Saturday, March 21, 2020

[Review] KBS Drama Special 2018 Full Season

Instead of creating a separate post for each of the 10 stories presented in the 2018 edition of KBS Drama Special - one collective of short, really short introductions into themes presented by these one-episode little gems.
They are presented in the chronological order.

It's the little things that make KBS Drama Special so really special - the flimsy, short stories without grand schemes and intrinsic plots. It's just an impressionistic painting. Sometimes I wish I could stay longer with the characters, though.

Episode 1: Review Notebook of My Embarrassing Days

The main heroine of this episode is a Math teacher at the school. And as she's somewhat unlucky woman, she writes a diary of sorts - a notebook in which she describes her embarrassing moments. And by unlucky I mean - if anything can go wrong with small things - it will. Like the skirt pulls itself up and shows her slimming undergarment (because of course why not, especially in front of the class), the soda can bursts when opening etc.

There is this one scene in the episode that rings true with all of us - she wakes up at dawn, infuriated, embarrassed and exasperated by something that happened and the brain just reminded her of it. So true. 
Anyway, she's divorced, having an amicable relationship with her ex - they both have a custody over their dog, so it stays with her or with him. Then she's sent to the teachers' secret camp because of CSAT exams. At the camp she meets a guy who, as she says "ruined her relationship" in the college. Officer Na is guarding the camp, the teachers and the answers to the tests.
And her ex arrives to the camp in a group of teachers who would correct the tests they've created. In a drunken fit after coming back from his father's funeral, he discloses him and Dohye were married. Creating the most embarrassing moment up to date. 
And making Pilseung to withdraw again after confessing. 

I don't want to spoil how they got together but it involved Math, (in)famous notebook and a hair blowdrier. Just watch it, it's cute. It's the cutest installment of the entire 2018 series.

Episode 2: Forgotten Season


Now I think no one could play Junki but Kim Muyeol, who went from goofy, irresponsible bum to psycho in the making seamlessly. And this was one of the two hardest things to watch, the other being Dreamers (but for a different reason). The story starts at goshiwon, where Junki lives studying (not really) for the 8th year to become a civil servant. Also there lives Eunjae who studies to become a police officer but fails every year. One day, while trying to memorize the stuff, she hears her new neighbor screaming. And to help her focus, she inserts the noise blockers in her ears. After few days, a detective appears at goshiwon because the body of the girl was found in a bag in the middle of some meadows. 

Junki confesses to his younger brother, the hotshot reporter what he had done and says he is going to turn himself in but Yunki forbids him fearing his career would be over, saying he'll take care of it. His way of taking care is saying on the news the murder was done by a serial killer. Of course, one victim does not a serial killing make, so he says to more and more volatile and desperate Junki that it would be good if somebody else was killed, so that he'd be once again on top. And Junki, observing that Uhyeon, a cute store clerk who just started dating reclusive and timid Eunjae, took his discarded cigarette but for a comparison - kills the boy. Then he learns that walls at goshiwon are really thin, he realizes there is one more person who knew about him killing the girl. The next day after learning she finally passed the police academy exams, Eunjae is also killed even though it's not shown.
There are two indirectly guilty people here. First, we see Eunjae after she learns Uhyeon is dead - she knows she did nothing but could to stop her neighbor from being killed, instead she put the blockers and memorized the traits of a just and fair police officer. Irony kills, in a way. The other person was a taxi driver who took Junki and his super heavy bag to the station. He even had the chance to call the police but didn't. 
This episode left me empty, to be honest.

Episode 3: The Tuna and the Dolphin

This might be the weakest story-wise installment of the series, but it's cute, has nice men swimming and Jang Dongyun 3-minute cameo as the slightly psychopathic guy from a very, very traditional and weird family (note to self: never trust a cute random guy in a Columbo coat who says you're pretty). Anyway, this is about a girl, a kindergarten teacher, who per chance, starts swimming lessons. She falls in love easily - too easily. All it takes is one look or a nice word, or a view of some nice back, for her to fall head over heals.

Her falling for Ujin is fast and hard, leading even to staged marriage - ruined only by Han Yura who, thinking Ujin has a wife and kid, leads to an embarrassing moment. Hyeonho's personality doesn't make her feel beat, but she's annoyed and furious at Yura for such behavior and when he says he did all this because he wanted to protect her, she retorts she never asked him to do this. What true words!! 
Nevertheless, as Hyeonho and Ujin keep dating, she feels something's wrong. She feels tired and not relaxed around him. Her friend tells her that being in love should not be a burden, a person we love should make us naturally happy and relaxed, not tired or exhausted. She reevaluates how she really feels.

Episode 4: Too Bright For Romance

This is most certainly the most quiet story out of the 10. Yanghee and Pilyong are friends from college. She is an unusually quiet girl with a really peculiar perspective of the world. One day, while having fish burgers (she adds only 2$ for the meal every time they have it) at their favorite place, she confesses to surprised Pilyong that she loves him. His happiness is cut short as she adds that she's not sure about tomorrow and she only loves him today. This is something the boy can't really wrap his head around - for him the feeling should be constant, every day. For her, tomorrow is a big enigma, it doesn't exist so she can't say anything about the next day even. She can only be sure about today.

And one day she says to him she doesn't love him anymore. Unable to process the sudden change, he lashes out - about her poor appearance, not wearing any make-up (cause she should since she's not gonna be young forever, etc. - the usual rejected guy stuff). After calming down, he feels guilty and decides to visit her to apologize (since she's absent from classes) and goes to her hometown.
Then he learns her family is really, really poor and relies on the little money she makes during studies (her diplomas and achievements are displayed on the wall). During their talk, she says she likes to look at trees because they don't judge.
After that trip to her hometown, they probably lose contact for the next 20 years.
Also, there is a theatre critic, who clearly wants some favors from her and when she's unwilling to accommodate him, he writes a scathing review of her play. This shows how much our perception is tricked and influenced by somebody else's opinion - before the review, her theatre studio was always packed. After that - there was no one, except for Pilyong. People trusted not their own feelings but words of some guy who clearly was out to crush her.
And that's why her theatre play was called A Standing Tree Doesn't Judge - she's that tree making the audience face their own emotions one by one. 

Epiosde 5: Miss Kim's Mystery

This is one funny story with hilarious moments, quirky scenes and as always - a punch to the gut with one sentence that is the real Drama Special specialty.
Miss Kim enters the company on a mission - to contact one researcher (dr. Yu) who developed a ground breaking technology. Then, the rookie employee, Mr. Lee is given the task by Director Choi to track down and expose an industrial espionage conducted by, probably, Miss Kim (because she was accepted through nepotism into the company). Gijun, an enthusiastic but very clumsy spy spying on a spy, tries to get close to Miss Kim even though she stays alert and refuses his invitation to eat together until one of the cryptic messages she gets on her burner phone tells her to befriend him for info. During lunch, she says that she is unaccustomed to be eating in a company of people, and Gijun says that "if you stay lonely for too long, you'll get indifferent to loneliness."
The story takes a bit of a criminal flavor when dr. Yu is attacked and even in the hospital is not safe because there are people trying to get their hands on her technology. 
Long story short, because I don't want to bore everyone - it's a fast moving, funny and sweet story. Involving "slaughterhouse" and the best screaming sequence by a guy I have seen lately.

Episode 6: The Long Goodbye

The story about the editor and a struggling author who can't come from the slump after publishing his first, highly successful novel. But in fact it's a story of coming out of the 8 year long relationship. At this point of the story there is little to suggest Ina and Sanghee are much in love with each other. He spends his days trying to write and getting more and more annoyed and irritated with everything and everyone. Ina tries to shelter him from his publisher pushing for the new novel that was promised, agreed upon and paid for. Sanghee even gets annoyed and lashes out at the young writer who says that it was Sanghee's book that inspired him and made him want to become a writer. Then he calms down and apologizes, but such situations keep repeating more and more frequently. 
At one point both Ina and Sanghee decide to break up - also with his publisher (the same she works for) and to pay him off, they sell their house and move separate ways.
A year later, Ina sees Sanghee's new book called The Long Goodbye.
OK, so I didn't like the story as much as I wanted to, Sanghee was, for the most part, a jerk. I tried to understand that he could feel a bit pushed into writing a new book, but saying that Ina was incessantly nagging and she was the reason he couldn't write was a bit too much. 
So, as much as I can see the story, I really didn't make a connection with the characters.

Episode 7: Dreamers

This is by far my most favorite episode from 2018 series. The soundtrack to this little, brilliant gem is trippy and dark (featuring also Led Zeppelin's Immigrant Song at one point). I could easily write a separate post about this episode only. It's amazingly done - from the screenplay, acting, editing, directing and music. The editing is wonderful - how one scene comes after another, or the cinematography evoking the oneiric dream sequences.
This is also one of the hardest things I have watched.
The story is about the detective Ji-uk who sleeps excessively also on the job, leading to the irritation of his superiors, even though they know the reason behind such behavior.
Six months prior to the story, Huiju, his girlfriend committed a suicide jumping from a bridge. Minutes before she called him but since he was in the middle of pursuing a suspect, he couldn't talk and said they'll talk later. And what he said then haunts him ever since because there was no later. He had to identify her body and as he said himself, he tried to wake her up, because to him she seemed to be sleeping.


Ever since then he's been dreaming. He doesn't remember the dreams, but after defeating faceless gang of guys, he gets to meet her and talk with her in his dreams that follow their internal dream logic - like flying pills landing inside the body, faceless people, once he even fights with an open umbrella or a pillow as if it was the most natural thing to do. In dreams it is. 
Then, during one of his dreaming escapades, he meets another dreamer and learns of her story - she lost her son in an accident, when he was killed by a driver. In her dreams she shelters him from the impact over and over again and plans on getting revenge in her awake state.
They start talking about the trauma that haunts them and Ji-uk says that after what happened he was met with only two kinds of reaction to the event - first he was blamed for not realizing Huiju's inner torment and her plans earlier, the second: she was blamed for being selfish. Tertium non datur, so it seems. And Huiju tells him: "I could hang in there a little longer thanks to you." - we learn she was always smiling, cuddly and all in all - a lovely girl.

This little story deals with suicide, with the loss and how to overcome the grief, the trauma that it causes. Dreams might be the escape from reality, but to start healing, we need to leave dreams and live for those who left us behind. And we can't let the Man In Charge stay in charge much longer and feed us dream pills - else we could be stuck and wither.  

  • Director: Yoo Young-Eun
  • Writer: Baek So-Yeon  (I need more, Writer-nim!)

Episode 8: My Mom's Third Marriage

The story is told through five people only. It starts with Eunsu being left under the care of her Grandmother while her Mother leaves to pursue the chance for a marriage and creating a family for her daughter. From the story and changing names of Eunsu we know she had no such luck the entire life. And finally it seems the luck is on her side - she's dating a kind, older guy who seems to genuinely love her.

Meanwhile Eunsu meets a guy and is adamant on sleeping with him on their first meeting. Only later we learn that he's the son of the man Eunsu's Mother is to marry, so the girl does everything to ruin her Mom's chance for a happiness. Worse - he quickly understands Eunsu used him for exactly this purpose so he backs off from pursuing any interest he might developed in her. He's supportive of his Father's late attempt to be happy. Eunsu, being raised by her Grandmother, works with older folks, bringing them cultural invigoration. 
After learning her Mother is at the terminal stage of the liver failure, she changes her attitude and works towards Eun-yong's happiness. Exasperated she cries to her Grandma to make Eun-yong stay.
The story ends when Eunsu drives her mother to Jongdae's private villa from a hospital and the woman just wants to rest, puttng her head on her daughter's shoulder.
I did not sign up for this.
OK, maybe I did.


Episode 9: Forgotten Season (The Expiration Date of You and Me)

It's yet another story with an open ending in this series (previous being Too Bright For Love) - this time about two people who meet at the subway station after 10 years and they are separated again by the train door. The whole episode is their ride during which they reminisce about their year in college. This is in fact a bittersweet story proving that most of the things in life are about the right timing. Hyeonsu had myriads of moments he could confess to Seungyeon but he never did, even though she suspected he had feelings for her.
Hyeonsu wanted to be a documentary director, and even after college he pursued his dream, that's why he is still struggling. 
I liked the way they showed here how memories work. During their talk Hyeonsu said he remembers meeting Seungyeong in front of the board dressed in a dress, like an ethereal beauty while he was wearing a checkered shirt. To this she replies that she wore oversized green ugly sweater and he was wearing a red jumper. The words on this jumper are the concise and accurate characteristics of our male lead.  
Hyeonsu calls his college days and Seungyeon as "the memory of my golden days" and their relationship as having the longest expiration date so far.
Seungyeong says that when she was in her 20s, she thought 30s were all somber and adult, but now that she's in her 30s she no longer thinks so. She knows she's the same upbeat, optimistic and equally immature (she tends to leave stuff around).

  • Shin Hyun-Soo - Lee Hyun-Soo
  • Lee Da-In - Yoo Seung-Yeon
  • Min Jin-Woong - Jang Hyung-Joon
  • Kim Young-Dae - Kim Min-Sik
  • Ju Eun - Park Se-Hee

 Episode 10: So Close Yet So Far

Yes, this is an episode about the curling team. How often do you watch tv shows about the curling? Thankfully I watched this particular one with an expert friend, so I wasn't as lost as I would be had I watched it on my own and spent the entirety of it on googling stuff.
Our main protagonist is a curling player - very strong willed and very bad tempered. She's also one of the best players but due to the health problems she doesn't disclose, her performance deteriorates and she's kicked out of the team.

She then goes into another that has a guy she had crush on and got pulled into the world of curling because of him. And she's very open about having a crush on him, which is very nice and refreshing. For the time being, she's very hostile and rude towards him, though. However, he's also part of the reason she's slipping as the player. She witnessed the army beating down the workers protesting, and  among the protesters was also her father. Thing is Seongchan beat her father. After that a ringing in her head started to appear every time she heard a thudding sound, so two curling stones colliding makes her head explode with pain.
After confronting the past, Yongju finally lets go of the resentment, Seongchan owes up to what he has done and both of them can start their relationship anew.

Also, on one of the pictures above you can see Yongju wearing a jumper with "I Marymond You" text on it, right? Marymond is a very unique company - it was founded because of the "comfort women" and nowadays it's also standing against crimes against children. part of their income goes to foundations. Here's the website with the mission statement.

Next in the series: KBS Drama Special 2017.