Title: My Girl
Starring: Lee Da-hae, Lee Dong-wook, Lee Jun-ki, and Park Si-yeon
Original Air Dates: December 14, 2005 to February 2, 2006
EPISODE 1 RECAP
A bus loaded with tourists careens down a Jeju Island freeway. The bus is headed to the airport, and the driver wildly changes lanes and weaves in and out of traffic trying to make it there in time for the group to catch their flight. Their tour guide, Joo Yoo-rin (Lee Da-hae), is on foot. She runs toward the terminal to see if she can prevent the flight from leaving before the bus gets there. The tourists fret that they’re not going to make it, but the driver, Ahn Jin-gyu (Jo Kye-hyung), assures them that Yoo-rin will take care of things.
When Yoo-rin makes it to the terminal, an airline employee tells her the group will have to take the next flight. Undaunted, she makes a total spectacle of herself pretending she’s there to see her lover one last time before he leaves her. She rushes toward the boarding gate yelling for her “chalgiya” and declaring she can’t let him go. The airline staff feel sorry for her but refuse to let her on the plane. They finally relent when she pretends she’s dying and other travelers, who have been looking on the whole time, start calling out for staff to show some mercy.
Onboard the plane, we see flight attendants sneaking peeks at Seol Gong-chan (Lee Dong-wook). There’s a magazine article about him being the youngest director in the hotel industry. The attendants are comparing him to his picture in the magazine as Yoo-rin slowly walks down the aisle of the plane trying to stall for more time.
Aware that she’s out of time, she pretends to faint and happens to land next to Gong-chan’s seat. He sees her peeking out of one eye as she tries to surreptitiously pick up the cell phone she dropped and realizes she’s faking. He uses a pen to pry her hands from the armrest of his seat, and a staff member picks her up and carries her off the plane. She shoots Gong-chan a glare but is relieved to see the tourists boarding as she is being carried off.
She celebrates her success back on the tour bus with Jin-gyu. He thinks she should be glad her theatrics didn’t get her arrested, but she says her acting was too phenomenal to fail her and goes back to celebrating.
Back in Seoul, Gong-chan heads straight to the hospital. He meets with a doctor and a young woman to get the results of a DNA test she has taken. He is looking for his cousin and asks the doctor if the results confirm that the girl is his long-lost cousin. The doctor just stares at him as the scene suddenly cuts to an elderly man in a hospital bed. It’s Gong-chan’s grandfather, Seol Woong (Byun Hee-bong). His aunt, Bae Ok-sun (Choi Ran), wipes Grandfather’s face and tells Grandfather that Gong-chan is there.
Grandfather can barely speak, but he weakly manages to ask Gong-chan if he’s found “the kid” yet. Gong-chan apologizes but tells him not to give up hope. Grandfather thinks it’s too late and laments that he didn’t forgive his daughter sooner. He says his stubborn pride killed her, and he begs Gong-chan to find his granddaughter. There is a picture of his daughter, Seol Ji-hyeon, and her family on the wall. His granddaughter, Shuichi Hana, has been missing since an earthquake killed her parents in Osaka, Japan, in 1986.
Back in Jeju, Yoo-rin is at a tourist spot trying to drum up some business. She speaks Japanese when she spots a Japanese tourist and claims she used to live in Japan. When she sees a woman from Hong Kong, she starts speaking Chinese and claims she used to live in Hong Kong.
She has no luck finding a customer so she decides to head home. But as she’s leaving, she gets a phone call about her errant father.
We see dad, Joo Tae-hyung (Jung Han-heon), walking through a horse racetrack with a newspaper tucked under his arm. Yoo-rin confronts him because he’s gambling again, and he tries to run away. The race starts before he can get far though, and he starts cheering loudly for his horse to win. Yoo-rin forgets that she’s supposed to be mad at him and starts cheering too. Dad’s horse is in the lead at first, but soon it starts lagging behind and loses the race. Dad makes a run for it while she’s distracted, and he almost escapes too. But when he turns around to mock her one last time, he runs straight into a glass door and ends up collapsing to the ground.
They go the beach and sit on the sand drinking a few beers. She asks if he needs money, and he claims he doesn’t, but just felt lucky. She tells him he’s not meant to win a jackpot. She doesn’t want to have to run away from loan sharks like they did before because of his chasing a jackpot. She is the only jackpot in his life, she tells him. She wants him to put his trust in her instead of horses and says she’ll work hard and build him a house on the island one day. She stands up and declares the land they’re standing on his, and they happily use rocks to mark where their future home will be.
At his office, Gong-chan’s assistant, Secretary Yoon Jin-kyung (Lee Eon-jung) brings him a picture of his aunt from a twenty-year-old article in an Osaka newspaper. His aunt is standing among dozens of people, and he thinks someone in the picture may have information about his cousin. He sends Secretary Yoon to begin searching for contacts and says he is going back to Jeju to greet their important guests from China.
As Yoo-rin’s dad hides from loan sharks who are after him, she goes home and discovers that her dad withdrew their rental deposit from the landlord. Yoo-rin insists they’re not moving and heads out to get their rental deposit back, but before she gets far the loan sharks arrive looking for her father. The loan sharks decide to take her instead, but this is clearly not her first time at the rodeo. She pretends she just saw her father and yells for him to run away. When the loan sharks let her go to chase her father, she manages to escape.
With gangsters on her tail, Yoo-rin scales a wall and jumps over it, landing in the middle of the street right in front of Gong-chan, who is in his SUV headed to his hotel. He stops short, barely missing her, then gets out of the car to see if she’s okay. She’s fine until she sees the gangsters peering over the wall at her.
Knowing she’s safer with Gong-chan, she pretends to pass out, prompting him to take her to the hospital. He leaves his card with the nurses once he finds out she’s not injured, telling them to call him when she wakes up. But as soon as he’s out of sight and Yoo-rin learns he’s the director of Avenue Hotel, she has a miraculous recovery. She sits up and snatches the card from the nurse’s hand, then she goes to the ladies’ room to devise a plan to get a lot of compensation money from him.
Unfortunately, the gangsters have figured out where she is, and she has to disguise herself and hide among some patients to make it out of the hospital without getting caught.
Meanwhile, the Chinese guests have arrived at the hotel. Dong-wook makes sure they’re settled, then he calls the emergency room to check on Yoo-rin. He’s surprised when the nurse tells him she disappeared and left all of her belongings behind.
He shouldn’t be too concerned though. Yoo-rin is just fine. We see her eating ramen with Jin-gyu at the beach. She tells Jin-gyu she’ll stay at a jimjilbang or internet café. Then she pulls out Gong-chan’s card and remembers she can still call him for her “jackpot.”
At the hotel, Gong-chan has had Yoo-rin’s bag delivered to his room. He looks through it and finds her business card. He’s reading it aloud when the manager comes in and tells him they’ll need an interpreter for the dinner he’s planned with their important Chinese guests.
Yoo-rin arrives in the midst of their crisis. She tries to angle toward getting a big compensation check, but Gong-chan thwarts her every time. He has her report from the hospital (because medical privacy laws didn’t exist in 2005) and tells her the report says she’s fine. She admits she’s not physically hurt but says she was extremely shocked and lost all of her belongings, which were really important to her. He hands her her purse and says he’s glad he had her things sent over since they’re so important. She makes a final ditch effort and brings up compensation for emotional distress, but he just says he’ll have to ask his lawyer.
After she’s gone, he picks up her business card and muses over it. He sees that she speaks Chinese and runs after her. She’s in the elevator already, and he stops it and asks if she can really speak Chinese.
He hires her as the translator for the night. She greets the Chinese businessmen when they arrive and walks them to the house. One of them compliments the beautiful building and she translates for Gong-chan when he says they can rent it whenever they wish as no one lives here. This is news to Yoo-rin who stops and says to herself it’s a pity no one lives in such a nice house.
At dinner, she works hard translating for Gong-chan and the guests. She longingly eyes the array of delicious food on the table as her stomach growls. She uses a lull in the conversation to stealthily take a bite of bread, but of course one of the businessmen start talking as she’s chewing. She chokes trying to hurriedly swallow the bread so she can translate, and they good-naturedly encourage her to eat while she works. Gong-chan nods his approval and she tucks into the food as if she’s never eaten before.
Yoo-rin does a good job as a translator and sends the men back to the hotel in a good mood. When she goes back inside to change her clothes, she looks around the spare bedroom she’s using and marvels at how nice it is. Jin-gyu calls and asks if she’s in a safe place. She learns the gangsters have cut off her access to the jimjilbangs and internet cafes. She’ll have to find somewhere else to stay, but there just so happens to be the big ol’ empty mansion just begging her to use it so she decides to stay there.
Gong-chan comes out to pay her and offers her a ride back to the city. She declines, saying she lives nearby. She asks him if it’s true that no one lives in the house. He confirms so she follows up by asking if there are people who take care of the place. He says the caretakers come by monthly to do basic maintenance. She’s so excited at this news that she almost gives herself away. She tries to cover her tracks by pretending she’s just impressed by how much money he must have to afford a mansion that no one lives in. She says bye and leaves, but of course she turns around and heads back to the house as soon as he’s gone.
Back at the hotel, the manager brings Gong-chan a basket of flowers from his ex-girlfriend–tennis star Kim Se-hyun (Park Si-yeon). Gong-chan looks at the flowers and presses his hand to his forehead as though he’s bothered, but he reaches for the card anyway and reads it. In voice over, we hear Se-hyun telling him she’s sharing her victory with him from Moscow. He turns on the tv and watches the news coverage of Se-hyun’s latest victory.
At an indoor driving range, Gong-chan’s aunt is practicing her golf swing. She’s with her frenemy Jang Hyung-ja (Kim Yong-rim), and they take turns needling each other. Ms. Jang brings up Gong-chan’s failed relationship with Se-hyun while Gong-chan’s aunt makes snide remarks about Ms. Jang’s son, Jung-woo, who she heard is still fooling around in Italy.
The scene then cuts to Ms. Jang’s son, Seo Jung-woo (Lee Jun-ki), who is asleep in bed in another man’s house. He wakes up lazily and smiles at his companion, and they lounge around until her boyfriend comes home. Then he scrambles to get dressed and frantically runs around the room trying to decide how to escape. There’s no way out, except through the door where the boyfriend is standing. He shoves past the boyfriend and makes a run for it. The boyfriend and his minions give chase, but lo and behold, one of Jung-woo’s friends just happens to be nearby in a car. Jung-woo dodges the hail of bullets sent his way and jumps into the friend’s car and escapes. (It’s a lame scene, but Lee Jun-ki can do no wrong as far as I’m concerned so I’m still game!)
Back at the mansion, Yoo-rin is wandering around the property when she spots a tangerine orchard. She immediately thinks of how much money she can make selling them and sets up a roadside stand. She does so well she decides to make jam too. Her only problem is Jin-gyu, who stops by to voice his disapproval of her trespassing on Gong-chan’s property and stealing his tangerines. He wants her to return the tangerines to the orchard, and they start tussling over the stand.
The stand falls over and tangerines roll all over the street just as Gong-chan drives by. He’s distracted though and doesn’t notice the tangerines he just ruined until he sees Yoo-rin yelling at him in his rear view mirror. She changes her tune when he stops, and she recognizes him. She claims she just wanted to say hello, but he sees the tangerines in the street and the smashed rinds on his tires and realizes what happened. He insists on paying for the fruit, and a guilty Yoo-rin sends him off with a bag of tangerines to thank him for compensating her.
Gong-chan goes back to his hotel room with the tangerines. And it seems Yoo-rin’s gift was well-timed because he calls his aunt to check on Grandfather, and she tells him to bring some tangerines from their orchard because Grandfather loves them.
Apparently Aunt Ok-sun is an artist. After the call, she goes to her studio to paint, but loud music streaming in from outside keeps distracting her. She goes outside and spots Grandfather’s employee Jang Il-do (Ahn Suk-hwan) staining a chair. Ok-sun has a crush on him it seems. She stands there ogling him until he notices her, then he turns off the music just to stop her nagging.
Back in Jeju, Yoo-rin has returned to the mansion after a day of working her roadside stand. She counts the money she’s earned and decides she’s made enough money to leave. Little does she know, Gong-chan is on his way. While she’s out picking her last batch of tangerines, he arrives at the mansion and sees the baskets of tangerines on the counter as well as tangerine rinds and other signs that someone has been there. He thinks his aunt must have called ahead for the housekeeper to prepare the tangerines. He goes to the orchard and sees Yoo-rin collecting more fruit from the trees. He can only see her from behind though and thinks she’s the housekeeper. He walks up behind her and calls out “Ajumoni,” and she freezes.
This was one of the dramas I watched early in my foray into dramaland way back in 2009. That was five years ago so up to now I only remembered the main plot points and its overall impression on me—which was that the OTP had sizzling chemistry and it was funny. Rewatching it now, I can see why the Hong Sisters have become so popular and why this was such a hit. The sisters have a knack for comedy, and being so early in their career and at a point where dramaland wasn’t quite used to this brand of comedy, I’m not surprised that the audience took such a liking to this drama.
In 2009, I thought Lee Da-hae was perfect in this role. In hindsight though, I have to revise my opinion slightly. I still think she was good, but there were definitely times when she could have toned down her performance. She tended to overact and exaggerate which pushed some of the scenes from funny to silly. But this drama is one of a handful of emotional favorites of mine, so I will overlook the flaws in her acting and focus on what she did well. Besides, most of what she did was done well. The initial airport scene, for example, was one that she nailed. She had a perfect balance of believability to fool the airline employees while keeping enough composure so that the audience knew she was faking. Afterwards, when she celebrated her excellent performance, I could only nod in agreement that she had in fact played the part of the wounded lover quite well.
Lee Dong-wook was also great. I remember really really liking him in this drama, which would usually send me on a quest to watch everything else he’s done, but that didn’t happen in his case. This is actually the only project of Lee Dong-wook’s I’ve watched. I tried Hotel King in 2014 and, while I was struck with the improvement in Lee Da-hae’s acting, I can’t remember much about Lee Dong-wook’s performance. That probably has to do with the fact that I didn’t get past episode 3. I didn’t dislike the drama, but I never got around to continuing it. Luckily this one drama was enough to solidly my admiration for him. My favorite aspect of his portrayal of Gong-chan was his obvious enjoyment of Yoo-rin’s ridiculousness. Those brief flashes of a smile or the amusement in his eyes were really intriguing and made me look forward to episode 2.