When My Love Blooms: Episode 8

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I am usually not a big fan of romances, so I usually do not watch shows with titles like this. However, I was drawn to this drama because of the two leads – Yoo Ji-Tae and Lee Bo Young – both of whose work I’ve been incredibly impressed with previously.

Yoo Ji-Tae’s performance in Healer was extremely memorable, but unfortunately, I have not seen him in any other outstanding shows thus far. As for Lee Bo Young, I really enjoyed her performance in I Hear Your Voice and thought it was very memorable. I know she has had several outstanding dramas so far like Whisper and Mother, but I have not been able to catch them. After watching this show, I have to say their performances continue to shine. There’s just such a maturity and weight in their performances – they embody their characters, Jae-hyun and Ji Soo, so well and really convey the characters with their entire being. Ji Soo’s brokenness and misery is conveyed so evidently through the way she looks at people, how she speaks to others, and how she walks.

It’s unlikely that I will be blogging about every episode, but Episode 8 deserves a review because it marks a turning point for our leads. Both our characters take decisive and important steps ahead. Ji Soo calls Se-hoon and tells him that she will not proceed with the reunion of marriage. Her son, Young-min, sweetly shares that he will forgive her, because he knows she’s not comfortable staying with him. The mums at Young-min’s school attempt to ambush her and condemn her, unaware of how fiery she can be, and she proves to them that she is not to be messed with. It was honestly quite unexpected, especially as she responded to violence with even stronger violence at the end.

As for Jae-hyun, he rises up in heroic defense of Ji Soo, saying that if the video leaks and she loses Young-min, he will swoop in to take her. He convinces Ji-Soo not to proceed with the marriage reunion, but eve as she decides not to proceed, she also tells him that they should stay apart. He still wants to protect her, but respects her decision, hence he watches over her from afar. On the corporate battlefront, Jae-hyun decides to work with the prosecution officers and the investigation is now all out in the media.

As events start to overwhelm both our leads, they both go to a church, which Jae-hyun sought asylum in 1995. There, they find each other and sit outside the church and chat. Jae-hyun puts his arm around her and she does not reject him. Instead, she leans into him and tells him that she has been so afraid of the past, that she kept walking forward without looking back. However, her legs are now tired and she just wants to stay here today because “if we’re here, we will be okay.” Jae-hyun is completely silent throughout the last few minutes of the show, but Yoo Ji-Tae’s eyes and his frown convey his tender concern, quiet affection and calm protectiveness.

It’s not just the church, but being in each others arms is an asylum for both of them. It was in the past, and it has once again become so now. The scenes from the past and present in this drama are so seamlessly weaved together that it does not seem as if one story is secondary to the other. Both the past and present stories are equally important. While we as viewers are discovering more of their past, our leads are also rediscovering their past and finding strength and their true selves in the past. I must say the music does a wonderful job of tying everything together as well – so stirring, moving and nostalgic. This show is like a rich tapestry that draws us in with its charm and beauty.

It’s a quiet yet powerful message about identity – even though our past may be painful, distancing ourselves from it and ignoring it only makes us weaker. For Jae-Hyun, he has already discovered his strength. For Ji Soo, we’ve seen her strength emerging in this episode – let’s hope her journey from this point onwards is not just forward, but upwards as well as she rises victoriously from her circumstances.

Hospital Playlist: Episodes 1-4

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Hospital Playlist is the second in the Wise Life series following Prison Playbook. It is a collaboration between writer Lee Woo Jung and director Shin Won Ho, who came together also for the highly popular Reply series of dramas.

I was initially hesitant to start watching this series, because I did try watching the Reply series, starting with 1988 but couldn’t get into it because there were just too many characters to keep track. The ensemble style of casting and storytelling was also difficult to follow. I faced a similar issue for Hospital Playlist initially, but was drawn in by the snippets of hospital life, the funny moments, and the musical numbers.

Finally at Episode 4, I can say I’m hooked because I now feel I have a decent grasp of the 5 main characters of the cast. The narrative structure of episode 4 really helped, where we had the “Bong Salon” with Dr Bong gossiping about the five members, whom he describes as the five “nought” because they are all lacking something.

In summary, Hospital Playlist centres around the lives of five doctors who have been friends since medical school in 1999. Having been separated for some time, they are brought together at the Yulje Medical Centre in the first episode when Jung Won recruits his friends to be exclusive medical staff a the VIP ward. However, their ‘reunion’ is not just professional as Seok-hyung will only agree to the contract if the five also agree to form their band again. The setup is done swiftly and slickly in the first episode, setting the stage well for the rest of the series.

I’ve already introduced some of the characters in the paragraph above, but it would be good to do a proper introduction using the poster above. Starting from the left:

  1. Yang Seok Hyung (played by Kim Dae-myung): He is an assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology and comes from a challenging family background. He lost his sister at a young age and his dad cheated on his mum. As such, he has a very close relationship with his mum, who recently suffered a stroke.
  2. Ahn Jung-won (played by Yoo Yeon-seok): He is an assistant professor of pediatric surgery whose dad passes away in the first episode. He comes from a family of priests. While not a priest himself, he is seen as having no desire for worldly possessions and does still aspire to be a priest.
  3. Chae Song-hwa (played by Jeon Mi-Do): She is an associate professor of neurosurgery. Known in the hospital for her drive and professionalism, she also strikes fear in her juniors. While at work, she handles matters with confidence and wisdom, she is completely free and expressive when in the world of music, be it at the band or in her church. She is completely comfortable with solitude and does not mind heading out for solitary camping trips. She is the lead vocalist of the band and often goes out of tune, which is ironic given that Jeon Mi-Do in real life is an award winning artiste.
  4. Kim Joon-wan (played by Jung Kyung-Ho): He is the chief professor of cardiothoracic surgery and is known to be cold-hearted yet excellent in his job. He is distant and issues medical advice without warmth, even when his patients are in very emotional situations. However, his actions speak louder than words. As of episode 4, we have hints of a budding love story between him and Ik-Joon’s sister, Ik-Soon, who serves in the military as a major.
  5. Lee Ik-Joon (played by Jo Jung-Suk): Ik-Joon is the character whose personal life has been the most fleshed out at the moment. As his wife was working overseas, he has single-handedly raised his son for most of his life and thus has a very close relationship with him. However, in Episode 3, his wife returns and they undergo a divorce. As a doctor, he is warm and friendly, building a rapport easily with his patients.

For shows like this, the chemistry in the core ensemble will make or break it and I have to say, it really works well. Besides making music together, there’s a beauty rhythm and energy in all the scenes when the five of them are together. They chat about the most trivial things (like how they have changed with age), banter with each other, squabble about which song is their favourite, while also opening their food packets, passing cutlery and eating their food. They are so comfortable with each other that they lie down while chatting, open each other’s drawers to help themselves to snacks or eat each other’s instant noodles. Professionally they work well together as well as Jung-won frees himself in spite of his many surgeries, so that he can be there to support Seok Hyung’s surgery.

Their scenes making music together are also so much fun, especially that hilarious Karaoke Scene in episode 3 where they sang “Aloha”. Their snazzier version of Canon at the end of Episode 4 was also very well-constructed as it started off with Seok Hyung’s audition when they first started their band in 1999, then we moved between past and present, as they grew in their musical skills together. Of course, the music is lent greater emotional weight because the songs feature prominently in the episode, like how Canon was played when the baby suffering from anencephaly was born, so that the mum would not hear the crying sounds.

As if having 5 characters to follow is not enough, the show has so many other characters like fellow doctors, nurses, medical students, family members and of course, all the patients. However, these different characters serve as a way for the show to shed further light on our main characters and are often well-used to deepen our understanding of them. This was particularly well done in Episode 4, where we understood the reserved and socially awkward Seok Hyung not only through his actions, but through what the other characters said about him, particularly Nurse Han who returns from her maternity who tells nurse Min-ha of when she complains about Seok Hyung’s request to cover the baby’s mouth.

Given that this is a medical drama, I cannot avoid talking about the cases our characters handle. I’m glad to see that Hospital Playlist has found the right balance between showing us enough of the medical cases for us to understand and feel for the characters, while also showing us how our key doctors handle the cases and weigh difficult decisions. Unlike Romantic Doctor Teacher Kim, where we have extended scenes of medical procedures with very precise terminology and language used, Hospital Playlist keeps its surgery scenes brief, trying instead to show us the variety of cases and conundrums our doctors face. Rather than being overly focused on medical details, the series brings us through the daily lives of the doctors as they see patients, operate, eat food at the cafe or in their pantries and spend time with their families. Ultimately, this light-hearted drama shows us that relationships are what sustain us through each day.