I have decided to undertake another blog responsibility and recap How to Be a Perfect Neighbor. I’m going to try to post two a week as though I am watching it while it airs. I will also keep updating the character profiles as they are introduced and fleshed out during the drama. (And of course, get a nice picture up of Park Shi-hoo…:D)
I’m still exploring the soundtrack, but you can’t ever go wrong with the blues. Enjoy.
“Neighbor Blues” – Yi Sung-ryul & Ha Rim (from the How to Be a Perfect Neighbor OST)
episode 1 recap
A woman is chased along train tracks in the dark of the night and assaulted by an unknown figure. She cracks her head against the concrete wall and slumps down to the ground. Alright show, you gave me some mystery. I’ll bite.
Next, we are treated to sunshine and a montage of people enjoying some beautiful weather: a day of games for the ahjussis and ahjummas; a handsome man running along roads that are surrounded in beautiful greenery. Running man, KIM SEUNG-WOO as Baek Soo-chan, is also ogled by all the women in the neighborhood: an older ahjumma, a knocked-up ahjumma and a newly-wed ahjumma.
Then we are treated to the delightful KIM ROE-HA as a clumsy, seemingly lackadaisical police detective, Kang Yeok-gae, who speaks informally to his superiors. He is investigating the murder of the woman from the first scene.
At a bus stop, Yang Duk-gil (SON HYUN-JOO), and his son, Yang Go-ni (SHIN DONG-WOO), sit and adorably bicker like two brothers rather than father and son. The bus arrives and Go-ni wishes his father well on his trip to Cambodia…to find a wife…
Anyway, the ahjussis on the bus tell him he needs better duds and then clap and cheer him on, wishing him luck on finding a wife.
While the neighborhood ahjummas make excuses to talk to Soo-chan and a mystery photographer snaps shots of him, we are introduced to another bickering family (because you can’t have only one drama family that doesn’t bicker. It’s against drama rules.) This family is comprised of four females: a nagging mother, her refined oldest daughter, and her unrefined youngest daughter, who eomma and unni pick on incessantly.
The oldest daughter, Jung Mi-hee (KIM SUNG-RYUNG), is staring out the window impatiently when her sister, Jung Yoon-hee (BAE DOO-NA) comes out of her room, hair unkempt and holding a Tupperware of kimchi. She shoves the kimchi into a suitcase and off they go to the airport.
Coincidence of coincidences, Mi-hee spots Soo-chan at the airport and approaches him. As Yoon-hee watches with exasperation and annoyance, Mi-hee prattles on. Turns out they are on the same flight AND in the same hotel. How could this be?! *gasp*
Mi-hee’s bubble is burst when a hot, young female professor materializes at Soo-chan’s side. Mi-hee takes it upon herself to
stalk guard Soo-chan and follows him to the restaurant. Then she proceeds to pout over the other woman. She also refuses to drink the energy drink Yoon-hee offers until Yoon-hee opens it for her. It’s quite obvious by now that Mi-hee is one of THOSE: a pampered, privileged, utterly helpless, woman who abuses depends on her younger sister to support her in her time of insanity need.
Duk-gil is also at the airport, heading to Cambodia with other nerdy marriage hopefuls, when he spots Professor Baek Soo-chan. It is then that we discover there is a bit of animosity between the two. Enough so that Duk-gil hauls Soo-chan into the men’s room by the collar with a screaming Mi-hee following them and an unfortunate Yoon-hee restraining her like the crazy woman she is. Duk-gil has a good reason to be pissed: Soo-chan ran off with a load of his cash ten years back.
With a promise to pay back the money, Soo-chan boards the plane: he’s sitting in first class while Duk-gil and the marriage hopefuls sit in business. To add insult to injury, once in Cambodia, a fancy car comes to chauffeur Soo-chan and his hot female professor wherever they will it to go. After helping Yoon-hee with her sister’s several pieces of luggage, Duk-gil runs over to Soo-chan (with Yoon-hee’s luggage) and demands repayment just before Soo-chan and hottie professor drive off.
Stalker Mi-hee stews over hottie professor’s presence and when they get to the hotel, Yoon-hee is shocked (but not much) by the fact that Mi-hee has even booked a room beside the professor.
Soo-chan comes out, Mi-hee pretends not to know he is staying there and wilts with disappointment when she hears Hottie professor’s voice from inside the room. Then she proceeds to hole herself up in her hotel room to drink, mope and complain…a lot. Yoon-hee remarks that the man looks like a jebi, or player, and that it’s because Mi-hee is attracted to that type of man that she’s been divorced three times. Why am I not surprised?
Mi-hee declares she can handle a man who fools. Cue giggling and sweet talk from next door. Bottoms up, Mi-hee.
In their room, the marriage hopefuls make fun of Duk-gil for bringing laundry detergent. Mi-hee continues to drink, how accompanied by a sorrowful Jewish melody played on a clarinet. She fantasizes that she is his new Isadora, the woman who shook his soul the most. Alcohol plus delusions equals legal insanity.
Fetching more alcohol for her depressed sister, Yoon-hee happens upon Duk-gil as he is trying to explain that he is not feeling well to a Cambodian shop lady. The two Koreans decide that he should do the trusty finger prick and Duk-gil ropes a squeamish Yoon-hee into doing it for him. Thus, a tentative friendship is born.
Enter the real drama: Yoon-hee is walking back to her room and hears the female professor talking to her husband, assuring him that she is alone. Just moments later, she passes jebi Professor Baek talking to a friend about how he fools women in order to get what he wants, becoming whoever they need him to be.
Yoon-hee walks over and slaps him across the face. YES. He is incredulous and they exchange words. But her meaning is clear: don’t mess with my sister. When cheating hottie professor shows up, she and the jebi mosey off together.
Back the the murder. Detective Kang is at the coroner’s office checking out the dead chick and getting made fun of by the coroner. How does this fit into the storyline? It seems to be completely out of place.
On the beach, Yoon-hee discloses that Soo-chan is a jebi but Mi-hee doesn’t care. What she does care about is the kimchi that Yoon-hee packed opened in the suitcase and stained her clothes. Yoon-hee is stuck washing them.
Then, poor, awkward Duk-gil bombs his marriage meetings because of his bumbling speech and behavior. It is witnessed by the pair of professors eating lunch nearby. Soo-chan takes it upon himself to advise Duk-gil to smile and agree to everything. But he didn’t realize he’d stopped Duk-gil on the way to his bathroom and Duk-gil pees his pants. Heehee.
At a “chance” beach encounter, Soo-chan flirts with Mi-hee and slyly says that he was slapped by a crazy woman while eyeballing Yoon-hee. Stalker frets and Yoon-hee glares.
Jump to a temple where stalker and her
slave dongsaeng are not so stealthily trailing the professors. Yoon-hee wanders off by herself and witnesses a couple fighting. We see that the woman is Go Hye-mi (MIN JI-HYE), the second female lead to be. She slaps the man and turns to leave, but not before spotting an admiring Yoon-hee.
More stalking via golf carts and boats, which sends Mi-hee into another drinking episode. She ends up stumbling over to the professor and fawning over him as the hottie professor glares. Yoon-hee saves the day by restraining her sister. She’s a slave and a bodyguard.
The marriage hopefuls are drinking to celebrate their successful meetings – all save uri pitiful Duk-gil. They rag on him and he drinks even more, prompting him to eventually find a nice grassy spot to empty the alcoholic contents of his stomach.
Yoon-hee, on an errand to fetch more liquor for her pathetically melancholy sister, runs into Professor Baek. She just had to listen to Mi-hee pour her heart out – she really loves the douche-y professor despite all. Now, I actually pity the woman.
And so does Yoon-hee, who speaks formally to the professor for the first time, imploring him to treat her sister well. She has lots of money and bought three sets of lingerie for him. He laughs at her. Yoon-hee continues to make Mi-hee’s case and says, “Isn’t she nice? If it was me, I would’ve killed you.” Again, he disregards her. She takes back speaking formally to him and walks away.
HA! And the love/hate (er, hate/love) is starting to really get underway.
Duk-gil has witnessed it all and marches over to slap Soo-chan upside the head. (Man, I’m really enjoying this guy getting sense literally knocked into his thick skull.)
“I came all the way here to get married and you’re turning down women who like you. Because of guys like you, there are people like me who can’t find a woman to marry,” Duk-gil says and the professor buys him water and medicine as compensation. They see two kids sharing a sweet potato and reflect back to their childhood when they did the same thing. Duk-gil blames Soo-chan’s mother for keeping his mother out dancing all night. More Makjang elements: mommy issues.
Next, we find how that not only did Soo-chan steal money, but a cow as well. He changes the topic by reminding Duk-gil to smile and nod no matter what happens in his next marriage interview. Duk-gil seriously listens to Soo-chan’s advice despite their fighting. We are beginning to see the deep camaraderie between them despite their troubles.
Back at the hotel room, Yoon-hee discovers that her sister is nowhere to be found. That’s because she’s busy drunkenly dancing around the swimming pool. This, of course, leads to falling in and Soo-chan coming to the rescue. But he comes to the rescue in more ways than one.
Don’t drink because of men like me, he says. You know what kind of man I am. Mi-hee declares that she doesn’t care but he encourages her to think about her young daughter, Ye-seul. A stunned Yoon-hee watches from several feet away.
Professor Baek Soo-chan, who now officially has a soul, helps Duk-gil prepare for his second marriage meeting. Just smile and nod, Soo-chan reminds him but Duk-gil is nervous. He doesn’t feel comfortable lying to a woman who could be the mother of his son. Although surprised, Soo-chan continues to encourage, “Just smile and nod.”
After some quality date time together on a boat and glossing over the fact that he doesn’t live in Seoul (the Cambodian woman’s desire destination), she agrees to marry him and he is ecstatic, calling out to his son, “Appa’s getting married Go-ni!” I think its awesome that the first person he thinks of is his child and not so awesome he lied about living in Seoul. This is going to come back and bite him in the ass, isn’t it?
Not surprisingly, Mi-hee and Yoon-hee witness the whole thing, and Yoon-hee is excited for her new friend, jumping up and down and squealing. The professor wonders why she’s so excited; she’s not getting married. He receives a glare in return. Ah, sigh, budding hatred.
Stalker drags Yoon-hee along as they follow the new couple to the courthouse. As soon as the marriage license is signed, she treats everyone to a meal to
impress Soo-chan celebrate, and a grateful Duk-gil comes to pour her a drink.
When they return to the hotel, Mi-hee manages to get Soo-chan to agree to a drink when hottie professor shows up with arms crossed. Commence the third drinking session. Yoon-hee spills alcohol on Mi-hee’s clothes and goes out to find detergent. What do you know, Duk-gil is walking around and has some in his room.
In repayment, Yoon-hee gives him cucumbers to put on his face to make his complexion fresh for his wedding the next day. He invites her to his wedding admits to being nervous. She suggests he count sheep, but he quickly discovers that it doesn’t work; it only keeps up your roommates.
It is the day of the wedding and Soo-chan is dateless because hottie professor doesn’t feel like going. But its for the best as Duk-gil has forgotten to purchase a ring and Soo-chan says he will buy it.
“If I didn’t meet you here, I would be in trouble,” Duk-gil says with feeling and sends Soo-chan off with a promise that he can repay the stolen money slowly.
At the jewelry store, Soo-chan uses ADORABLE English to buy the ring. He balks at the price. What? Did you think a ring would be cheap?
Finally, with ring purchased and map to the wedding location in hand, Soo-chan makes his way to save Duk-gil’s day.
But wait, what is this? Go Hye-mi is arguing with her boyfriend in the car. If he can’t have her, then no one will. They will die together! Boyfriend swerves, hitting Soo-chan’s car before flying off the road into the ocean.
Hooray! Another series of recapping has begun. I am already a bit more cynical in my analysis. I understand my sunbae recappers even better. There are certain elements an experienced drama watcher can’t forgive and I’ve caught a few, even in this first episode. But, the show has potential, despite what I’ve heard.
I think the casting is well-done overall. Kim Seung-woo is rather old-looking, but because he oozes charm and charisma, the casting director can get away with this choice. I absolutely adore Bae Doo-na as Jung Yoon-hee. She is a master of facial expressions and is superbly natural when she acts. Her Yoon-hee is a fiery woman, but her insecurities keep her from truly standing up to her sister. You can see it all in her face, posture and line delivery.
And despite her annoying character, Jung Mi-hee, Kim Sung-Ryung plays her with finesse. We can see the troubled, insecure woman beneath the simpering and stalking. I just hope the writer doesn’t continue the extreme behavior. But as this episode was mostly based upon Mi-hee’s contrived coincidences, I don’t see the behavior abating anytime soon.
Son Hyun-joo’s Yang Duk-gil is absolutely, awkwardly charming. He is my favorite character so far. He is pathetically shy, but has a sense of pride as a father.
One of the most distracting things about the episode, however, was how haphazardly the scenes were cut and spliced together. It felt jumpy and as though writer Jung Ji-woo was trying to cram as much back story as possible rather than working on a fluid narrative.
To that end, the episode overflowed with makjang elements that, while exaggerated as all get out, clearly established where everything and everyone stood. We had a tortured man forced into an undesirable profession; a pathetic single father; a desperate rich woman; a poor abused sister with a fiery spirit; and a wedding day gone wrong.
Despite all of that, I’m looking forward to the development of Duk-gil and Yoon-hee’s friendship, the potential budding romance between Yoon-hee and Seung-woo, and, of course, the entrance of uri Park Shi-hoo.