So it started off really, really well. I adored that Joo-yeon’s first reaction to realizing ugly little Sweet Potato…
had grown up into gorgeous Allen…
was, “It’s a miracle!” Of course, then she remembered that Wan had totally lied to her, and that (as far as she knew) Allen had played her. So she slaps him and they have a very grumpy birthday…
And Wan totally reverts — despite his very best efforts — into the annoying little brother Joo-yeon had known him as. He whines, he sulks, he acts cutsey — pretty much the exact opposite of the smooth, suave, tall, handsome stranger he had been when Joo-yeon didn’t know him and treated him as this mysterious love-interest. Which I loved, because I think it’s true. It’s hard to break out of the role family has put you in. (I think it also underlines why he went along with the lie in the first place. Being treated like a man by Joo-yeon — that was a heady temptation.)
I also really, really loved that Joo-yeon hits him with the truth about their “idyllic” childhood. Sure, it was great for him — but it was work for her. He was her charge and he was a typical kid and his great memories weren’t all that great for her. (That his gift of a piggybank got her accused of being a thief struck me as the most painful reframing moment. Talk about the exact opposite of what he thought he’d achieved.)
Anyway — I loved all that stuff. It set up the hill Wan was going to have to climb, and it showed that the hill wasn’t just Joo-yeon being stubborn or mean. There were real issues to deal with.
But then came episode 6 and the realization that I was completely wrong and we really are dealing with a love-triangle here. And now I am deeply conflicted and a wee bit (or a lot bit, if I’m being honest) scared.
The story itself is being well told. It was a clever reveal, with lovely little hints laid out ahead of time. That Joo-yeon is deeply in love with her boss but hasn’t realized it yet explains so much about her — clicking a lot of little things into place. And it makes perfect sense that Wan — who is becoming an expert on what makes Joo-yeon tick — figured it out first. And it works well with the ways Joo-yeon and Tae-yoon mirror each other.
They’re both crustaceans and Wan wasn’t wrong about injuries hitting their type deeper. Only, Joo-yeon isn’t nearly as injured as Tae-yoon is. (He quit his job and wandered the desert after breaking up with Se-ryung. That’s a deep, deep injury right there.) His not responding to her interest (especially since she’s not even realized her interest) doesn’t rise to the same level.
So I kind of suspect the story to come will have Joo-yeon gaining new strength from Wan, recognizing her love for Tae-yoon, and using her newly realized strength to heal Tae-yoon. And they’ll live happily ever after. Which is too bad for Wan, and not the endgame I’m actually rooting for, but doesn’t break my heart. (For one, they’re setting it up that he’s still caught up in a fairy-tale version of love, so this could be a growing experience for him.)
What terrifies me is that this follows a very similar path to the previous I Need Romance dramas. Those two stories were all about the woman submitting herself to her man — forgiving his peccadilloes and being his supportive helpmeet no matter how much he hurt her. Peccadilloes that, for me, were deal-breakers. So I actually found the endgame “romances” anything but romantic.
Thus far, Tae-yoon isn’t that kind of ass. But we have no idea what kind of boyfriend he makes. He’s a good boss, but a boss is not (and should not be) a boyfriend. I don’t like that Joo-yeon hero-worships him so strongly. I don’t like that she falls into Susie Q. homemaker routines for him. I feel like those are things she’ll need to get over when (if) they start dating, but I’m really scared the show doesn’t agree with me.
I’m also not thrilled that the endgame may include her “beating” Se-ryung by snagging the man Se-ryung wants, rather than the two of them healing their broken friendship. It falls into the worst kind of ideas on how women handle friendship (once a man gets involved, women throw their friends to the curb), and it leaves Se-ryung being slut-shamed.
(I will add — I’m still on Se-ryung’s side because I do feel that she’s been unfairly treated as a successful and beautiful woman. Those rumors that she slept her way into her position… I’m reading those as ugly and untrue and something the show will ultimately refute. But I really would like something other than my hopes and expectations to back that theory up. More insight into Se-ryung would be great, show!)
And then there’s Min-jung. Sexually free and independent… and hit upside the head by the “old” stick. I am deeply worried that her storyline is going to actually punish the idea that a woman can be independent. She’s not even forty years old and suddenly her eyesight is going bad and she’s menopausal?!? Really show? This is where you’re going with her?(And the news is broken to her by a cold male doctor. And that he actually says, “as your body dries up” — which I hope to hell was just a translation glitch or an idiom that becomes crueler in translation than it is in Korean because I wanted to smack him in his smug, uncaring face.) It’s the worn out, “grab a man now or you’ll be sad and lonely when you’re old” shtick and I’m very frowny-faced at that.
Of course, all of this could turn around in the next episodes. Thus far the show hasn’t actually done anything wrong. (Well — except for sticking Min-jung with menopause — that was an odd and cruel choice.) These are all my fears based on past experience with the franchise. I really, really, really hope I’m wrong. That the similarities end here.