Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Personal Taste, Episode 3

Personal Taste: Episode 3

(Sniiiiiiiiff. Mm, eau de Min-ho.)
MUCH improved, I thought.
After the first week, I thought Personal Taste wasn’t as good as I had hoped, but it was about as good as I expected. I enjoyed it for the zippy situations and hilarious cast. The biggest complaint from fans, however, was regarding the drama’s editing; they felt that despite solid acting and a fun plot, the erratic editing was ruining the flow rather than enhancing it. After that wave of complaints emerged, I’d wondered if the producers would work on it, and it feels like they have. (Editing isn’t noticeable in an obvious way, but when something is a little off and you can’t quite figure out why, often it’s not that the content is bad but that it’s strung together in a bumpy way.)
Personal Taste OST – “빗물이 내려서” (Because it rains) by Kim Tae-woo [ Download ]
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After dropping that bomb about Jin-ho’s sexual orientation, Kae-in sarcastically challenges In-hee to try seducing Jin-ho — with her boundless charms, maybe she can get him to switch sides. In-hee has the nerve to be offended that Kae-in rented “her” room to Jin-ho. In In-hee’s World, all events must transpire to attend to HER needs, don’tcha kno! Kae-in retorts that she’s more comfortable living with someone who doesn’t lie or backstab.
In-hee twists that statement to rub salt in the wound — Kae-in’s attachment to comfort is why she can never get a guy. Rather than fixating on In-hee stealing her man, Kae-in ought to think of how she got her man stolen from her! Yeah, that’s like saying it would be In-hee’s fault for running her face into my fist, which is the scenario I’m contemplating, frankly.

This whole encounter is difficult for Kae-in, but she perseveres through her stammering and insists that In-hee leave. In-hee replies, bald as you please, that she has nowhere else to go as though Kae-in had better not dare turn her away.
(Seriously, In-hee’s a wench of the first order, but I don’t mind it because she’s unlikable in an entertaining more than aggravating way. It’s delicious fun to hate her and imagine her getting her just deserts. Somehow I don’t think this drama will invoke piranha tanks or acid showers of toxic goo, but that can’t stop me from fantasizing. She’s so ridiculous that rather than getting upset about her, we’re better off just thinking of her as a beautiful, snooty alien arrived from Planet Narcissus who is determined to make everything about her, her, her!)
The most In-hee will concede is to say she’ll give Kae-in some time to think, ignoring Kae-in’s declaration that she doesn’t need time, because she doesn’t want to have anything to do with In-hee anymore.

Jin-ho has come out to watch the last part of the exchange (and In-hee sees him before leaving). How much do I love the ridiculousness of the next sentence I am about to write?: Kae-in jumps to see him, then picks up her chainsaw and tries to make a casual exit.
Jin-ho doesn’t let her off the hook so quickly, and asks what she meant about her statement: “Who’s gay?” Kae-in mistakes the reason for his ire, thinking it’s because she let out a secret that he wants to hide. She apologizes, then wonders, “But can you really hide it? I’ve already caught on.” She doesn’t mind his sexual preference, but she does express some distaste at his playboy tendencies, going from one guy to the next so easily.

Jin-ho thinks back to all the compromising situations at the hotel and the wedding hall, understanding how Kae-in came to that conclusion. He finds this all distasteful, not to mention embarrassing to be mistaken for a gay man when he’s very much straight. He’d rather not get further entangled with this unsavory woman, and immediately packs his bags. He texts Kae-in his bank account number, into which she can deposit the balance of his rent.
Caught off-guard, Kae-in tries to stop Jin-ho and discuss the matter with him, but he leaves without further ado.

At work, Sang-jun assumes that Jin-ho’s gloominess is because Kae-in likes him and made a move. Jin-ho starts to set him straight, but has a hard time even saying the words “She thinks I’m gay.” He just explains that he has decided to move out. So what if he doesn’t have access to the house anymore? They’ll win the museum account on the strength of their ideas! Oh, how naive and innocent our baby lamb is.
Sang-jun does not think this is a wise idea, but instead of trying to plead with Jin-ho, he uses reverse psychology. Sighing pathetically, he agrees, saying they can go head to head with Mirae Construction, even though their rivals are bound to use Kae-in’s house (named “Sanggojae”) as their concept. They won’t be able to use that idea, but hey, if they fail to win the bid, so what? Jin-ho can just close down his firm, and Sang-jun can always work at a supermarket. No problem.
(The point is made, but Jin-ho’s not about to give in just yet.)

Kae-in relates last night’s encounter to Young-sun, who scolds her for talking openly about Jin-ho’s orientation when he hadn’t even identified himself as such. It’s no wonder he got offended at her comments.
Kae-in feels awful now, but he has been rejecting her calls so she doesn’t have a chance to apologize. She decides to forget about the roommate situation, since it’s not like she loved living with him, either. All she has to do is catch Won-ho, and that’ll take care of her money problems. Right? Right??

That proves easier said than done. Kae-in trawls PC rooms, manhwa stores, and even the subway for Won-ho. No dice. Faced with the prospect of not finding Won-ho after all, Kae-in thinks back to the glimpses of Jin-ho’s nicer side, like how he took her to the hospital for her ankle sprain. Maybe she should try harder to get him back.
In-hee is another displaced former friend of Kae-in, who has resorted to crashing at the jimjilbang (sauna). She gets into a clash of words with some opinionated ajummas. She’s used to enjoying haughty upper-class privilege, but In-hee clearly has not yet learned the rules of the world down here with the common folk, where the ajumma reigns supreme.

Jin-ho and Sang-jun brainstorm ideas for the museum, trying to piece together a plan based on what they know about the Sanggojae. It’s difficult work, and Sang-jun urges Jin-ho to make up with Kae-in. Who knows, if he plays his cards right he might just end up Professor Park’s son-in-law.
Thus when Kae-in drops by as a visitor, Sang-jun is very pleased, wanting Jin-ho to make nice. They usher her out of the room quickly to keep her from glimpsing the drawings based on her house.

Kae-in apologizes for her careless statements and begs Jin-ho to forgive her and come back. She presents him with a gift, saying that it’s to thank him for paying her hospital bill. Inside is a little carved wooden desk and chair.
Jin-ho accepts the gift (which she swears isn’t a bribe), but it doesn’t affect his decision to move out: “Thank you for the goodbye gift.”

Next, Hye-mi bursts into the office. (Tae-hoon’s finger-horns warn them that her mood is dark.) She’s angry that Jin-ho left home with just a note — how could he leave her and his mother like that?
Jin-ho answers that it would be uncomfortable for her to live with him, and doesn’t look good in others’ eyes, either, ignoring her protests that it’s not uncomfortable at all. He adds that it could present a problem for her later when she marries, as Korean men are narrow-minded and chauvinistic enough that they have no problem personally sleeping around or visiting bar girls and prostitutes, but feel that a woman sharing a house with a man is an affront to decency. Or maybe that last part was just implied.

To grease the wheels for the museum project, Mirae’s President Han (Chang-ryul’s father) drops in on the planning director, Choi Do-bin. In a thinly veiled attempt at bribery, he presents him with one of his own prized paintings as a gift.
Do-bin is not moved by bribery and politely declines, thanking the man for the thought. However, as he cannot make a business decision on personal feelings, he will only accept the gift in spirit.
Meanwhile, Chang-ryul has come to the museum on a dual mission: first is to attend the museum project briefing, and the other is to catch a glimpse of In-hee.

While Chang-ryul lurks in the hallway, he runs into Jin-ho and Sang-jun, also here for the briefing. As usual the foursome can’t resist trading barbs. They’re here on business, though, so Jin-ho and Sang-jun take the higher road and walk away to join the briefing session.
Do-bin presents the plans for the Dahm Museum, outlining its extensive scope and their intent to preserve a Korean flavor in the building. All the bidders have a week to prepare their presentations.

As Do-bin’s trusted right-hand employee, In-hee is also part of this project, and Chang-ryul attempts to talk to her after the meeting. She breezes right by him, though she does stop to address Jin-ho politely. In a modest tone (because she’s a fakey faker who fakes) she apologizes for her rude behavior last night — and the words “last night” immediately ruffle Chang-ryul’s feathers. What does that mean?
Jin-ho enjoys pissing him off further by responding in equally vague (but suggestive) terms, saying that last night “made quite an impression.”

Temper provoked, Chang-ryul roughly grabs Jin-ho’s lapels and demands to know what’s going on between them. Unruffled, Jin-ho answers, “Curious? But it seems like your In-hee wants me to keep last night a secret.” Ooh, burn. If only the truth were a fraction as juicy as the implication.
Chang-ryul takes a wild swing at Jin-ho, who smoothly sidesteps and twists his arm behind him. Chang-ryul vows to completely crush Jin-ho in the upcoming competition, but Jin-ho answers, “If I thought that would happen, I wouldn’t have come here.”

President Han eyes his son’s antics with dissatisfaction, and tells his son that he’s always told him to view his lessers with pity — thereby effectively insulting both his son and Jin-ho at once. Efficient, he. Pointedly, he adds that they ought not mess with someone who’s always getting his nose bloodied by them, like an idiot.
Jin-ho knows the dig is aimed at him, and replies that he has no problem getting a bloody nose in a fair fight. However, getting one when your opponent hits you with a rock hidden in his fist is unfair. So this time, “I ask you to come at me with your bare fists.”
In-hee’s impressed with Jin-ho’s comportment, and so is Do-bin, watching the exchange from a distance.

President Han has noticed that Do-bin took an interest in Jin-ho’s presentation for the Dream Art Center, and warns Chang-ryul to be alert. Chang-ryul’s not worried since his father’s great at lobbying (read: backdoor-dealing), but President Han informs him that the method isn’t effective with Do-bin.
The president gets his son’s attention with mention of In-hee — despite his post-wedding distaste of his son’s bride, now he sees that she is close to Do-bin, and President Han is always looking for advantages to exploit. He comes to an understanding with Chang-ryul that if this Dahm Museum project turns out well for them, he won’t oppose the relationship. Chang-ryul jumps at this, and asks to handle the project. He wants to go out “with bare fists” to challenge Jin-ho.

As if the stakes weren’t high enough, Jin-ho and Sang-jun are called to the hospital when one of the construction workers gets into a minor accident. The foreman doesn’t hold Jin-ho to blame and the injury was small, but Jin-ho feels guilty because he’d pushed the foreman to keep productivity high, and the worker had dozed out of exhaustion.
Furthermore, Sang-jun tells him that the client for whom they were building just went bankrupt and ran off to the Philippines. If their financial situation weren’t dire enough, this really drives the point home. With no reason to stand on his pride now, Jin-ho decides to return to the Sanggojae, which Sang-jun heartily approves.
What’s particularly funny is that Sang-jun believes that Kae-in has designs on Jin-ho, since Jin-ho’s too embarrassed to share the whole “She thinks I’m gay” bit. So in effect, he’s pimping out his buddy for their business, and keeps prodding Jin-ho to do it for the greater good, so to speak.

Kae-in is surprised — but happy — to have Jin-ho come back home. Not enticed by Kae-in’s offer of ramyun for dinner, he takes her out for some much-needed grocery shopping. (Kae-in’s place is strewn with empty bowls of cup ramyun, among other junk.)
They do fight over paying, however — neither feels they ought to foot the bill, and neither has brought a wallet. With a sigh, Jin-ho pays with a mobile pass, which must be a bit of product placement (he scans his cell phone, which reads his account information) but at least they’ve taken some effort to work it into the plot.

He insists on a massive cleaning session, because he can’t live in such a pigsty. Kae-in takes this to mean he’s definitely moving back, and he agrees to stay as long as she promises to say nothing further about him being gay.
The cleaning starts out with Jin-ho ordering Kae-in around (and I enjoy how she keeps trying to find shortcuts in the cleaning process, because it’s totally what I would do). At a certain point, he takes over the mopping to show her how it’s done, and ends up finishing the job.
Kae-in has taken advantage of this opportunity to slip away to her room, where Jin-ho finds her looking at a miniature set of furniture made out of wood, similar to the pieces she gave him. This was her mother’s creation, and she’d been a furniture designer, too.

In-hee reclaims the honeymoon apartment by moving in when Chang-ryul is out, then changing the door code. When he calls her in a tizzy, she points out that while he may have bought the house, she bought the things in it. (And… I think that still gives him more right than her to be inside?)
She reminds him that he’d promised that everything of his would become hers. He points out that that was when they were going to marry, and insists that they ought to redo the marriage, then.

That night, Young-sun drops by, amazed at the clean house. Happy to take advantage, she also urges Kae-in to get along well with Jin-ho so she can ask him to model for her, as she photographs gay models. Young-sun is here to give her Won-ho’s address, which she tracked down with some help from her cop husband.
Kae-in heads to the bathroom to wash up, and happens to walk in on Jin-ho just as he’s wrapping himself in a towel. Or just before, I should say.

Both stare in shock, and Kae-in ducks out quickly. But she pops her head back in right away to assure him that she’s not wearing contacts or glasses, so she can’t see anything anyway.
This is where I give props to the set designers for working in the bathroom in a way that facilitates moments like this and also works with the Korean style of the house — the doors swing open and have no locks. Frankly, if I lived in a house with that kind of bathroom, I’d be wary of bringing in an opposite-sex roommate, too. I wouldn’t feel comfortable using the bathroom without an elaborate system of signals (like the all-purpose sock-on-the-door college trick) warning anything from “Open” to “Knock before entry” to “Turn away, or this will be very embarrassing for us both.”

Jin-ho accepts Kae-in’s excuse of having bad eyesight, but later that night he hears her giggling with Young-sun in loud whispers. She says she couldn’t see very well without her glasses, “But I saw enough!”
Young-sun asks for details, so Kae-in answers, “He looked all right. Not bad.” Jin-ho’s a little gratified at that. Young-sun says knowingly, “Not that. That.”
Suddenly tensing, Jin-ho understands what she’s asking and looks down at, uh, Little Jin-ho, waiting for her answer. We can’t see her expression but we can imagine her gesture as Kae-in replies, “About this much?” At Young-sun’s disappointed response, Jin-ho is affronted. How dare she insult his manhood — literally!

Jin-ho gets a worried call from Hye-mi regarding his missing mother, so he runs out to go find her. Luckily he knows her well enough to track her down to a certain bar, where he joins her. He apologizes for not telling her where he’s been staying and explains that he’s been busy with work.
Mom reminisces about when he was younger and his father was still alive. We can tell they have a loving relationship, as Jin-ho treats his mother as a perfect doting son ought. They both have wistful memories of their happy family life when his father was around, and Mom looks out at the Seoul skyline wondering where their old house is. Jin-ho promises to get it back for her.

Kae-in finds the address given to her by Young-sun, and makes her way to see Won-ho’s grandmother, who lives in a shabby room in a worn-down home. The woman thinks Kae-in is the volunteer who regularly comes by to help, and asks her to read a letter to her, thinking it’s a note her beloved grandson has left for her.
The bleakness of Won-ho’s grandmother’s situation hits Kae-in, and she is overwhelmed with pity. She opens the notice to find a loan payment reminder, and as she feels too bad to tell the old woman, she invents the contents of a faux-letter as she reads. It starts, “Grandmother, how are you? I’m so busy these days that I couldn’t see you. I’m sorry.”
On her way out, Kae-in leaves Won-ho a message to tell him she’ll find a way to get the money. While his behavior is hardly acceptable, there’s no point trying to squeeze blood out of a stone, right?

That evening, it’s time for some equal-opportunity boundary-infringing! Jin-ho returns home from an office dinner to hear Kae-in cry out. Thinking she’s in trouble, he bursts into the bathroom, and finds HER just out of the shower. (To be fair, she still has the upper hand in this scenario, as she is wearing a towel and he was not.)
Reminding Kae-in of the indignity he suffered the other night, Jin-ho adds that her body’s hardly interesting to him, anyway. He means this as an insult to her figure, but of course she takes it the other way and interprets this as a natural comment from a gay man. Even when he retorts, “Sorry, but aside from you I do have a lot of interest in women,” Kae-in doesn’t believe him. There’s no need to act straight in front of her!

Since he’s here, Kae-in asks for some assistance. She has dropped her contact lens, and with her blurry eyesight she can’t find it. Thinking he’s not interested in her appearance, she doesn’t bother to change her clothing — but he’s not completely indifferent after all, as he discovers when he comes face-to-face with her, um, assets. Or should I say, face-to-boobs, face-to-legs, and face-to-butt… Yo, eyes up here, buddy.
She’s not immune to his physical presence, either, as she discovers when she slips and he catches her. The tension grows when he leans closer, reaching out to touch her arm. He’s only doing it to pluck the lens from her shoulder, but the moment has been felt by both. After he hands it over, he turns to make a quick getaway.
Kae-in’s stomach growls, though, so she pesters him to go out to eat with her. She wants kalbi, which she attributes to the kalbi smell from his jacket (a remnant of his office dinner). She offers to buy, calling it a roommate bonding activity.

Jin-ho is not at all interested, and retreats to his room. I find Kae-in adorable as she sits outside his room, sighing pathetically:
Kae-in: “Aigoo, I’m starving. If he’s not going to eat with me he shouldn’t have smelled like food, the smell can’t fill me up. What kind of roommate is that cruel? I’m so starving I could die. There’s no rice at home and I’m dying for some beef, and it’s pathetic to go eat by myself. How great would it be if I had a roommate to go eat with? They don’t sell kalbi in single portions…”
Faced with putting up with Kae-in’s whining all night long or putting up with it only through dinner, he chooses the latter.

Drinking soju with her food, Kae-in is thoroughly drunk toward the end of dinner, and starts to mumble about Chang-ryul and how he called her a rain-soaked puppy that followed him around. She declares loudly, “Men are all the same! They only think the really pretty, sexy women are women!” But she remembers enough to add, “But I’m so happy you’re not a man like that.”
Jin-ho suffers through this, but just then, in walks Choi Do-bin. Jin-ho rises and bows respectfully, and the other man acknowledges him before heading to his own table.

Jin-ho starts thinking fast — clearly Do-bin is here on business. Deciding that it’s best to leave asap, he stuffs Kae-in’s mouth with food to hurry her up so they can go. Not picking up on his urgency, Kae-in slurs on about how he’s so nice.
Kae-in gets up to use the restroom, at which point Jin-ho is delivered a drink from the ajumma one table over. The woman raises her glass and winks at Jin-ho, which he does his best to ignore.

Alas, someone else has witnessed this exchange, and in bursts a thuggy-looking man who picks a fight with Jin-ho, calling him a gigolo who takes advantage of women. That’s his wife he’s flirting with!
Kae-in stumbles back in time to see this and boldly defends Jin-ho, insisting drunkenly, “Our Jin-ho isn’t like that!” The thug ignores her and raises a fist to throw a punch, so she bursts out wildly, “I said he’s not like that! This man is GAAAAY!”
There are few ways this could be more mortifying. Jin-ho is especially horrified, as Do-bin has seen the whole thing. Grimly, Jin-ho leaves.

Kae-in belatedly realizes what she’s done, and apologizes for breaking her promise again. She starts to cry, and sobs that she was afraid he’d get beaten up. Thoroughly disgusted with herself, she starts beating herself over the head and calling herself names.
At her excessive self-loathing, he sighs that it’s enough — there’s no use crying over spilled milk.
Kae-in falls asleep on the park bench, and Jin-ho has no problem walking off, leaving her there. In fact, he makes it almost all the way home before he has second thoughts and turns back in resignation. He returns to the park bench and rouses Kae-in, and then carries her home when her ankle injury acts up again.

Part of Kae-in’s charm is her eternal optimism and good cheer, which she demonstrates on the ride home by singing lustily, not noticing how her wild movements make it difficult for him to carry him.
She’s calmer by the time they reach her neighborhood, and she sighs, “Your back is warm. My father’s back is probably warm, too.” He picks up on the wording, asking if her father has never carried her. She answers that nobody has.
Recalling a childhood memory of watching her father work — his back turned to her — she says that she’d always thought a person’s back was only cold, but she’s glad that Jin-ho’s isn’t. Symbolism! Her voiceover (which reads like a diary entry) notes that while Jin-ho still seems a little cool, she’s confident he’ll begin warming up soon. Hence, front = cold, while back = warm.

Once home, Kae-in falls asleep where he drops her on the couch. Jin-ho urges her to sleep in her room, and sees her leg perched at an awkward angle. She looks about ready to fall of the couch, so he prods her to wake. When she doesn’t, he lifts the leg to place it at a more comfortable angle, which causes her to stir.
She eyes him suspiciously at first, then cheers up. If any other man had just touched her let like that she would have reacted, but she’s happy that there’s no problem with Jin-ho. Because of The Gay, of course!

When a leg cramp strikes, Kae-in turns baleful eyes to Jin-ho, and I’m pretty sure she actually knows she’s manipulating him. She’s no In-hee, but as with the exaggerated way she moaned about being hungry, I’d bet she does know how to twist him around her finger just a little bit.
Thus Jin-ho is roped into giving her a leg massage, which she enjoys with great gusto. In fact, her graphic cries of pleasure sound pretty much like sex moans, making it uncomfortable for Jin-ho to continue.
Last but not least, Kae-in thanks him for his help, and gives an enthusiastic thumbs-up to her new gay roommate.

Like I mentioned, this episode was a lot better than last week’s. With Episode 3, the drama has gone from enjoyable-but-flawed to plain enjoyable. Not that I had a problem with them — they were full of laugh-out-loud moments. However, they did feel rather disjointed, and in between the funny beats were a lot of awkwardly placed scenes that felt like they were there out of necessity, but not necessarily worked in with any grace.
This episode felt much smoother, and much more like what we might expect. The music usage has also improved (perhaps with the exception of the first scene, which was much too heavy). The comic theme songs are a lot of fun, though, particularly that one that speeds up in accordance with Kae-in’s orgasmic leg-massage moaning.
It may sound like Kae-in’s constant misunderstandings about Jin-ho being gay are getting repetitive, but I assure you that it’s a source of constant hilarity for me. Jin-ho has to put up with her repeated misconceptions about his sexuality — and each time it’s just a little harder for him to endure — so it’s worth hearing her harp about The Gay just to see his disgruntled reactions to it.

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