This hour brings our leads closer together as they begin to find their way to the contract relationship that’s at the center of this drama—with plenty of bickering along the way, of course. Our hero finds new ways to show just how far he needs to go to redeem himself, but he’s met his match in our heroine, who has spunk and sassiness to spare. She’s used to dealing with children, so a manchild can’t be too difficult, right?
EPISODE 2: “Match Point: I Don’t Play Losing Games”
After their definitely-not-fateful meeting in the schoolyard, Jae-in and Da-hyun go to a coffee shop to talk. He reminds her that his grandfather wants them to get married, and in their family, Grandpa’s word is law. Da-hyun tells him to deal with his family problems on his own and insists again that she has no idea who his grandfather is, but Jae-in angrily refuses to believe her.
Da-hyun huffs as she gets up and tells him to come with her—they’ll meet Grandpa and straighten this mess out. She stalks out, leaving a bemused Jae-in to grab her forgotten cell phone and follow in her wake. She thanks him stiffly, and he gives her an exaggerated shrug.
Jae-in tells her to get in the car, but Da-hyun tells him she’ll take a taxi. He says it’s silly to do that since they’re going to the same place, but she says she doesn’t trust him—who knows what he might do to her? She tells him to go ahead and call his grandfather, or more likely, his accomplice in this scam. Insulted, he calls his grandfather and tells him that Da-hyun doesn’t know who he is and wants the three of them to talk. Grandpa says that’s not his problem, and tells Jae-in to take care of it. After hanging up on his grandson, Grandpa tells the phone, “Lee Jae-in, it’s time to suffer. Not everything in the world can go your way.”
Da-hyun, seeing the phone call didn’t go well, tells Jae-in that he should have planned his con better. “Why can’t you believe me?” he asks. She points out that he doesn’t believe anything she says, so why should she believe him? Anyone would think this is an abnormal situation. “Are you implying I’m crazy?” he demands. She retorts, “At least you understood that much.”
He gives a few barks of angry laughter, then grabs her arm and starts to drag her back to the coffee shop. When she protests, he asks if she wants to be carried inside in his arms instead. Alarmed, she pulls her arm from his grasp and hurries ahead.
Once they’re sitting at an outdoor table, she threatens to call the police, and asks him what he thinks he’s doing. Jae-in says they need to have a serious heart-to-heart, but she says she has nothing to say to him. Hilariously, he googles himself and shows her the entry on his phone. She admits he does resemble the chaebol in the picture. “I don’t look like him, I am him!” Jae-in moans in frustration.
Back at Grandpa’s place, Employee Kang tells Grandpa that if he really owes Da-hyun a debt, this is not exactly repaying her with kindness—it’s more like making her his enemy. Grandpa asks if Jae-in is that lacking, and Employee Kang says no—the problem is he’s not lacking at all, especially in his assholery! (Hah.) Grandpa replies that this is why he needs Da-hyun. He’s a jerk who only loves money, and he’s only dated women just like him. Grandpa can’t let him go on that way. “And I’m running out of time,” he sighs.
Da-hyun and Jae-in discuss the exact conditions of the will, and Da-hyun declares that she doesn’t like it. Jae-in (who keeps slipping into banmal) says that the shares she’s so easily rejecting are worth more than she can imagine. She calls him out on his informal tone and tells him to call her by her proper title. He brushes this off as a waste of time when so much money is at stake.
Da-hyun replies, “Look—… what was your name again?” He glares and tells her. She says she isn’t starving or homeless, so why does she have to get married when she has no need of the inheritance? He tells her that if she doesn’t marry him, life will become difficult for her. Once it becomes known that whoever marries Da-hyun will be the heir to SH Group, men will swarm around her.
“Hmm, that doesn’t sound bad,” she says. “But whoever I choose, it definitely won’t be you.” His grandfather is trying very hard to cover up his horrible personality with money, she observes, but the inheritance isn’t worth it if it includes Jae-in as a free gift.
Boiling with anger, Jae-in goes to his Lawyer bestie’s office (or maybe he’s just his only friend). Lawyer Park smiles and asks if the teacher is too much to handle. Jae-in rants that she’s horrible: cunning, sly, and brazen. “So in other words, she’s smart, clever, and fearless?” asks Lawyer Park in amusement. Jae-in whines that she called him a free gift. He says that she’s refused both marriage and money, and Lawyer Park becomes serious, asking what he will do. “Pressure her until she crumbles, of course!” Of course.
At a bookstore, Da-hyun sees a book written by Grandpa, with a large picture of him on the front. She picks it up and asks it if he knows her, and if so, why not just repay her with money and leave his grandson out of it? (Seriously, how do you not recognize him?) Idol Ji-soo soon joins her, addressing her as his teacher and promising her that he’s been studying hard for his upcoming high school equivalency exam. She tells him not to call her that, and drags him off to buy him a treat as his fan club president.
That night, Jae-in broods in his office, talking to Da-hyun’s crumpled photo: “Sorry, but I don’t play losing games.”
After school the next day, Da-hyun gets a call from Jae-in and goes to meet him. As she scans the coffee shop for him, he comes up behind her and says “I’m here” right in her ear, startling her. She turns and stumbles away from him, but he grabs her hands before she bumps into someone, pulling her close for a moment.
Once they’re seated, Da-hyun tells him to stop calling her. She’s already told him that she has no interest in him or SH Group. He says he’s relieved she has no interest in marriage, but that Grandpa has agreed to rewrite his will if they sincerely date for six months. She tells him she has no intention of dating him, and he asks her if she knows how much profit SH Group makes in a year. She asks him if he knows how much she makes in a month, and says that the two figures are equally irrelevant. She’s not starving to death; she certainly has no interest in getting married in order to inherit another family’s money, nor does she want to complicate her life.
“So, you’re serious,” he says, finally seeming to hear her. She replies that she’s always been serious, and starts to walk away, only to pause and look back at him. He perks up in expectation, but she quietly picks up her forgotten phone from the table and leaves again. Heh.
At home, Da-hyun reflects that it would have been nice to get all that money, but she did the smart thing by refusing—it’s best not to get involved with people like that. Her mom calls to tell her about another matseon (marriage date) with an Oriental medicine doctor, and she cheerfully agrees.
Meanwhile, Jae-in is back in his office, staring down at Da-hyun’s crumpled-up picture and résumé. He thinks about her refusal today, and then of his grandfather’s threat that he’ll give the company to Tae-ha. “Look, Teacher,” he says to her picture, “if you act like this, things get complicated for me.” In his own office, Grandpa smiles with satisfaction that he’s received no word from Jae-in—as he expected, Da-hyun must have rejected him. He decides it’s time to tell Tae-ha about all this, and calls for Lawyer Park.
Over the weekend, Da-hyun heads out dutifully (if reluctantly) to the promised matseon. Jae-in meets his mother for lunch at a hotel restaurant, seemingly after a long time. She asks him about what’s going on with Grandpa, and if he’s been in touch with his aunt in Canada. He deflects the former question and answers yes to the latter, when he suddenly spots Da-hyun meeting her date across the room.
His mom notices his distraction; she observes the couple, and uses this to segue into asking when he’s going to get married and why he doesn’t return to SH Group already. She reminds him that his maternal grandfather is the Chairman of Daehan Electric and powerful in his own right; his family is always ready to help.
Jae-in cuts the meal short with his mother, staring hard at Da-hyun and saying he has a “big problem” to deal with. He walks up to the pair who are chatting pleasantly and declares, “I thought you hadn’t settled things with me yet. Isn’t it cheating for you to be doing this?” He sits down at the table next to a flabbergasted Da-hyun, and talks over her: Yes, as they’d agreed, they’ll push back the wedding for now, though he’d be happy to do it tomorrow. Da-hyun shakes her head in helpless disbelief. Jae-in politely apologizes to the stunned doctor, saying that things sometimes get complicated when a man and a woman are dating.
Da-hyun asks him what he’s doing, and Jae-in replies, “What do you want to do, then? Shall we just get married?” She protests, “What do you mean, married? I thought we just had to date—” The doctor gets up in disgust, and Da-hyun covers her face in embarrassment as he leaves. Jae-in smoothly slides into the man’s vacated chair as Da-hyun glares at him.
He follows her as she storms out, telling her he wants to start over. She wails that they never started anything to begin with. He says in that case, they can start now, dragging her inside by her wrist. Again. She has to field her mom’s call as he listens in, telling her mom that no, she’s not secretly dating anyone and she doesn’t know that guy; okay, he’s a crazy guy, but not dangerous; yes, she’ll go on another date next weekend. Hah.
Hanging up, Da-hyun snaps at Jae-in, “Give me an excuse that will make me forgive you.” He refuses, and asks why she’s making things so difficult. She needs a man, and he needs her, so why not just marry him? (Oh, I have so many reasons, bub.) Giving in to his stubbornness, she agrees to give it a shot.
But, she asks, what’s in it for her? He gets his inheritance, but she has to give up both marriage and a fortune, and on top of that, she’ll have to put up with Jae-in for six months. He says he’ll pay her three years’ worth of dividends in cash, but she points out she’d have far more money and status as his wife. So her first condition: He has to address her properly by her title and speak politely. He agrees, but when Employee Kang calls him about work a moment later, he harshly tells him to write his resignation if he can’t resolve the current situation at work.
Da-hyun says Jae-in has a lot of money, so he can give her whatever she asks for, right? He asks what she wants, and to his surprise, she asks for new tech in her school library, new books, an indoor gym for her kids, and a school bus. Oh, and a big mirror for the dance practice room—she’s the advisor of the dance club. If he can pick some stars out of the sky for science class too…
“Anything else?” he asks. He can do everything but the stars. She tells him she was joking, but when he insists, she tells him not to worry about the school, but instead help get a new management company for “Our Ji-soo.” He’s stuck in a slave contract and may need a lawsuit to break free—can Jae-in’s lawyer help with that? She tells him earnestly that if he can just help with this, she’ll do anything Jae-in wants, except marry him of course. Ooh, are you sure you want to make that promise?
Agreed, they walk out and she says goodbye, but he calls her back. She turns to him, and he holds up her phone. Hahaha. At that moment, a car heads toward them, and he pulls her out of its path and into his arms.
This episode went a lot further in getting me invested in this story, which I was lukewarm about after episode one. I watched the original version of this show a few years ago, and though I don’t remember a lot of details, one of the things that stayed with me was the natural, warm, and intelligent heroine, played by Kim Jung-hwa, who was lovely in the role. It took me much longer to warm up to Jeon So-min’s Da-hyun, especially because she seems so dim at times—why would you leave your third-graders unsupervised to investigate a suspicious noise in the woods, alone? How is it that she didn’t recognize Grandpa when she saw his photograph on the book cover? It’s at odds with her otherwise pretty smart, if incredibly absentminded, character. (That running gag with her forgetting her phone will never get old.) There are multiple times when other characters compliment her for being intelligent, but I’m a little skeptical.
I do really love Da-hyun now though, especially after the second half of this episode. Her strong will and her refusal to be bullied or manhandled by Jae-in are highly inspiring. I love that she threatened to call the police after he physically dragged her back to the coffee shop and threatened to actually restrain her. (Again, what the heck? I’ve seen a lot of jerky male leads in my time, but this one is really making my blood boil.) She’s cheerful and optimistic without being a doormat, and she’s got that awesome teacherly manner that she pulls out when necessary—for example, when she needs to scold arrogant chaebol heirs in the basics of good manners. I haven’t seen her in anything else, but Jeon So-min does a good job of playing a regular woman who is faced with an absurd situation, and reacts like a real person would. She’s a very relatable heroine.
Jae-in, on the other hand, whom I probably shouldn’t even refer to as the hero, is pretty awful with almost no redeeming qualities. (He’s honest? That’s all I’ve got.) He has all the worst attributes of a man who has had every luxury handed to him since he was young. He’s domineering, rude, abusive to his subordinates at work, and worst of all, has no compunction about physically touching or grabbing a woman without her permission. There are two things that make him (slightly) easier to put up with: Ha Suk-jin’s hilarious expressions, and the fact that the drama repeatedly points out what a horrible person he is. I mean, only his mother loves him, and as far as I can tell, his only friend is the family attorney. I am very much looking forward to seeing Da-hyun put him in his place, especially once he starts falling in love with her and has to think of a way to get into her good graces.
This drama is serviceable and entertaining; nothing striking or new is being done in the writing, directing or acting. It’s really carried by the main couple, and much of the reason it’s so watchable is the good chemistry between them. It’s so much fun to watch them bicker, because they really inject a sparkling animosity into the interaction despite the rather lackluster dialogue. The side characters are pretty forgettable, and the show is cliche-ridden as a drama from the early 2000s, which makes sense considering the original drama aired in 2003. But I’m definitely enjoying this as an old-fashioned, feel-good contract relationship rom-com that hits the right notes for a drama of its type. Here’s to hijinks and awkward, serendipitous embraces!