[This is a joint entry with my wife, whose comments are in brackets from “Woman in My Life” (WIML).]
Wow – what a riot this episode was! It’s been a while since I watched something so funny it had me in stitches, and this episode had me laughing throughout.
The best part was that all the comedy was so organic and natural to the characters and the plot, plus also poking fun at the mythology surrounding the mermaid. The tides have turned and I now want to spend more time in the modern day storyline, because the Joseon story seems so bland and predictable in comparison. Right from the get go, the funny and cute moments start rolling in as Joon Jae’s request to Shim Chung to say “I love you” gets misinterpreted by her as him “losing”, i.e. confessing his love for her. In a nice ironic twist, she unknowingly elicits feelings of jealousy from him by recounting to him the things her “lover” and what he said. Joon Jae starts putting her “lover” and even expresses a sense of relief because he says he was worried she had feelings for her. His affection for her is so obvious that it’s such fun seeing him get all defensive.
Hilarity subsequently ensues when Jin-Joo confronts Shim Chung about what she did to her daughter, Elizabeth. She first gets distracted by Shim Chung’s hair and how naturally it flows, then by her clothes which are so mismatched yet perfect, and finally by her contrasting pair of shoes, which she even describes as a collaboration between Chanel and Dior. Before allowing Shim Chung to leave, she even asks her which dermatologist she goes to. Besides being funny, the scene also continues to poke fun at the rich and their lives of excess. Joo-Jin can afford all the clothes she needs and renew her wardrobe so frequently, yet this girl who simply pulls together an outfit from the recycling bin causes her intense jealousy.
All the above would already have made the episode very funny, but then you have the entry of Jo Jung-Suk’s male mermaid character and that’s where the episode really hits its comedic climax, with its relentless playfulness with mermaid mythology. The mermaid’s tears becoming pearls is played as a tragedy in the Joseon storyline, but it’s completely overturned and becomes a means that the mermaids learn to manipulate to their advantage and gain wealth. Hearing the male mermaid (merman?) demonstrate how to extract the “pearls” and get the best ones with pink hues was already funny in itself; watching them actually harvest their own pearls by watching a melodrama had me literally laughing out loud. The amazing thing is that even in these funny sequences, there are some serious points being made, especially about Shim Chung’s limited timeline on earth and how her heart gradually hardens and can only be saved by a person she loves. This leads to yet another hilarious sequence where the male mermaid helps Shim Chung by making Joon Jae jealous. The “click, click click” sequence was the funniest thing I’ve watched and Jun Ji-hyun and Jo Jung-Suk really nail their comic performances to a tee.
[Woman in My Life: Husband and I were in stitches at the “click” sequence. Fashion is used both to impress and to elicit laughter at the same time. I am guessing that the post-credit scene, where the merman warned Joon Jae not to take advantage of Shim Chung, is some kind of harbinger for the next episode. This episode ends with Joon Jae walking in on Shim Chung who has transformed back into a mermaid in his pool, I assume there will be some kind of anticlimax as he assumes she is skinny dipping and backs away, as a man with honour, so that Shim Chung’s mermaid identity remains a secret… until Nam Doo finds out.]
As the episode is so much fun, I’m willing to overlook its all-too-convenient plot devices like Joon Jae suddenly dreaming of Dam Ryung and Joon Jae’s mum bumping into him while he’s leaving the place. I did appreciate that the plotlines were tightening in this episode and we’re not wasting time in bringing in the Joseon storyline to the present. The pieces are gradually falling in place as Shi-ah discovers that the artefacts she uncovered belong to Dam Ryung, which Nam Doo links to the jade bracelet that Joon Jae found in Spain. Nam Doo is also starting to realise there’s something amiss about Shim Chung through the medical examination. It’s always more entertaining when characters put the pieces together quickly and are not kept in the dark for too long.
Underlying all that happens in this episode is a theme about the impermanence of human beings’ feelings, as opposed to mermaids’ unchanging love. The little girl speaks of how her parents’ love could not last, leading to their divorce. She also shares painfully about how she needs to do well to get into an academy, if not her mother will no longer love her. The male mermaid speaks of his lover who stopped loving him. Nam Doo’s loyalty to Joon Jae is also equally impermanent as there’s a sense that he may betray Joon Jae for the sake of personal gain. In the midst of all this, there’s something refreshing and pure about Shim Chung’s affection for Joon Jae. Yes, she may not have known him for very long or connected on a deep level with him, but her love for him is so powerful because it is so simple and pure. That simplicity and purity is also part of what draws her to Joon Jae, because it allows him to be her protector and guide her.
There’s been some expressed disappointment at how this show has not lived up to its hype and is not engaging in as grand storytelling as expected. However, if it’s offering up such entertaining and meaningful episodes on a regular basis, I’m definitely watching till the end, not because I’m necessarily interested in what’s going to happen next, but because spending time with these characters is so much fun.