickly and enters the room.

Jin-gook is at lunch with some of his (female) friends too. They’re fawning over him as Yeon-ae and Do-kyung watch from afar. Do-kyung explains that not only is Jin-gook a dental major, but he’s also ordinary-looking and nice so it makes women feel comfortable approaching him. Hence, he’s an irresistibly good catch.

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Yeon-ae finally gets an inkling of what she has, and Jin-gook spots her and waves her over. She’s in for a little cattiness from his friends though. One of them comments on her being older than they are and another one implies she’s changed her major to husband hunting. She knows they’re basically calling her an old gold digger, but she smiles it off and continues eating.

She texts Ki-dae to ask why the girls are suddenly interested in ordinary Jin-gook now that she’s dating him. He’s in no mood to hear her calling Jin-gook “ordinary” after what he just overheard. He writes back in defense of the ordinary guy and she wonders why he’s so mad.

She gets distracted though when she sees one of Jin-gook’s female friends approach him and ask him to go clubbing with her later. It’s so noisy she can’t hear his response, but she grows suspicious when he turns down her invitation to see a movie later that night.

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Ki-dae tells her to trust him, but Yeon-ae hasn’t quite jumped onboard the idea of fully trusting a man. So she dons a scarf and follows Jin-gook. She loses him near a club and just so happens to see a few of his friends heading inside. She goes inside too and sees him hugging his friend. She pulls them apart and starts yelling, but when she sees his face she realizes it’s not Jin-gook.  She’s mortified and pretends she’s there just to hang out. His friends, of course, don’t believe her.

Jin-gook is actually with Do-kyung at a nearby restaurant. He wants advice because it’s his first time dating and he’s insecure. He also feels Yeon-ae isn’t open with him and complains that she’s always on her cell phone when they’re together.

Meanwhile, at the club Yeon-ae slinks away before Jin-gook’s friends can dig too deeply into why she’s there. When she leaves, we learn they’re actually there to meet Philip. They’ve registered for offline, on-the-scene dating advice.

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Yeon-ae berates herself for going overboard, again, as she leaves. Or at least she starts to berate herself. She stops when she spots Jin-gook and Do-kyung across the street at a restaurant. She immediately starts texting Ki-dae for advice.

Inside, Do-kyung tells Jin-gook it will be hard for Yeon-ae to open her heart because she’s been hurt in the past. Yeon-ae heads into the restaurant to confront them, but Ki-dae texts back and reminds her there may be a perfectly reasonable explanation for them being together. She decides to find out the truth before she reacts and calms down enough to approach their table without saying a word.

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Jin-gook and Do-kyung are shocked to see her and nervously explain that Jin-gook asked to meet because he wanted advice. Yeon-ae manages a small smile and thanks Do-kyung for listening to Jin-gook. She says she understands there may be things he can’t talk to her about and tells them to finish their conversation as she’s there to meet someone too.

As she leaves, she texts Ki-dae that doing things his way wasn’t so bad. She’s still outside the restaurant when she happens to see Philip walk by. She runs after him and introduces herself as Yeon-ae, the Octopus Girl. He has no idea who she is, of course, but he’s excited to meet the Octopus Girl in person and offers to help improve her dating skills.

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It sinks in that she’s been texting a stranger all this time just as she realizes Jin-gook is standing behind them. He heard everything they said and is shocked to learn she’s the Octopus Girl. She’s so devastated by everything that just happened she runs away.

Ki-dae realizes Yeon-ae knows about his duplicity when he gets an excited phone call from Philip, who tells him he just met the Octopus Girl in the flesh. Ki-dae rushes to the scene and sends text messages pleading with Yeon-ae to tell him where she is. He asks to meet and says he’ll explain everything, but she refuses. He may know her, but she has no idea who he is, she points out. After all, he was deceiving her this whole time. He insists the advice he gave her was sincere, but she’s not swayed.

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Ki-dae ends up outside a club looking around for Yeon-ae. Sae-rom happens to come out of the club with her three friends, and four boys. It certainly looks like they’re on a group date of some sort. Ki-dae tries to take his own advice and not assume the worse before he finds out what’s going on, but Sae-rom doesn’t help the situation. She says she was just dancing and tells him if he loves her, he would understand. Then she pouts that he embarrassed her in front of her friends. He’s not having it though and yells that of course he’s mad in a situation like this.

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He goes to a park and sits on a swing wondering who he’s really mad at: himself or Sae-rom?

Yeon-ae is on the swings at a different park. Jin-gook finds her and sits down beside to her. He brings up the Octopus Girl video and is mainly upset because she never showed that side of herself to him. He thinks she doesn’t love him enough, but she explains she wanted to do better in their relationship. We flash back to his conversation with his female friend outside of school. She’d invited him to the club to meet Philip to get a dating consultation. He’d turned her down because he wanted to be more like Yeon-ae and follow his heart. Yeon-ae asks if he really wants to be like her and she admits she even stalked him because she’s already obsessing over him.

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This perks Jin-gook up. He looks at her in shock. Yeon-ae thinks he wants to break up, but he kneels in front of her and grabs her into a hug. He thanks her for obsessing over him and for liking him that much. She asks if he’s scared of her getting too attached, but he admits he obsesses over her too. Then he kisses her.

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Sae-rom finds Ki-dae at his park. She walks up to him and kisses him. Then she admits seeing him mad reassured her because he never showed emotion before. She apologizes and says she thinks it’s time for them to define their relationship more clearly.

Jin-gook finally pulls away from his kiss with Yeon-ae and asks if they should go on a trip. Sae-rom suggests the same thing to Ki-dae. She says she needs certainty and asks if he can give that to her.

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Yeon-ae goes shopping with Do-kyung to prepare for the upcoming trip. Do-kyung supports Yeon-ae going away with Jin-gook, but she declares she’d never sleep with a guy before marriage. Lest we think she’s really virtuous and pure, she declares that her virginity is just to ensure she snags the right guy. She’ll trade it in for the high price of getting married, then she’ll start sleeping around. (Because that’s how it should be, I guess?)

Yeon-ae wonders if she should go away with Jin-gook. Doing what she feels doesn’t usually end well with her so Do-kyung suggests she ask Ki-dae for advice. After all, her subscription hasn’t expired yet.

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She thinks about it over a bowl of blood sausage stew. Ki-dae is at the restaurant too. He wonders what ever happened to Yeon-ae just as she admits to herself that he was never wrong when he gave her advice. They both sit contemplating texting each other, but ultimately both of them put their phones down and get back to eating.

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It’s on to Chapter 6: Dating. The couples travel to the resort for their mini vacation. When he arrives, Ki-dae peeks at his friend location app and sees that Yeon-ae is nearby. He looks around the hotel courtyard wondering which couple is Yeon-ae and Jin-gook. They actually walk past him as Sae-rom ushers him into check in.

In their room, he claims he has to use the restroom so he can text Yeon-ae. He thinks she finally failed at the relationship, but she responds that they used their hearts instead of their heads and are happily dating. He tells her not to sleep with Jin-gook, and she asks why she should listen to someone she doesn’t even know. He says she can get to know him from now on and asks her to meet. She uses her location app and discovers he’s at the same resort, and they agree to meet at the lighthouse later.

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She’s back in the bathroom by then and she jumps when Jin-gook knocks on the door. When she walks out, she sees he’s decorated the room with rose petals and candles. There’s a big heart-shaped candle display in the middle of the floor too. She reels from the cheesiness of it all (but I think it’s cute).

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In his room, Ki-dae tells Sae-rom to wash up and he’ll be right back. She comes out of the bathroom before he can leave though. She’s wearing a negligee and poses seductively in the doorway. He stares at her as Yeon-ae continues to stare at Jin-gook in her room.

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MY THOUGHTS

I must be just as screwed up as this foursome because even though it’s clear they’re all headed straight for disaster, I couldn’t help liking this episode and looking forward to how this series will wrap things up in the finale.

My favorite character is Jin-gook because he’s the least jaded of the bunch.  But the fact that he’s so innocent makes me hurt for him more.  He has the furthest to fall when the truth finally comes out.  He’s misguided, but sincere, so I hate to see him mixed up with the other three who can only be described as cads, albeit with different symptoms. 

Although the show is certainly portraying Yeon-ae as a sympathetic character, it’s clear she’s just not that into Jin-gook.  Instead of stringing him along, she should tell him how she feels before things get out of hand.  I mean, what kind of woman scoffs at candles and rose petals?  Even if it wasn’t her thing, couldn’t she have tried to appreciate the effort instead of giving him the stink face?

As for Sae-rom, I almost hate to even bring her up.  She’s so clearly written to be disliked that I almost resent the fact that I dislike her.  And I know we’re supposed to feel for Ki-dae, who has fallen within the grasp of a manipulative, selfish princess, but I can’t muster up much empathy for him either.  He’s supposed to be a dating expert, but not one interaction with Sae-rom showed he knows how to do anything other than be a doormat.  I certainly don’t fault him for being drawn to a warmer person like Yeon-ae, but that doesn’t change the fact that what they’re doing is wrong. 

But I don’t want to get bogged down on the skewed moral compasses of the characters.  That’d take too long and this post is long enough.  So I will focus on what I liked about this episode:

  1. Octopus Girl. That opening scene brought back so many memories of myself and my friends and the crazy things we did for love back in the day. No, we never made public spectacles of ourselves.  Luckily we were too sensible for that.  But committing our faux pas in private doesn’t make Yeon-ae’s plight any less relatable.  I remembering ruining a nice dress and my brand new Steve Madden sandals trying to stop a friend who decided to spy on her errant boyfriend.  Apparently, chasing a runaway car down the street in strappy sandals is a no. In the interest of protecting her piracy, I will say no more, but “Ann” if you’re reading, I’m still salty about those shoes.  Probably as salty as the taste of octopus in cheating boyfriend’s mouth.
  1. Stalking-friendly Jin-gook. I couldn’t have been the only one thinking he’d gone off the rails when he got excited to hear Yeon-ae had followed him.  It wasn’t supposed to be a funny moment, but I couldn’t help laughing.
  1. Jin-gook’s adorkable shyness.
  1. Jin-gook’s drunk night-time confession.
  1. Jin-gook’s heart-shaped candle display.

Hmm, maybe I didn’t actually like this drama after all.  I may have just liked Jin-gook.

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