I wasn’t intending to watch this drama since I was already following Legend of the Blue Sea on Wednesdays, but there was so much hype about it on dramabeans that I decided to give it a go.
I started with episode 10, which was the episode where Bok Joo won the title, but still felt so down throughout the episode because of Jae Ho’s gentle rejection of her (which made her feel even worse) and also Coach Choi’s departure. Even though it was my first viewing of the show, I could feel Bok Joo’s emotions so deeply and could connect so easily with her character. I was drawn to how the show took much effort to portray its characters mental and emotional states so convincingly and powerfully and also how the show had built a tightly knit world of characters who genuinely cared for each other and whose actions had an effect on each other. I was captivated already and decided to watch it from the start.
After finishing the first five episodes, I have to say I am remarkably surprised by this series. It’s fallen on the way side in the rankings game because it’s up against Legend of the Blue Sea but I have to say it’s certainly a very strong series that deserves as much attention as LOBS.
For one thing, every character in this drama is so lovingly crafted and engaging, such that there’s never a dull scene throughout. The key protagonists – Bok Joo, Joon Hyung and Shi Ho – all excel in their sports but face their respective challenges too, highlighting the different pressures faced by young athletes as well as their tumultuous love lives. All of them are doing silly things because of love, and are so completely relateable because we were all there once before. Besides them, the entire ensemble is a hilarious bunch and I enjoy Joon Hyung’s interactions with Tae Kwon as much as Bok Joo’s interactions with Sun Ok and Nan Hee. Shi Ho’s character is a more serious than the others, but that’s ok because she does provide a nice counterbalance to the other storylines.
Bok Joo’s story is so compelling because while we are rooting for her and her affection for Jae Yi is so sweet and adorable, we can also see it cannot end well because of the age difference and the doctor-patient relationship. Yet Bok Joo’s web of lies and deception just keeps growing and it gets so difficult to watch as it starts to affect those around her and ultimately herself too. Episode 5 was painful to watch, when she’s so determined for Joon Hyung not to spread any rumours about her crush that she stands in for him to carry the rice sacks, which results in the swimming team becoming first and the weightlifting team losing the championships for the first time. This is yet another defeat for the team that has already met many setbacks since the cutting of funding.
Joon Hyung is an equally fascinating character who obviously likes Bok Joo, which manifests itself in his incessant teasing of her to rile her up. He defends her when the men at the restaurant put her and her friends down and he even gives her a ticket to a concert so she gets to spend time with Jae Yi. He does care for her and Shi Ho can see that, which leads her to go on the offensive and even elicit Bok Joo’s help when she tries to get Joon Hyung back.
Shi Ho’s attempts to get Joon Hyung back are also equally difficult to watch, as we can see that she’s at a stage in her life where she’s grasping at straws to gain any shred of happiness she can get. She’s back at the university and reached a plateau in her sporting performance, yet she does not want her family to send her overseas because she knows they cannot afford it. She doesn’t seem to have any friends at all and seems estranged from her family. In her desperation, she reaches out to the one person who may not give her what she want, but will at least respond to her and talk to her.
It’s such a lovingly crafted show that’s such a joy to watch. It manages to build so many convincing characters that are so easy to connect with. I’ve tried not to be spoiled, but I know that good stuff happens in ep11 and 12, and I can’t wait to get there!