Hey you, it’s Big, the new drama I’ve been looking forward to for, like, ever. Even though this wasn’t the best first episode, and so far it wasn’t the best drama I have ever seen, I like Big so much already. It feels like it’s been ages since I’ve watched just a simple, fun drama like this, and I hadn’t realized how deprived I had been feeling.
Our hapless heroine is Gil Da Ran (Lee Min Jung, Midas), a mess of a girl, who’s trying to become a high school teacher, but has failed her exam at least once already. We first see her in a situation that’s designed to make us feel sorry for her – she’s delivering a wedding bouquet (and wearing a really embarrassing belly shirt), and she’s just about to get yelled at for being late when the bride realizes that she knows Da Ran – they were classmates. But since Da Ran didn’t pass her exam, she’s been left out of this teacher lady group. I get the impression that even if she had passed, these girls might have excluded her anyway.
You know, I get that making the main girl absolutely pathetic and stupid is supposed to make you like her right away, but it sometimes has the opposite effect on me. I don’t see why these drama people don’t think that a smart and strong heroine would be just as instantly likable as one of these sad sack types. Anyways, Da Ran holds on to the shreds of her dignity, and she’s rewarded for it: while falling in her attempt to catch the bouquet (for work, of course), she meets the handsome and loudly dressed Seo Yun Jae (Gong Yoo), and she thinks that her life changes forever, since he proposes to her after her cast gets off. It’s finally springtime for Da Ran!
But not so fast. If it were that easy, the drama would end right here, and off Da Ran would go to live a typical, boring life. Her life doesn’t really change until she has a brief encounter on the bus with a mysterious younger man (Shin Won Ho – or just Shin now, since one name is totally awesome), when she notices him staring at her and smiling/smirking. She had just been full of her own meet-cute story (which she had submitted to a radio program in exchange for a free rice cooker), but that didn’t stop her from checking him out herself. My heart bled for Da Ran as she began to bridle from the attention this cute guy was giving her. After snagging Yun Jae, you’d think she wouldn’t get so flustered around other cute guys, or at least be content with her lot. Ok, now you’re just being greedy, Da Ran. And I’m ok with that.
Her heart flutters even more when he runs after her, and gets under her umbrella of love, holding her hand in the process. She stutters out that she’s engaged, and older than she looks, until he modes her by saying that she just took his umbrella. For a second there I was having traumatic flashbacks to Love Rain, but this umbrella move was more campy and outrageous, like the one in Temptation of Wolves.
I don’t know who I agree with more – a part of me thinks that he should have picked up the umbrella she left behind, but then if I were to see a girl giggling and writhing on the bus, I might not want to touch her stuff, either. So he’s probably only kind of a jerk, since he shared his umbrella with her for a little ways, until she stopped in front of Jeil High, eliciting an “uh-oh” from the kid. Who is of course Kang Gyeong Jun, the new Jeil transfer student.
Even though Da Ran is the lowest ranked employee there, and this Gyeong Jun is from a top US high school, and seems to be a prize for the school, she is the one tasked to show him around. If they wanted her representing their school, maybe they should treat her better.
Her boss, Kim Young Ok, is played by Hong Sisters mainstay Choi Ran, and so far she’s just like her Glory Jane character, and I really hope she’s not getting typecast as the bitchy superior. One of her co-workers, Lee Ae Kyung, was also at the wedding, and she seems to fill the role of toxic friend at work. It’s a shame that the actress, Shin Ji Soo, is playing someone so bad, since she was so likable in Scent of a Woman as a cheerful cancer patient. There’s also someone sweet on Da Ran, another teacher, Na Hyo Sang, who is played by Moon Ji Yoon, who is no stranger to the Hong Sisters, having played the best friend in Sassy Girl Chun Hyang (and doesn’t look like he’s aged a day). And Da Ran doesn’t show the school off to much advantage, spending the bulk of the tour scolding Gyeong Jun for his rude way of speaking. So much for her school life.
Da Ran’s homelife is much better, as witnessed by Kyung Joon after he jumps out of a first story window (how badass), and runs into the “tough guys” of the school, led by the not too bright Gil Chung Sik (Baek Sung Hyun). I wasn’t expecting anything from Baek, but he was pretty funny as the harmless muscle, even as he tried to intimidate this new student with his bad English. Just as he was about to punch this new kid, Da Ran stops his fist (I hope she has superpowers), and then sets about beating him up. Gyeong Jun is actually a little concerned that teachers have this kind of (corporal punishment) power in Korea, but the other gangsters tell him that Da Ran is his sister. And he’s fine with that kind of violence – he must be an only child.
Gyeong Jun looks a little jealous as Da Ran fusses over her adorable little brother, tsking over a cut on his face that she might have given him. This was probably one of Lee Min Jung’s better scenes, and I wonder if she’s just more comfortable with Baek, or maybe she’s such a good actress that she’s showing how much more at ease Da Ran is with her family. You know that Chung Sik is a good guy since he doesn’t even mind that his sister is his teacher, and defends her from the other kids.
Anyways, we also see that the two close siblings are also close to their parents, the strict father, Gil Min Kyu, played almost subtly by Ahn Suk Hwan, and an immature mother, Lee Jung Hye (Yoon Hae Young). I was a little sad that this meant that Ahn and Choi Ran wouldn’t be paired together again – they are kind of meant to be. And it’s kind of icky, but it looks like the mother was once the father’s student, and there’s a noticeable age difference between them. I guess the drama is already setting up a Da Ran-Gyeong Jun romance by presenting this example of teacher-student relations. I wonder if the Hong Sisters also wanted to comment on the double standards, or if they were just like, Let’s have lots of teachers and students get together – the more, the merrier!
But Da Ran’s love life, which was supposed to be taken care of in the first few minutes of the drama, is on the bad side. On paper it looks like she’s gotten the perfect man, but over the course of the drama we see that Yun Jae is kind of a jerk and, most unforgivable of all, boring.
He is always “busy” and he’s clearly blowing off their wedding preparations. I don’t know if Gong Yoo was supposed to play him so lobotomized, or if he just wanted to save all of his acting energy for after the body switch. I guess Yun Jae seems like someone you’d know in real life, and that’s why he’s so lame in the drama. He has a co-worker, Lee Se Young (Jang Hee Jin), who is totally out to get him, and she might have succeeded if not for the crazy forces at work in this drama. I liked Jang in Spy Myeong Wol, so I hope she has more to do here than be a b-i-t-c-h.
At least Da Ran isn’t totally lame, and actually stood up for herself, after getting stood up by him yet again. She asked him if he was just marrying her to “take responsibility,” and if that were the case, they shouldn’t get married at all. Gyeong Jun was watching, since he’s already stalking Gil Teacher, and he thought that was pretty cool of her, so he prevented her from calling Yoon Jae back and becoming less cool. Then there followed a really inappropriate scene of him taking her far away on his motorcycle. The motorcycle he would later crash, as he and Yun Jae (who was heading to see Da Ran) both went into the ocean.
Here was the mystical scene we had been waiting for, since this is probably when the body switch thing happened. The drama emphasized this “Miracle” picture of two angels, even going so far as to have Yun Jae and Gyeong Jun recreate the image in a weird tableau vivant. Each guy has that image, so there seems to be a connection between them, not to mention the fact that it looked like Yun Jae was planning to go to the States. Half-brothers? Cousins, at least. Though if it was just based on looks, I’d say he was related to Se Young – don’t they look alike? I guess the drama wouldn’t have been able to incorporate that Zoltar Speaks machine, which is too bad, since I loved that in the original movie. But a mystical angel-painting-water thing works too.
Anyways, at the hospital, Yun Jae is actually declared dead (where has Yoon Jae’s spirit gone?), and a sobbing Da Ran comes to identify him. Instead of vampire hijinks, we get lots of Gong Yoo-sploitation as Gyeong Jun tries to understand that he has just become someone else. It was so wrong how they used Gong Yoo like that – here’s a picture just to show you how wrong it was.
He runs out and sees Gil Teacher, discovering that he is in the body of Yoon Jae, her fiancé. Da Ran is pretty slow on the uptake (hello, have you not seen Secret Garden?), but eventually starts to believe once she follows her Yun Jae to Gyeong Jun’s home, only to have him wake up and call her teacher (so that’s the kind of relationship they’re going to have). Now I think Da Ran’s life has changed.
I was shocked that Gyeong Jun emerged as my favorite character, especially since Shin is such a rookie (and apparently an idol, in a group called Cross Gene). During this episode, I kept thinking that a better actress could have made Da Ran more likable – Lee Soo Kyung (Secret Agent Miss Oh), Han Hye Jin (Thorn Birds), or even Seo Woo (Tamra the Island) would have been better, maybe. Is Da Ran just a fool, or are those tears of a clown/smiles of a really sad person? I like the Hong Sisters’ female focus, so it’s a shame that Gyeong Jun has already claimed this drama. The tortured rich boy thing has been done a lot, but Shin was pretty good in the role so far.
So good, actually, that now I’m worried that the drama will suffer since he’s stuck in a coma, for who knows how long. Lee Min Jung is verging on grating (what happened to the fun girl in Boys over Flowers?), and Gong Yoo is an unknown quantity so far. Why didn’t they have both of them up and about at the same time? But I guess that would be more Secret Garden/Freaky Friday than Big (though this has been nothing like Big so far – no baby corn in sight). Let’s hope Gong Yoo actually tries to go along with Shin’s version of Gyeong Jun, and not just play a generic teen.
Plus, if he’s not around, how will the drama handle his mother mystery? For it looks like she died pretty bloodily, and that this whole event is still traumatic for Gyeong Jun. And it might be foul play, since his mother’s inheritance seems to be an issue in this drama. He has a sleazy uncle, Kang Hyuk Soo, and since he’s played by Jang Hyun Sung, who was a villain in Grudge: Revolt of Gumiho, I think he could be evil. He wants to eat Gyeong Jun’s liver! Or else he and his wife are just trashy, which isn’t a crime. But his wife doesn’t even keep Gyeong Jun’s fridge stocked with banchan, like she’s supposed to, so she must be evil. The sight of her dropping off more frozen pizzas was heartbreaking. But the scene of Gyeong Jun popping one in the oven with the plastic still on was just lame. Stupid.
I wonder if the Hong Sisters went this body swap route to avoid the potential creepiness that could arise from a romance between a teacher and student. If you can’t see it, it’s not creepy, right? You know, there were just tons of inappropriate scenes between Gil Teacher and Gyeong Jun, and I’m still not sure how I feel about that.
I already like Gyeong Jun way better than Yun Jae, but should I feel bad about that? They’re obviously Meant to Be, but that still doesn’t change the fact that this is very wrong, her parents’ example notwithstanding. I’m not a fan of the nuna-thing, and I’m even less of a fan of this kind of forbidden love. I mean, I liked the manga Gokusen, but it always creeped me out. We’ll see if having the teen be in the body of an adult will make it less skanky.
Still, I will tentatively say that I liked the drama so far. If I had just come off of seeing a bunch of really great dramas, instead of just ok ones, my feelings might have been different. I think this is actually one of the Hong Sisters’ more ambitious works, and I’m glad they’ve moved away from the increasingly manic and uber-fluffy ways of their more recent dramas. They shouldn’t be ashamed to be real for, like, 5 minutes, and not just rely on silly gimmicks, as they had been increasingly doing.
Da Ran actually has real issues, and Kyung Joon is more than just a collection of tics and grimaces (I’m talking about you, Hwang Tae Kyung). This is loosely based on that wonderful Tom Hanks classic film, though it seems an even broader interpretation than the Hong Sisters’ earlier Couple in Trouble, which was based on another 80s classic, Overboard. These sisters seem to really like these classic 80s films, so I think it’s only a matter of time before they redo Willow, and I’m really looking forward to that. But for now, I’ll focus on Big, and see where it goes.