Gentlemen’s Dignity

Before I start, I want to introduce a guest writer, a co-author if you will. Hey, if Thundie can do it, why can’t I? Seriously, C.J. Park is my favorite cousin. Yes, I say that to all my cousins, but she really is the one. She and I grew up together, so she embodies what Korea means to me, namely gim-bap (rice wrapped in seaweed), jjim-jil-bang (Korean public sauna), and no-rah-bang (public karaoke place), you know all the things in life worth living for. I left out so-ju (Korean liquor), I know, but still I think it sounds better than baseball, apple pie, and Chevrolet. I absolutely couldn’t have written this without her. The vast majority of the asterisks in this work are from her, not to mention her indispensable help with many conversations that I’ve had a devil of time catching. So, please give a warm welcome to a new addition to the Thundie’s family, CJ!

Oh, and only because I’ve always wanted to say this: With collaboration of C.J. Park, Michael and Thundie Incorporated is proud to present the world premier of…

The Gentlemen’s Dignity

LUST… is in the air. Yes, I know. This isn’t the most elegant way to introduce a drama, especially if it has such majestic words like “gentlemen” and “dignity” in its title. But that about sums up the feelings, behaviors, and thoughts of these four pseudo-gentlemen whom some fair genders have already described as eye candies. How else would you describe the actions of four fortyish men who shamelessly bend down to look at scantily skirted woman bending over? In broad daylight and in public no less.

But have no fear. I’m not here to write about lust. I am only interested in love, but this love has a whole different feel to it than what I’m used to. And perhaps that’s an appeal in itself.

For Secret Garden, it took me only two episodes to get hooked, for Lie to Me, it took me five – remember the steamy kiss – but with Gentlemen’s Dignity, it took me 12 episodes to get to the point where I am watching certain scenes over and over without boredom. Why? I think because it took me a while to get used to a 41 year old guy acting like an immature teenager. Yes, I know that is the mantra of the drama – the four men who are at heart will always remain boys. But, Hyun Bin* in Secret Garden didn’t stoop as low as looking over a bikini-clad picture, for Christ’s sake. And Hyun Bin was in his early 30’s, not early 40’s like Kim Do-jin. I just have a bit more expectations for a man in his forties, but Do-jin grows on you… albeit slowly. And I have no doubts or misgivings about his heart. His feelings for Suh Yi-soo are not only genuine and deep, but he’s willing to sacrifice his happiness for hers, as you will see, and for that I declare him good enough for Yi-soo.  *(Thanks, Jiamin)

Another reason why this drama took so long for me to drool over may be because we are trespassing on, at least to me, the unchartered and unfamiliar path where the main male romantic lead, Kim Do-jin, played by Jang Dong-gun, uncharacteristically and unabashedly swoons over a woman first. That’s like saying Paul Newman, Robert Redford, and Cary Grant drool chasing after their respective women. That seems to go against Mother Nature, or should I say Father Nature, and that just is not done in a time-honored old-fashioned love story. Okay, so I am a closet male chauvinist, but that’s not exactly a well-kept secret. But I digress. Let’s go back to Kim Do-jin, a successful architect, with another unthinkable taboo issue to his credit.

Kim Do-jin chases after a high school ethics teacher, played by Kim Ha-neul playing the character Suh Yi-soo who has already given her heart to one of his best friends. This is a big deal in Korean culture, because while the predominantly male chauvinistic society turns a blind eye to womanizing men, it values chastity and faithfulness from its women. As a man raised in Korea myself, I would almost never allow myself to get involved in a situation where a prospective woman has her heart set on someone else, because like most men, my motto is, Why, when there are more and easier fish in the sea. And thus while it shouldn’t surprise me that it takes Kim Do-jin eight grueling and groveling episodes before her heart sprouts a tiny spark of romantic feelings for him, it doesn’t mean that I have to like it. Yeah, that’s my inner chauvinistic machismo itching to get out.

I do like the fact that the main characters are imperfect. And as what has become a trademark of the writer Kim Eun-seuk’s leading men, Kim Do-jin is not only a playboy but has his own idiosyncrasies with glaring emotional and psychological deficiencies. In Secret Garden, Hyun Bin’s character had slightly more severe emotional with almost psychiatric tinge to his problem – talking to and fro with more than one imaginary figures. Here in Gentlemen’s Dignity, despite that he is… well, Jang Dong-gun, Kim Do-jin, after spending over 40 years in this life, is at times immature, insensitive, and for the lack of better word, peculiar. Having a name, Betty, for his covered-up Benz SUV aside (what’s wrong with covered-up Benz convertible, by the way? Doesn’t the writer know that SUV screams out family values, practicality, and rug rats?), when he’s stressed, he has temporary memory loss, anywhere from few hours to a day. We are not privy to the cause of this obviously emotional traumatic consequence other than his best friend’s conjecture that it stems from his third previous business failure when he not only lost mucho money but was also betrayed by whom he thought were his friends.

It’s a funny scene in the episode 7, time 20:00, where my favorite school teacher, Suh Yi-soo, upon hearing that Kim Do-jin had three previous business collapses, asks Kim Do-jin’s lawyer friend, Choi Yoon, that the previous business failures must be the reason why Do-jin’s personality became a little rough around the edges. Smiling, Yoon tells her, “That’s his original personality. From his early childhood until now, he has always and consistently been a little rough around the edges.” Yi-soo smiles as if to say, I want to give him the benefit of doubt, but somehow that doesn’t surprise me one bit.

But Kim Ha-neul, whose versatility as an actress shines through in an old movie, Don’t Believe Her (그녀를 믿지 마세요) in 2004, rings true to one of my favorite phrases, Behind every great man, there is a greater woman, with the emphasis on the word, greater, which is a relative term, because I don’t consider Jang Dong-gun’s character great, especially in the early episodes, although he begins to change thanks to her… but not completely, as evidenced by the four men still bending down to look up a lady’s skirt in public in the next to last episode. Besides the good looks and obvious physical attributes that has Kim Do-jin salivating – or I should say bulging from turning his eyes at humanly impossible angles trying to look over the cleavage of her bikini-clad picture – she is kind, compassionate, and wise.

Even Lim Tae-san, Suh Yi-soo’s initial love interest, thinks so highly of the teacher that in the episode 4, time 55:50, Kim Do-jin asks him if Suh Yi-soo was such a good person how come he’s with the golf pro Hong, Tae-san replies that to him Suh Yi-soo is not a woman but rather a human.

In addition to getting respect and affection from her male and female students, young and old (Yong-hwa from CN Blue is technically old since he graduated), we get a glimpse of Suh Yi-soo’s true nature in the episode 8, time 01:02:14, when Lim Mae-ah-ri, Lim Tae-san’s little sister, tells her teacher, Suh Yi-soo, that she must really be a grown-up to be able to hide her true feelings from her brother all this time, Yi-soo replies, “That’s because the person whom I love could get hurt just from that knowledge. That’s the unwanted side effect of unrequited love.”

Speaking of Lim Mae-ahl (longer version of her name is Lim Mae-ah-ri), as much as I loved Kim Do-jin and Suh Yi-so’s love story, emotionally there were times when I actually preferred the love story between Mae-ahl and Choi Yoon the lawyer. Why? Because one, I’m a sucker for soul mate love. Two, Yoon is more mature thus more appealing to me than Do-jin. And three, their odds for making it seems much smaller, and I tend to root for underdogs.

So if you like a love story where a mature, thoughtful, and beautiful woman, while in the process of falling in love, makes a real man out of immature, superficial, and crass quasi-gentleman; or if you rather read about an impossible, at least in Korean culture, love between a 41 year old man and a 24 year old whom he watched grow up since she was a wee tall, then sit back and enjoy while I hand pick my most favorite moments of their love stories.

1. Their First Meeting

Isn’t life ironic in that their first encounter with each other happens when Suh Yi-soo’s taking temporary shelter from a sudden rain after she has purchased a pair of baseball batting gloves for her unrequited love, Lim Tae-san in the episode 1, time 6:00. Kim Do-jin is waiting for his date, who appears to have it badly for Do-jin much more so than he for her, when he spots Yi-soo right outside the Mango café owned by his friend, Lee Jung-rok. She is wearing a simple hooded casual jacket, but when their eyes meet for the first time, their souls seem to revel in their recognition of their counterparts. He smiles faintly but warmly as if he has known her his whole life, and she appears peaceful and yet content, so much so that she seems almost to be at home.

At that very moment, however, his date arrives and covers his eyes playfully, and Do-jin, although he hides it well, is more than a little irritated with his date. When he finally uncovers her hands from his eyes, Suh Yi-soo is nowhere to be found. He spots her again, of course, as he’s walking out of the café, but whether it’s due to finely honed playboy’s sense of timing or perhaps he senses her melancholy as she sits somewhat catatonic after Lim Tae-san asked her over the phone for her housemate Sa-ra’s number so he could ask the golfer for a date, Do-jin leaves her alone. Of course, he’s also walking out with his date, so it would be uncouth for him to stop and ask another woman for her telephone number. But that’s exactly what he does… later in the episode 1, time 51:23, but more on that a little later under the section 5, Two equals One.

2. Their Second Meeting

We, the audience, get a glimpse of Do-jin’s true feelings for Yi-soo when he flips through his architectural worksheet to find that he has sketched a caricature of Yi-soo in the episode 1, time 11:50. He appears surprised and amused that he has drawn her.

A little later, they pass by each other in a teasing fashion, but eventually they make physical contact… okay, technically a collision between her derriere and his bag. As in Son Ye-jin and Kam Yoo-sung‘s red thread in the drama, Alone in Love (연애시대), the thread here appears to signify the preordained and predestined souls waiting for their reunion as portended by a book Yi-soo picks up in a street side bookstore right before the contact.

In the episode 1, time 12:25, Do-jin, engrossed in his camera, walks by Yi-soo just as she bends down to pick up her pocketbook that she had dropped. As she bends, her buttock collides with the bag Do-jin was carrying over his shoulder. She apologizes to him, but camera-engrossed Do-jin just waves his acknowledgement without even looking up. Both are clueless that a thread from her red cashmere dress gets caught in the bag’s buckle, undressing Yi-soo thread by thread from bottom up as he walks farther away from her.

By the time Do-jin realizes that there is a red thread stuck to his bag, he has walked a quite a distance from Yi-soo. And due to pedestrians walking to and fro through the red obstacle course, Do-jin doesn’t see Yi-soo. Curious, he starts to pull on the thread as he walks toward the source of the apparently bountiful yarn, not realizing that he’s further undressing his soul mate in a busy public sector.

In the episode 1, time 13:25, as Suh Yi-soo’s about to get money from her pocketbook to pay for the book, she hears Do-jin, “How about taking care of this, first?” She looks at him, and her countenance brightens as she recognizes him.

He, however, looks highly amused and motions her to appreciate the spectacle before her, namely, his holding a clump of red thread coming from… her. But she’s still clueless until he moves his gaze to her derriere. Complete mortification is followed by a shriek, and she runs away from him, showing her slip-showing derriere now to a throng of customers looking through a large glass-paned shop from behind her. Unaware, she distressingly asks him, “What happened? Why is my dress… like this?”

He answers her with a question of his own, nodding his head toward the smiling throng behind her, “So, it’s okay for them to watch but not me, huh?” She looks behind her and shrieks some more, repeatedly saying, “What should I do?” Calmly, he walks up to her, places the yarn in her pocket, and looks at her as if enjoying her discomfort, “This is truly a ha-e-sil-jong (하의실종*).”

*(Mini-skirt or very short shorts. 하의 is short for 하옷의. Ha (하) means lower, oat (옷) means clothes, e (의) means and. 실종 means disappear, so 하의실종 means disappearing of lower clothes, which is a long-winded way of saying she is wearing a very short dress).

Thinking that he’s commiserating with her, she automatically starts to thank him but then she catches herself, “What did you say?”
“Where is your home? Is it near here?”
Distressingly, “No.”
Sighing, he asks her, “Do you have a car (here)?”
“It’s at home.”
He gives her a brief, resigned look, “Then, there is no other solution. Let’s go.”

He grabs her so that she is right in front of him, puts the book back on the table, and orders her to walk. She protests, “To where?” While motoring her forward, “You know why you shouldn’t stop, right?” He eggs her on, “Continue marching until I say stop.” She’s curious, “This thread, where did you pick it up?”

He explains what happened. She bristles and turns around, “Then you did this?” Calmly, he replies, “No, you did. There was no way I could’ve avoided the sudden attack-oriented derriere.” Looking down, he points out, “Like now.”

Seeing how her buttock has plastered itself onto his loin like white on rice, she quickly moves her rump away in acute embarrassment, murmuring apology. He quickly restores her buttock in its original place, telling her to walk if she doesn’t want more unwanted attention from the onlookers.

They stop at a street trinket shop table, and he asks the sales lady while pointing toward the table, “How much is it?” Thinking he meant a trinket, she asks for $10, but he tells her he meant the white tablecloth underneath the trinkets.

How the sales lady could have put all the trinkets off the table, take the cloth off the table, then put all the items back without a single complaint I can’t fathom, but a split scene later he’s dusting the white cloth. After scowling at the dust he has created, he wraps the cloth around her semi-bare pelvis from behind, privately enjoying her acute discomfort as he fusses and folds the cloth into a fashionable mini-dress, complete with a flower adornment.

He takes a step back to enjoy his work, and smiling smugly, he can’t help but tease her, “It looks good on the attack-oriented derriere.” Exasperated, she starts, “I know it’s partly my fault, but…” He interrupts her, “Thank you. You’re so polite.” Nonplussed, “What?”

Suavely, as he pays the lady for the cloth, “I’m happy that you’re grateful. Good day.” With that and a devilish smile, he nods and walks away. Dumbfounded, it takes her a few seconds to recover. She turns around, “I am grateful. But more I think about it, this looks like we are both to blame for what happened*.” *(She uses the word, ssang-bang-gua-sil (쌍방과실), which means both parties are at fault)

When he doesn’t reply as he walks away, she shrugs it off good-naturedly.

We only get Yi-soo’s perspective here, but in the episode 1, time 52:25, we get Do-jin’s perspective as to what really happened as he walks away from her. He smiles rather fondly at her last comment, and he strategically walks a few more steps before he turns around to walk back to her. But by this time she has already turned around, and he just catches her drive off in a cab that happened to pass by. He, however, can’t shrug her off as easily and looks almost crestfallen.

3. Not yet a gentleman

We get to see how Kim Do-jin views himself in the episode 1, time 23:40, when a woman in the bar tries to hit on him, “(You are) a friend of golf pro Hong’s boyfriend Lim Tae-san. Your occupation is an architect…” And smiling winsomely, “And your name is?”

Ever so nonchalantly, “I’m not very fond of census taking.”
Equally undaunted, “I’m not very fond of a secretive man.”

She decides to take a different approach. Smiling seductively, she leans forward while crossing her mini-skirt adorned legs a la Sharon Stone in Basic Instinct, “Do you have a girlfriend?”

Suavely, “About 165 days out of a year.”
Amused, she asks him, “Why don’t you see her on the other days?”
Glibly, “I do. I see other women.”
Alarmed, “Am I right now… sitting across a womanizer?”
Grinning slightly, “I’m not exactly gentle and cautious kind of a man.”
She’s impressed, “You’re pretty cool. You’re exactly my type, so what are you going to do about it?”

After taking a sip of his beer, “That’s why I was just leaving.” He gets up and buttons his jacket, and gives her an instruction, “If you see golf pro Hong’s boyfriend Lim Tae-san, tell him I left early.” He then walks away, leaving her agape with shock.

At this point in his life, he admits that he’s not a gentleman.

4. He is Out of There!

In case you’re not into baseball, that means he struck out, as in three strikes and you’re out. They meet again, in a baseball field, in the episode 1, time 46:00, when Suh Yi-soo, her face hidden behind an umpire’s mask, calls the third strike on Kim Do-jin rather enthusiastically, and not knowing that his soul mate is behind the mask, he protests the call rather vigorously. It doesn’t help that he struck out looking, which is more embarrassing than striking out swinging. Striking out swinging means at least you went after the pitch and was aggressive at the plate. But if you get called out on strikes, that means you were so badly fooled by the pitcher that it didn’t even occur to you to swing at the ball.

Of course, after the game, when she takes the mask off, lets her hair down, and smiles radiantly (at someone else), he’s smitten all over again.

Lim Tae-san tells Do-jin rather proudly how pretty she is, and Do-jin boasts that he can get her to tell him her telephone number in 30 seconds. Tae-san tells him not to do it, because he wants Choi Yoon, their lawyer friend, and her to end up together, probably because he doesn’t want his little sister with Yoon. Of course, it turns out Yi-soo doesn’t seem to know that Do-jin even exists, and Tae-san can’t help but rub it in later, “Thirty seconds? Perhaps you want thirty more seconds?” But that doesn’t hurt Do-jin as much as the fact that his soul mate is completely oblivious of him.

His manly pride hurt, he calls after her and asks, “Back there, even though I’m a very memorable person to you, you hardly noticed me (본체만체)*.” *(Bon-che-mon-che : pretend not to see)

She looks annoyed, “Then you do the same (to me).” Then she walks away. He’s incredulous, but he tries again. He calls her, and when she turns around, she does not look very amused.

He postures a bit before asking, “This is a question that women usually ask me, but don’t you remember me?” She appears to recognize him, and he appears relieved until she asks him if he’s a father of one of her students or school superintendant perhaps.

Frustrated, he tries again, “You really don’t remember me?”
“I’m sorry, but since your pick-up line is so old-fashioned (쌍팔년도 수법)*, and I really don’t have time right now.”

*(Ssang-pal-ryun-do soo-bup: 쌍팔년 means 88 years, 수법 means method, so 88 year old method means a very old method. Why 88 years? Because 쌍팔, a pair of 8, is a catchier and cooler way of saying 88: 쌍 means a pair, 팔 is 8, so a pair of 8 is 88)

Of course, he has no idea that she just doesn’t want to be reminded of her supreme moment of embarrassment. Most guys don’t seem to realize how important those things are to women. Public ridicule is no cupcake to guys, either, but in general, I think it’s worse with women. It doesn’t help that he’s trying to be so helpful to jog her memory.

He yells, “Try hard to remember, because your derriere knows what I did last spring,” as she’s trying to walk away as fast as she can, and at the same time she tries to hide her famous derriere from his view. She also worries that Do-jin might tell Tae-san about the incident.

5. Two equals One

In the episode 1, time 51:23, Do-jin tells Yoon in the car, “Last year, there were two women whose telephone numbers I’ve wanted to get.” He tells him about seeing Yi-soo in Lee Jung-rok’s Mango cafe, how unceremoniously he abandoned his date, “I’m sorry, but I have to go. I’m just too curious about a certain woman’s telephone number.” But by the time he got to the café, she was gone, and that’s how he lost the first one.

Do-jin tells Yoon, “That’s how I lost that one. The second one was similar.” The second one being the reluctant star of the red yarn thread incident. You know, the one that wears baseball umpire mask for fun. Do-jin tells Yoon how he lost that second one, as she took off in a taxi before he could go back to her.

Yoon tells him drily, “Those women were pretty fortunate.” Not to get embroiled in the playboy’s wanton lifestyle, he means. Do-jin ignores him, “But today I happened to run into one of them, and I’ve just realized… that the two women are one and the same.”

Do-jin smiles, “It’s amazing, isn’t it?”

What’s more amazing is at that very moment, the same woman tries to call him to settle the issue between her wayward students and Do-jin, but he doesn’t realize that it’s her. Of course, she doesn’t know that it’s Do-jin on the other side, either.

Do-jin reverts to his prickly self and tells Yi-soo over the phone before she identifies herself that he already knows who she is and why she called. But before he can tell her no, she employs preemptive offensive strategy by telling him a litany of reasons why he should settle, such as the kids are not malicious, they are just immature, they have their whole future ahead of them, etc…*

*(She actually says, “Their future is goo-mal-li (구만리) long.” 구만리 means a very long distance. 구만 means to be anxious and fearful, so the distance is – seems – that long, whereas 리 is an old Korean distance measurement equivalent to 0.244 miles)

At this point, Do-jin interrupts her, “So what you’re saying is that since their future is goo-mal-li long, but mine is at most 56,800 리 long, I should relent. Is that what you’re saying?” (Do-jin just made up the numbers, but his number is definitely less than goo-mal-li)

Do-jin’s doesn’t give her a chance to rebut, “Absolutely not. I’m more than flowery* still…” Yoon scoffs at this.

*(I don’t know why Korean men like to refer to themselves as flowery to mean that they are young, attractive, and vibrant. Maybe Boys over Flowers had something to do with that, you think? 🙂

Yoon’s reaction doesn’t stop Do-jin’s ranting, “They should be thankful that I stopped their obviously bleak future.* They should also learn that sometimes in life, there is no answer to everything, and that they should learn the consequences of their action. Bye.”

*(He actually says, “They should be thankful that I stopped their worthless goo-mal-li. They should know there is a world without settlement, and that is an education in itself.”)

Once Yoon realizes that Do-jin did not settle with the teacher, he gets exasperated, stops the car, and tells him that the teacher is known to both him and Lim Tae-san, is Sa-ra’s friend, and she has just umpired their game.

Shocked, Do-jin points to his cell phone, “This woman is that woman?”
Sighing, “Yes, O’human.” Sarcastically, “O’flowery Mr. Kim Do-jin, you’d better settle while I can still be civil, okay?” But his promised civility doesn’t last long. He suddenly yells at Do-jin, “Get out of the car already!”

Do-jin yells right back, “I was getting out!” Angrily, he unbuckles and opens the door. But as Do-jin’s about to shut the door, he re-opens the door, “How can you tell me now that she is the same woman?” Yoon is speechless.

Do-jin starts to close the car door, but he opens it again, “You should’ve told me before the flowery statement came out. You’ve had plenty of chances (to tell me)!” And then he slams the door.

Yoon’s dumbfounded for a few seconds, but he calms down and calls Suh Yi-soo and tells her that she was just talking to Kim Do-jin, a friend of his and Lim Tae-san’s.

It’s a funny scene in the episode 1, time 55:20 where while she’s talking on the phone to Yoon, Do-jin appears in front of her, but she’s so engrossed in the phone conversation that she walks right past preening at first and then later astonished Do-jin.

She laments and mumbles to herself, “What should I do, what should I do… What kind of life am I leading that I can’t even see an inch ahead of me?” How true. She’s prophetic, this woman.

Suh Yi-soo later (in the episode 17, to be exact) tells Kim Do-jin that she is straight forward-minded (I think she means one-track minded, not good at subtleties or multitasking), and she is not kidding. She not only doesn’t see Do-jin more or less right in front of her, she also doesn’t see him walking off to her side almost parallel with her. She musters up enough courage to pick up her cell phone to call Do-jin, and next to her, Do-jin mimics her, waiting for the call. She then suddenly loses the courage, “Oh! I can’t! I can’t!” while Do-jin silently groans next to her.

Do-jin finds Yi-soo convulsing and mumbling (about ‘that guy being that guy,’) amusing, cute, and quite entertaining. He follows her into a convenience store and stands next to her while she eats her donut. He starts to say something to her, when she suddenly bursts out laughing, “What should I make of this? He says with his own lips that he’s like a flower.” She then goes on manic-depressive cycle, becoming now dejected, “What should I do? I don’t think (he’s) normal.”

That comment keeps him at bay, extinguishing any thought he may have had of talking to her in person.

She thinks out loud, “Is it really true that it’s better to get punished first?” (This is in reference to popular notion among Korean school kids back when corporal punishment was allowed that it’s better to get punished first and get it over with rather than to be the last. Not that I’m speaking from experience or anything.) She makes up her mind, “Okay, let’s do it.”

She texts him, Could I see you just this once? I beg of you. He texts her back, after glancing at her, You sure you can recognize me? It’s not ban-mal, just thinking aloud.

She literally jumps, “Huh? What is with this guy? The text is so strange. Does he want to meet me or not?” He cannot believe that she doesn’t get the text. Remember on the baseball field when she pretended not to recognize him. He looks at her as if she’s an alien or something.

Chirpily, she types, I’ll know who you are. Of course I can. If you agree to see me, I wouldn’t even mind holding a rose with my teeth. ~ Just let me know the location.
Sneering almost, Good. Let’s meet. Have a rose in your mouth. In my office. Make sure you’re holding a rose with your teeth.
Shocked and petulant, “It was just an expression.” She gets exasperated, “Could this man be some kind of a dolt*?” *(Ttoh-rah-e, 또라이, is someone who’s stupid and foolish, thus similar to an imbecile, dork, etc)

At that moment, it takes a lot for Do-jin, standing right next to her, to muster self-restraint from strangling this woman.

Continue reading >>> Page 2: Almost Rosy

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34 Responses »

  1. Dear Michael and CJ,

    First of all… WOW, what a labor of love and what a special treat!! Thundie’s Prattle is not worthy!

    Thank you, both of you, for collaborating on this amazing review and recap. When I first saw the draft, I wondered what motivated you to write 46,000 words (!!) on a drama that hasn’t been blogged about much (but what do I know, this cave dweller who has finished all of one drama the entire year). But as I read one scene after another, the story began to grow on me and pretty soon I was lapping up every word and eager for more. I had no idea this drama was so cute and funny and also super romantic; no one told me until now!

    For the untold hours that you spent writing and screencapping, for being so thoughtful with the numbering (that made it so easy to follow the plot), and for friendship, patience and everything else, thank you!!


    • Hi Thundie,

      We are thrilled that you liked it so much. The dialouge was what attracted me to the drama initially, but it felt laborious early on, because it took a while for me to like the Do-jin character. More than once, I wanted to scrap the whole project because I just wasn’t warming up to the Do-jin character, but I couldn’t because I’ve already amassed so much Q&A material intercontinentally with CJ. I didn’t have the heart to “waste” all the work CJ did for me, so most of the credit should go to CJ.

      And thank you, Thundie, for all the behind-the-scene work that you do to make this post a reality.

  2. Second the WOW! It was enjoyable reading about a drama that was definitely one of the highlights of the year! Why? Because the characters, in age, not maturity were closer to mine so I enjoyed every moment! Amazing screencaps and write-up! I wish I could be as eloquent! Good job to both of you!

  3. Could a sweet TP reader post a link to this review on Soompi (Gentlemen’s Dignity, Jang Dong-gun and Kim Ha-neul threads)? Thank you so much! I know fans of the drama would really love this review because it’s so compelling and delightful a read and is full of helpful notes on the meanings of words, etc. Please help spread the word, muah!

  4. This is why I adore your reviews! I fell in love at this drama, not at the beginning I have to admit, but later after few weeks of awesome intros and more awesome JDG. It came like summer breeze, and stayed as flower ahjussi. At 1st it was all about fun, and JDG made it happen with his pals. I loved intro for every episode, it was clever way of showing, family ties aren’t only ones, friends can be more then right family. Drama was super cute, funny, well acted, romantic and warm.
    Thanks girls, for amazing review and smile on my face right now! Keep up, good job!

    • Thank you, mtoh. Yes, I also loved the intros for giving us not only funny moments like the Girls’ Generation cameo appearance but also using the intros as a vehicle to give us insights into the F4 characters.

  5. Wow Michael, you and your cousin CJ really did an amazing job with this. It took days to read through all of it. You can tell this was the work of two people cuz of all the details. Thank you both for all your effort in putting it together – so glad you decided not to abandon it. You are right – it would have been a pity to lose all the hard work your cousin put into this. I love reading about dramas from your perspective cuz you always add your masculine touch by noticing things women wouldn’t – like for example that scene when her skirt unravels. I laughed when I read about how you wondered why the sales vendor wouldn’t complain or question why he wanted the table cloth and just hand it over to him. I can tell you it’s cuz he looks like that and probably gave her a smile as he asked. If he gave a wink, she would have handed over her entire stock I bet. I never did finish watching this drama all the way through and only caught a few scenes here and there on cable reruns. I had the same problem as you and had issues with the lead male character DJ. How can he go from being a womanizer to someone who is willing to go so slowly in the relationship overnight – it’s just not realistic. Out of all his friends, I liked Yoon the most just like you. The other two sort of bugged me with their choices in life. TS should have fallen in love with a woman worthy of his love and I still say he chose poorly. As for that other playboy friend, his best scene was when he sang over the intercom to his wife as she walked through one of her stores and made her cry. His motive for doing that might have been off, but at least he gave her a moment of happiness she deserved for staying with his cheating butt all those years. My biggest problem with this drama was Yi Soo. Her character annoyed me at every turn. Everything she did and said the first few episodes frustrated me and it only got worse as the series progressed. That whole scene you described where she doesn’t notice DJ right in front of her cuz she is so “one track minded” was the most ludicrous of all – more so cuz DJ finds that amusing. I know I shouldn’t compare, but I had a hard time believing this was the same writer for SG. She dropped the ball in this drama if you ask me cuz the characters she created here just didn’t measure up to the ones in SG.

    I started watching cuz I am a huge JDG fan, but it turns out my interest in him must have waned over the years cuz I didn’t last very long after the drama started – partially cuz he is a family man now and he has aged a lot. Instead of marveling over his looks, I started counting all his wrinkles and questioned just how many botox injections these guys must have had to keep up their appearances. That bathroom scene where he pins her against the door by merely hovering over her still traumatizes me cuz I noticed wrinkles on his upper body no fan should ever have to see. That scene literally hurt my eyes and I had to look away in sadness muttering about how cruel time is on some people. As his fan, I should have avoided watching this drama cuz now I look at his photos in magazines wondering just how much they photoshopped his wrinkle lines. Arghh…ignorance was bliss before AGD came along.

    Anyway thanks for giving us something interesting to read for those who didn’t follow or catch this drama. If I knew this was coming, I would have waited just to read this and skip the drama itself.

    Hey Thundie – bet you are happy cuz after reading all these pages, you can count this as another drama watched for this year. 🙂

    • Hi Softy,

      It’s sad getting old, right. I think if they made this a more of a sophisticated F4 group involved in a story that is mature, intelligent, and yet have smart repartees that I know the writer is capable of, then it would’ve been great. Trying the same physical attraction formula with aging stars without a whole lot of substance just didn’t cut it for most part.

      I agree that Tae-san should’ve gone for Yi-soo, but I thought this was a realistic depiction, because life is sometimes like that where you can’t help but feel attraction for someone when others think you shouldn’t. Even though Tae-san appreciates Yi-soo as a good person, I guess he really didn’t feel attracted to her, or maybe he didn’t think she would fall for someone like him as evidenced by his initial reaction when he finds out that Yi-soo likes him. The second rationale sort of makes sense, because both Tae-san and Sa-ra have a lot in common. They both have fiery personality, short fuse, basically inconsiderate to others, and somewhat egotistical.

      Regarding the other playboy, Jung-rok, he technically didn’t cheat on his wife, Park Min-sook, if we go by what he said. He tells his friends that he only drinks tea (or wines and dines, I forget his exact words) with other women, alluding that he never slept with any of them. His singing over the intercom was nice, but I thought his best scene with his wife was the bicycle scene, when he essentially tells her, when he thinks she can’t hear him because she’s listening to music, that she is not young or pretty, and the only thing going for her is her money, but she is still “sticky,” meaning that he’s inexplicably attracted to her despite all that. She smiles at that, probably because that may be the only time he was really being earnest and truthful with her.

      Over time, I grew to really like Park Min-sook character. Her love doctor ability aside, I really liked her straight, no-phony-allowed kind of attitude. I especially liked the scene when she forces the woman who slapped one of Yi-soo’s students apologize to the student, when she saves Sa-ra from the golf bully at the golf range, and when she stands up to Sa-ra, telling her in no uncertain terms that she has every right to give Sa-ra’s car that she was holding as a collateral to Tae-san because he is her husband’s friend. And that’s not counting the fact that she’s leasing one of her buildings to her husband’s three friends dirt cheap just because they are her husband’s best friends.

      I also liked the fact that not everyone gets to have everything. Yes, Min-sook is filthy rich, but she cannot have one thing that she probably would’ve have exchanged all her riches for – her own baby. Jung-rok and Min-sook probably would’ve become closer sooner if they had their own baby, but they resolve that problem eventually and become closer because of the adversity.

      But you’re right. The writer didn’t quite reach the same lofty standard she set with Secret Garden in this drama.

      • I still have a problem remembering all these names or else I could cite more examples in my response. Dummy me just realized Min Sook is my mom’s name so no wonder that sounded so familiar all this time.
        Despite its faults, you are right – this drama did have its moments. I totally agree with you about those great scenes, especially that one where Min sook lies that she is the aunt of that kid in trouble and how she “owned (put her in her place)” that snobby rich woman was priceless. Out of the 4 female characters, MS was my favorite cuz she had a good head on her shoulders.
        So her husband never cheated on her? I find that surprising cuz now I don’t get why the other 3 tried so hard to prevent her from finding out where he was every time he was with a new young woman. I thought it was pretty messed up that his bad behavior trained her not to trust him and lowered her sense of self worth and now I’m to believe that all happened cuz he had tea or wine with all those gorgeous young women. Yeah I don’t buy that at all. The man looked and acted way too guilty just for having some wine with a woman. Sorry, but no sane husband would risk his marriage over tea or wine.
        I just realized I left out some of my other fav scenes – the ones with Yi Soo and the student who had a crush on her. It wasn’t just her lectures to do better that got to him and made him change his behavior, but the fact that she cared enough to be there for him whenever he needed someone to believe in him. The other one was when an angry client threw something at one of the architects who work for DJ and he allowed himself to get hit and how it angered DJ so much he unleashed his wrath on the client and walked away from losing all that money. Totally loved how DJ cried over the lost income only after his anger subsided. On a shallow note, I thought those good looking architects at DJ’s firm should have come out more. 🙂

        • I think we are both speculating as to whether or not Jung-rok slept with other women after he married Min-sook. I admit that I really didn’t watch Jung-rok and Min-sook couple or Tae-san and Sa-ra couple scenes that carefully, so I could be wrong but I don’t recall anybody saying that Jung-rok committed adultery. Maybe that’s what the writer wanted, for the viewers to speculate.

          My take on Jung-rok, and mind you it’s a complete speculation on my part, is that he may have slept around before the marriage, but I like to give the man the benefit of doubt because we don’t have a definitive proof of his infidelity. I believe in being innocent until proven guilty. Maybe his habit of flirting with other women is hard to break, but what if he really couldn’t find it in him to break his wedding vows. What if it’s not insanity but immaturity, addiction of his old ways, and stupidity of feeling inferior to his wife are what he’s suffering from.

          Then why did his friends work so hard to protect him if he’s not really guilty? Well, you’re not his wife, and yet you don’t believe him. Imagine how hard it would be to believe him if you were his wife. And you’re much nicer and less scary of a person than Park Min-sook. And beside the friendship thing, his friends are financially vested in Jung-rok not to get Min-sook angry. And Min-sook doesn’t strike me as a person who would wait for something like definitive proof before getting angry or jumping to conclusions.

          By the way, you’re not the only one who doesn’t believe him. I asked my cousin, and her more or less exact words to me were: Based on his character depiction, I think he did sleep around.

          On a different topic, yes, your other favorite scenes of Yi-soo and Do-jin were mine also. But unfortunately, while Yi-soo’s character was more or less consistent, I thought that Do-jin’s was being incongruous and annoying, flipping between being mature and downright juvenile.

          • I’m totally in agreement with your cousin CJ on the idea that he cheated either before or during the marriage. It’s like that saying where there is smoke there is fire. I knew his friends covered for him cuz they were protecting their own interests, but at the same time, they genuinely cared for MS’s feelings and didn’t want to see her get hurt or angry so that’s why they covered for him. I inferred from their looks of disappointment every time they caught him with someone new that they believed something more than just drinks was going on. So even his friends didn’t believe in his innocence. Plus MS was a smart woman and since she was burned so many times, it’s no wonder she lost her ability to trust. I doubt she would have been relegated to such a state that she cant believe a word of what her husband says unless she genuinely believed he was cheating. Isnt there some kind of saying about how it’s semantics to argue about the degrees of cheating cuz even emotionally stepping out on a marriage is being unfaithful. I think what it comes down to is that it doesn’t matter how platonic his flirting was after marriage, just the fact that he sought out the company of all those young women was wrong. Whether he did anything to warrant all those accusations is not the point cuz based on his “wandering eyes” past, he should have kept his urges in check. Using the excuse that he felt inferior to her as a basis to cheat is just plain selfish. I can’t rememeber how this drama ended now, but I was happy when she decided to divorce him cuz that was a healthy decision for her so she can learn to get back her self worth. He shook up the foundation of their marriage so I thought it was a little too late in the game to make amends.
            Now I remember why I wasn’t able to sit through entire episodes of this drama. The actions of these characters frustrated me cuz I just didn’t get where they were coming from. I like my dramas to blur the lines of reality and not step over to the realm of improbability so often. 🙂

            • Ah, Softy, I love how you think because that’s how I view marriage and “cheating” as well. I think since Bill Clinton, the line became somewhat blurry as to what really constitute as sex, but regarding what infidelity should be, I absolutely agree with you that Jung-rok committed infidelity even if we assume that he didn’t actually sleep with other women.

              This discussion all started because I wanted to point out that “technically” he may not have crossed the line of no return, because Min-sook does take Jung-rok back, telling him that they’ll live their lives with realization that they could divorce at any time, but that’s really no different than any other relationship.

              I think Thundie thinks we are fighting. Okay, Thundie, we are not quarreling anymore. You can take the blue background off, because I can’t read anything. 🙂

            • Hey Michael,
              This reply might go to the wrong spot cuz there was no reply button after your last one. Guess we commented too much. Hahaha I don’t think Thundie thought we were fighting since we were just having a casual conversation about AWG- I just assumed she was trying out a new christmas background on this theme and realized the one she chose just took over the entire page so she changed it back. I can see why you had a hard time reading the page though cuz I did too.
              I think cuz of A Wife’s Confidential, I’ve been on the fence about affairs. Before that drama came along, my stance on cheating was pretty firm, but that character’s situation made me realize sometimes in life people end up married to the wrong person. So when the right person comes along, what are they supposed to do – turn their back on potential happiness just to stay committed and be miserable. Once they discover who they were meant to be with, I don’t think it’s wrong to get a divorce and start over. This is all just based on that drama and not something I would do in real life.
              Anyway, it was very interesting to get your take on things cuz it cleared up a lot of questions I had about AGD. Glad we got this chance to share our thoughts. 🙂

              Hey Thundie, still working on the rest of those recaps, but it’s gonna be rushed. Hoping it won’t end up being too long. 🙂

  6. Thank you!

    This was great fun to read. I watched the show and though it was flawed I still enjoyed it. Reading your thoughtful analysis gave me some wonderful cultural nuances I had been unaware of and a smattering of the male perspective. I only wish I could have you around for all the dramas I watch.

    Again thank you for your hard work.


  7. Thank you, Amy, for reading. And for your wish. I know what you mean, because for me, having CJ around is great because I no longer have to listen to lines I can’t quite understand 20 times over. I just give her the episode number and time, and viola, I get my answer. 🙂

    • Can you loan out your cousin for those of us with no Korean relatives? Just kidding! You’re very lucky to have that resource. Thank you for paying it forward by giving us great read alike this.


  8. Hi Michael, CJ and Thundie!!!!

    Thank you all for your hard work and for this long recap / review. I am just halfway done and probably need a few more days to finish but I thought I should really thank you now. I love AGD. Really… love it. It’s one of the very few (*sad face) dramas I have watched and completed this year. Admittedly, this show is littered with holes in plot, theme and characterization, but there were also an equal number of LOL moments for me. From a smile to a chuckle, a guffaw to hysterical-back-slapping-rolling-tears kind of laughter, yup, this show did produce!

    In that sense, I would say that AGD was probably THE most enjoyable show I watched in 2012.

    I am really sad that there seems to be a dearth of good dramas to watch nowadays, especially of the romcom variety (*my particular brand of crack). I was just now looking at my viki list and was shocked that this year, I only got to finish 3, yes THREE! k-dramas (and one j-dorama, Rich Man Poor Woman). (I did drop many after a few eps) Pathetic! My love is not waning, but now I have been relegated to re-watching favourite dramas, AGD among them. (BTW, I am watching King of Dramas now, which I am enjoying so much, hence has a very good potential to increasing the number to 4 finished dramas in 2012! yey!)

    For me, AGD is really about the enduring friendship among the F44, the four gentlemen trying so hard to maintain, nay, nurture, their dignity. Their brotherhood, care and love for each other is a sight to behold – so precious and lovely.

    This is the first time I have ever watched Jang Dong Gun in anything, and just with this one show, he has shot up above all the other most-loved k-drama actors in my list to sit atop the throne to rule them all. Yup, now, I can understand the legend (and this is just a romcom!). I am so excited to see him in Dangerous Liaison, where just from the previews, he looks so hot!

    Michael, you know I am your fan, and I continue to savour your writing. I even take notes! (because I so want to understand the Korean language and culture). CJ, thanks for your help and adding more details. And Thundie, it’s always good to read from you. Thank you, thank you for hanging on… *hugs to all

    • Hi wits,

      You’re so right about the F4 brotherhood. I could’ve just as well written about the elder F4 and the young budding F4, because there was enough material there to rival this post. The most touching scene for me was when Yoon’s wife died, and all three of his friends instantly dropped everything to be with him. Their camaraderie was enduring and precious.

      In a recent interview, Jang Dong-gun said that one thing he regrets about this drama was that he was not in a better physical shape. That may be why he looked so gaunt in this drama. I may be wrong, but I think the last time he did a drama was “All about Eve,” and if you love Jang Dong-gun, you would love that one. I thought that was his best drama.

      And thank you for being one of my most ardent fans and my most diligent student of the Korean language. 🙂

  9. Hello!

    Thank you your post. I actually watched and enjoyed watching AGD when it first aired. I suppose I enjoyed the drama as the characters were my age and I actually have a group of male friends who continue to be bachelors. My boyfriend was on the receiving end of a lot of questions of “do guys really do that?”

    However, as I am not of Korean descent, I have to rely on the efforts of the submerse. As you know, a lot of meaning (spoken and cultural) can be lost in the translation. Reading your thoughts and explanations gave me a better insight into the AGD world. I teared all over again.

    Thank you, again!

  10. Hello again Michael and Thundie! Hi CJ!

    I watched AGD while it was on it’s regular run via cable (…yes, I had the Korean package installed to our monthly cable subscription, uhm..despite of the fact that I do not understand nor speak a word of Korean!) I solely depend on recaps and I patiently wait for English subs so that I could fully understand and enjoy the dramas.

    Occasionally, I stumble upon rare treats. I have been your fan Michael, ever since your post on LTM. You made me appreciate the drama’s richness with your little nuggets of cultural wisdom. Up till present, that recap, stands to be the best one I have read…ever!

    Thank you for recapping AGD. It’s one of the dramas I enjoyed watching this year. Hehe, I have now rearranged my weekend schedule to accommodate an AGD marathon. Because of this post, you made me want to watch it again, this time guided with your language and cultural annotations!

    Ahh…AGD, I fell in love with it’s soundtrack…hmm, IDK, I even tolerated “High, high!” I discovered three actors Jang Dong Gun, Kim Hae Neul and Lee Jong Hyuk. I finally understood the hype around Jang Dong Gun, why he is considered “beloved” in Korea. When he’s together with KHN on screen, you can’t help but notice how charismatic they can be…truly. So, despite of his wrinkles and flab (err…yes, flab), I’m a newly minted Jang Dong Gun fan…oh and Kim Hae Neul’s too! Lee Jong Hyuk took a lot of getting used to because I knew him before as the villain in most of the dramas I’ve seen him in, (think: Chuno); in AGD, he was the worst in the lot, but to my surprise, his comedic timing was impeccable. I ended up laughing at his antics more. (I understand, LJH is currently enjoying a second wind in his career post-AGD, especially with CF’s.)

    Lastly, I love stories on friendships. I especially loved the mini stories before each episode – the prologues. The writer brilliantly used them to give us a hint of the episode’s content. They were like mini stories introducing each character and his quirk, that was a clever way to give us insights on the character’s personality.

    So I guess this is au revoir? I hope I don’t get to wait for another year for a new & awesome recap! Michael and CJ, your collaboration rocks! Really, really cool!

    • Hi drmjs,

      Lie to Me was actually much more enjoyable for me to write than this one, especially early on, but what makes it all worthwhile are comments like yours and others. Thank you.

      I think you may be psychic, because what determines when I write again depends on a drama and my work schedule, and unfortunately, for the entire year of 2013 I’ll have additional workload added to my already insane work hours, which means no time during weekends as well, so it would be almost impossible for me to write again until early 2014. See you then, unless, of course, I win a lottery or something. 🙂

  11. This is one of the best romantic comedy series ever. I like how mature their roles are but they still depict the natural humor of a true gentlemen. They all look so adorable and nice.

    • Yes, as romantic comedies go, this one was pretty good. And I’ll take your word for it, that the guys all look adorable and nice. 🙂 Maybe that was the problem for me.
      Compared to guys, there was a dearth of true ladies for my taste. Other than Yi-soo, Sa-ra was too coarse and selfish, Min-sook too bossy, and Mae Ah-ri too sassy.
      I know, I’m being two-dimensional and hypercritical, but hopefully I’ll come across a drama with female F4 to drool over sometime in my lifespan.

  12. I have a problem with dramas…why is it OK for the lead male character to be a jerk/immature/non respectful person in the first episodes and then turns out to be a good boyfriend later on? Is it OK for women to be “wooed” this way? Can’t someone fall in love without having been upset and looked down upon?

    • I agree with you, Mello. If I could, I would write nothing but mature, sophisticated, and interesting characters and plots, but some may view that as vanilla. Unfortunately, conflicts, angst, and generally despicable things have to co-exist to some degree with good, noble, and happy things to make it interesting. I guess that’s why they call it a drama. But you’re right. Too much of going to one extreme is not good. Kdramas, I think, tend to take it to an entirely off-this-world kind of level with this particular issue.

  13. Because I am a compulsive obsessive nerd, I just have to correct you on one particular: it was Hyun Bin in Secret Garden, not Won Bin.

    • Thanks, Jiamin, for being compulsive and obsessive. 🙂

      Just the other night, while I was in the midst of writing an important email, my daughter came into my room and asked me if I have a SD card. Not wanting to interrrupt my train of thought, I told her what I instinctively thought would be the best answer for her not to engage in any further conversation with me, “No. I don’t even know what a SD card looks like.” Which is partially true, since while I have seen a picture of SD card before, I have never used it, and at that engrossed moment, visualization of a SD card was the farthest thing from my mind.

      I couldn’t help but look up and smile at her though, when she replied, “What kind of a nerd are you, when you don’t even know what a SD card looks like.” She has called me a nerd a few times in the past affectionately, because she says while I’m obsessed with technology, I don’t understand technology.

      So, I guess I’m not even a passable nerd anymore. It’s so hard getting old. 🙂

  14. Hey there, my name is Roscoe and I’m a fellow blogger out of Sll, Austria. I’m glad to see
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  15. These men look the part that they ought to be gentlemen. Are you sure they’re wack jobs interested in sex? I doubt it, I think they’re gansta type people who title themselves gentlemen, or maybe people call them gentlemen because they look so similar to one. I don’t know very much about pseudo, I might be a pseudo-poshie for all I know, I promise you no one is pseudo- anything on purpose, it just happens because the people do things a little differently or because of the white lies used as compliments about them, that’s all. A pseudo-normal is one who’s Catholic, thinks it’s the one true church, drinks iced coffee and does things people ”think” are a little odd sometimes. Same thing.

  16. Hi @softy, I don’t think you’re a JDG fan at all as you claimed you are. You’re most probably a JDG hater than a fan. What kind of a fan would say horrible things against her idol? So I don’t really believed you’re a JDG fan. Don’t you think some things are better left unsaid? Most especially if you don’t really what you’re saying. And who says no one doesn’t age? Everyone of us will reach that point whether we like it or not. But I’m sure JDG looks better than most of us as he aged. I’m sure even without the wonder of science, he will age gracefully. It was just so evident because it took him 12 years to return to Kdrama land. So most of our memories of him was his AAE days when he was just 28 yrs old. So there was really a drastic change in his looks (as he got older) but he’s still as handsome nonetheless. That’s probably the reason why you’re telling us that he has undergone aesthetic procedures or photoshopped looks. But how sure are you? Even without wrinkles, most celebrities featured in magazines are “photoshopped” especially if they don’t have flawless skin. And most Korean celebrities went under the knife and obviously most Kpop idols. That’s why they look so fake. But mind you, JDG is 100% pure and natural and was born with pretty boy looks. I should know because I’m an avid JDG fan for almost two decades now.

  17. Hi his is kinda of off topic buut I was wondering if blogs
    use WYSIWYG editors or if you have to manually code with HTML.
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