Warning: This post delves into sensitive issues like suicide and religious beliefs. Please feel free to leave as soon as you become offended.
It was a guaranteed deal that I was gonna tune into “Page Turner”. It looked like it had loads of things Shamrockmom digs in a Kdrama, but especially this theme: highly talented, driven and temperamental artistic individuals in intense, angsty scenes punctuated by awesome classical piano music. Oh gawd yes! Bring it on! It’s been way too long since I’ve seen a drama like that–about two years, as a matter of fact!
I kept checking the Soompi forums to see when I was going to get my next
dose of highly potent crack drama treat! After all, I don’t know a thing about being driven or temperamental myself. **snort** And since I am an artistic kinda person (or at least a wannabe) I thought this might be a drama I’d potentially like love obsess over. The trailers alone made my heart race. The writer was the same person who penned “Pinocchio”, one of the finest Kdramas I have ever seen. There is not one thing about “Pinocchio” that I would pick apart or quibble over. That show’s pacing and suspense is excellent. The ending is fantastic. The issues of Justice and Karma are well handled. I have total faith in this writer. I’m in good hands here. Three episodes is kinda quick, but short and sweet can work too–like “Splash Splash Love” or “Story of Kang Goo”.
The first episode introduces us to our three main characters. I’m thinking this is a guaranteed love triangle waiting to happen.
***All screencaps from Dramacool.to***
Yoo Seul is listening to the latest Kpop hit, but changes the music to classical as soon as her mom comes back to the car. Nice PPL for the cosmetics too! The tense bickering that ensues between the two–including the fact that Yoo Seul’s mom encourages her daughter to volunteer to be a page turner for her rival Jin Mok and screw with him by turning the pages wrong tells me immediately–this woman is a witch. In addition, she admonishes her daughter to do it in a stealthy way so she won’t get caught. That blows my mind. WTH kinda parent gives their kid advice on how to cheat in a competition of any kind (while giving your rival the shaft no less) and not get caught?! Wow.
Jin Mok and Yoo Seul are at the preliminaries of a piano competition. They select the music from different envelopes, and then have to play that piece. Dang….that would be good if you knew what pieces were gonna be there, but to perhaps just play by sight only?! Holy Cow! Jin Mok opens the envelope to find Chopin’s Waltz in E minor, op. post (full performance here). He’s pretty good, but he’s gifted only with technical ability. He can’t play with any emotion or interpretation. Even a dork like me can figure it out. That kind of thing can’t be taught either. It’s gotta come from within, from the deepest part of a person’s heart and soul. YS offers to be his page turner, and in a wonderful moment, spites her mom by turning the pages for JM correctly!
Yesss! Good to know she seems to have a functional moral compass that her mom hasn’t beaten out of her yet. Yoo Seul’s mom is PO’d. Less than 10 minutes into the show, this woman has a permanent spot on my Hate List.
We then get some background info on why there’s so much bad blood between these kids. Yoo Seul’s momma was teaching Jin Mok piano when they were about Kindergarten age…and he couldn’t play the Chopin Waltz Op. 64 no. 2 in C sharp minor with any kind of emotion. (Here’s a great performance) Oh, that’s a nice Young Chang grand piano his family has too, even if somebody blacked out part of the name to “Chang”. **eye-roll** Jin Mok was a spoiled brat back then, insisting that his way is better because he’s on the beat and hitting all the notes. Yoo Seul’s mom is a crappy piano teacher, using the analogy of lovers sadly parting to how this piece is supposed to sound. WTH is she talking about! This little kid would/should not know what that means! She calls him a psycho….which his father overhears. Jin Mok whines to his preoccupied Papa about how the piano teacher isn’t qualified to teach him since she’s never studied abroad.
Back to the present: I also should mention the nice cinematography here, with views of Jin Mok playing piano from above, and his reflection off the lid of the grand piano.
Heh, even their fellow classmates comment that his performance sounds like a computer! After his performance, Jin Mok and Yoo Seul snipe at each other under their breath–there’s some major bad vibes between these two.
Now it’s Yoo Seul’s turn–and Jin Mok volunteers to be her page turner, as her mom nearly flips out. Yoo Seul selects Rachmaninoff’s Prelude Op. 23 no 5. (click here to listen to a scratchy but interesting recording of Rachmaninoff playing his own composition. When in doubt about interpretation, the author should be the expert.) Major technical prowess needed here, but I have confidence. She can do it. Whoa…it sounds great!
Flash back to young Jin Mok whining to his distracted dad that he needs to change teachers. He blames everything on his teacher, and that she doesn’t recognize how great he really is:
Yoo Seul’s mom tells the dad that she didn’t go abroad to study because her parents couldn’t afford it, but all of her young students go to the local arts HS. Jin Mok’s dad has heard enough, and fires her on the spot. She begs for her job back, even going as far as kneeling. Whoa. She must be super broke, and need that job badly. (BTW, where is Yoo Seul’s dad?) While Yoo Seul’s mom begs for a second chance, her daughter steps up to Jin Mok’s piano and plays his piece like her mom had been giving her lessons for years, which Yoo Seul’s mom vehemently denies. Hmmm. Not sure I buy that. Jin Mok is so enraged that he goes over to the piano and slams the lid on her fingers while she’s playing! Geez, he’s a brat! Nonetheless, Yoo Seul’s mom realizes immediately her daughter is way more talented than Jin Mok. She tells Jin Mok’s permanently distracted Papa to take a long walk off a short pier, throws his cash on the ground, grabs her daughter, and bails. Yessss! I like that. No reason to denigrate yourself by working for that family!
When it’s time for Jin Mok to turn the page for Yoo Seul, he deliberately messes it up, causing her to stop in the middle of the performance. The music pages flutter to the floor. Whoa. He lamely apologizes, but when he tires to pick up the papers, she tells him to shove it (nicely because they’re in public) knocks his hand away, and then goes on to play the rest of the piece from memory. Let me repeat this–from memory. That’s seriously professional, like she was a college senior in a recital. Jin Mok can only stand there in repressed rage:
Her performance is simply amazing; a true balance between technicality and emotion. It blows the judges away too.
Show then introduces us to Cha Sik, a champion pole vaulter for a high school that seems to be oriented toward producing high-end athletes who compete at Olympic level events. His coach is pumping him up–he’s gotta make this last jump or he won’t qualify for University. He spies his mom in the stands and watches as a Chaebol mom in a Zebra print coat knocks his mom’s bag over and doesn’t even bother to apologize. He completely flips out; his coach and his teammate have their hands full trying to keep him from going up into the stands and causing a full-on melee. Omo. Is…is that a purple streak in his hair?! Wow! #WhattaRebel
Cha Sik is an immediately adorable character; all heart, positive-thinking, deeply competitive and ultra-protective of his momma–who must let him have that streak in his hair. Good for them. I learned early in the parenting game: Hair is not the thing to fight about with teenagers. Pick some other hill to die on as a parent. Hair can be changed (both cut and color) relatively easily, and gives a kid some autonomy over his or her appearance. Cha Sik reminds me of an exuberant St. Bernard puppy! He’s so fired up at this track meet, he can hardly stand still. On the intensity meter of 1-10, he’s a 15! He decides to show these snobs what he can do, so he initially sets the bar at what would be the height of the current champion (the Chaebol’s son) in his age group–5m 30cm or almost 17′ 5″. His coach nearly has a coronary, but reluctantly agrees. Then Cha Sik’s mom shows us that he inherited his cojones from her! She makes a bet with the Chaebol parents that her son will make the jump–and uses her laptop computer as collateral!
Whoa! He easily clears the bar, earning himself a place on the national team, and his mom gets to give the Chaebol parents her business card–she’s a writer, and is looking for business, lol. I love this mom. I wanna be her RL friend! Cha Sik then decides to go for the South Korean record of 5m 50cm.
Side note: We have a saying here at Shamrockmom’s House that if you talk big and deliver big….you are not bragging. It’s merely stating facts!
Back to the piano competition: Does Yoo Seul’s mom congratulate her daughter on that fine Rachmaninoff performance? Pfffft! Instead she berates her daughter afterward for not sticking it to Jin Mok first, and tossing his music on the floor! Side note: We call that, “Do unto others before they do you in” at Shamrockmom’s house. Yoo Seul’s momma is a real passive-aggressive witch as she calls Jin Mok over, and congratulates him on his performance (!) He removes her hand from his arm like she’s pure poison. Yoo Seul adds to her mom’s venomous remarks by telling him that it was too obvious he tried to derail her performance by dropping the music sheets. She’d already memorized the piece. It didn’t faze her at all– because he’s nothing to her. Meanwhile, her mom smirks in the background; they leave congratulating themselves for stepping on him. Gosh, I don’t like these two at all. They feed off each other’s meanness. Jin Mok looks super angry, but says nothing. He’s gonna blow a gasket one day. Yoo Seul’s mom reminds me of the pushy Irish Dance Moms I knew when my kids danced back in the day. Thankfully, they were in the minority, but they were annoying to the max. I avoided them as much as I possibly could.
Jin Mok is about to lose his mind after what happened at the Piano Competition. He heads to the local Catholic church and starts to pray. This is a really unsettling scene, especially with the symbolism shown and the drama airing the Saturday prior to Easter Sunday. Coincidence? If the show was deliberately delayed to air on this date, that’s some bat-shyte crazy planning by the suits at KBS. The scenes where Jin Mok is praying does not put Christianity in a good light either. It makes Christians/Catholics look petty and vengeful; willing to ask God to destroy the lives of anyone they believe is against them or has hurt them. I think you are supposed to pray for your enemies instead–but that message is obviously not one the writer wants to explore.
I’m always interested to see how Christians are portrayed in Kdramas. Some drama writers really have a chip on their shoulders for Christians–which I can understand. There’s some seriously bad eggs out there–like the pastor of a local church who beat his teenage daughter (who was also my son’s girlfriend) until she had a black eye. When my son found out her daddy did it, he called the police–and just like in a Kdrama, this guy threw money around until the cops let him off the hook. Utterly disgusting. Things like that happen both in SoCal and in Korea–because it’s all about the money. I often tell people I need a sticker for my car that says, “Lord, protect me from your followers.”
As Jin Mok prays for boasters to get what’s coming to them, Cha Sik goes for the record breaking jump. He clears the bar, but the pole takes revenge and hits him in the manly bits. Ouch! BTW, this is an extremely rare occurrence according to my sons who competed in track and field events.
The last part of Jin Mok’s prayer is: “Please make her repent in endless darkness…and show that you’re the God of fairness and justice.” Omo. Be careful what you pray for my friend–you just might get it! Too bad he didn’t pray for God to handle the retribution (and for massive success for himself) instead of setting himself up for the guilt trip of a lifetime. As he prays, Yoo Seul and her mom are driving–and the Kdrama White Box Truck of Doom T-bones their car….Mom somehow escapes injury, but Yoo Seul is now blind.
Her mom freaks out, even offering her own corneas for a transplant….but the optic nerve is damaged, and a transplant is out of the question. She asks the doctor how her daughter will continue to play the piano–and the doc gives this overbearing mom a dose of reality:
Too bad that train left the station a loooong time ago! Mom screams at the doctor, grabs her daughter and vows to go to another hospital for more help. Yoo Seul seems to be in a trance, going along with her mom and not saying a word. Then her mom goes into a bathroom down the hall and bawls her eyes out. Excuse me while I yawn. The tender piano BG music makes me feel manipulated. Sorry Show, I’m not gonna feel bad for this evil mom! It’s only a few seconds though, before she stops crying and gets her witchy mojo back on track!
After Cha Sik gets checked out at the hospital, and finds out he will indeed be able to have kids one day (and all the 18 year old girls say Hallelujah!!) the doc gives him the bad news. There’s something wrong with his back, and he’s gonna need surgery–and give up pole vaulting for good. He puts on a brave face, but his mom is not fooled easily. He’s hurting.
Cue more Catholic symbolism, as Jin Mok is on the Guilt Trip Expressway. He heads to the florist to buy some flowers for Yoo Seul. The florist gives him mad hassle about the purchase, teasing him that it’s really for his girlfriend. I love it. There’s a thin line between love and hate….then add in some guilt, and voila! His emotions are all over the map.
Cha Sik meets Yoo Seul in the hallway of the hospital. She accidentally hits his foot with her cane, and then asks him where the rooftop stairs are. Uh, oh. She’s not thinking of jumping off the roof and committing suicide, is she? Heaven knows that worthless mom of hers couldn’t be comforting or compassionate–it’s all about her own wants and needs, as she tries to live her life through her daughter.
Like a proper gentleman, Cha Sik offers his arm and walks with her through the hospital lobby…and Jin Mok gets to witness this. Hey Jin Mok–jealous much? Jin Mok quickly realizes Yoo Seul is blind, and he looks devastated to know his prayer was truly answered. Cha Sik then leaves Yoo Seul at the roof railing. Seriously? Wait–isn’t that a CCTV camera in the background? Isn’t somebody monitoring that? Yoo Seul climbs up and over the railing…and Jin Mok arrives on the rooftop, bouquet of flowers in his hand. He calls out to her, and she tells him not to come any closer–and yes, she’s blind. Cha Sik stops to listen as well. Jin Mok tells her he was worried about her, but she’s spitting fire as she says it’s good that she doesn’t have to see his ugly face any more! She was happy being blind, but now her mom is forcing her to continue playing the piano. Even Yoo Seul knows that’s totally bogus:
Yoo Seul blames Jin Mok for her woes–when he dissed her mom years ago, her mom changed. YS then says she’s sick of acting like she wants to play the piano, and she’s tired of hating him too. Yes, I agree. Constantly hating another person is a burden. She lets go of the railing…and falls backward about three feet (princess style) into the waiting arms of Cha Sik!
Yessss! My heart soars! Look at that big strong guy catching this girl! Prince Charming himself could not have done better. She wiggles and screams for her mom as Cha Sik puts her down. He says he took her up to the parking structure because he thought she might do something stupid! Jin Mok is a day late and a dollar short, as he watches Cha Sik give Yoo Seul a dose of truth: if she hated playing the piano so much, why didn’t she just tell her mom to shove off? Uh…because her mom is a first class control freak with a short fuse? Cha Sik says that YS shouldn’t blame JM either. None of this is his fault. Hmm. Not sure I buy that either. When Cha Sik says maybe he shouldn’t have caught her, Jin Mok finally blows up, and says CS doesn’t know the whole story. #truth Cha Sik’s reply is great: Who is dumb enough to buy flowers for a blind girl? You are! Ooof–better than a punch if you ask me!
Later on, Cha Sik gives his mom a rundown on his day, ending with the catch of Yoo Seul at the parking structure. His mom wonders why this young lady wanted to kill herself, and Cha Sik correctly discerns it was due to problems with her own mom. His mom wonders why he was on the parking structure…and he blows it off saying he needed fresh air. His guilty look says it all. OMG–did he think about suicide too?!
I think it’s important to note here that a fair amount of teens and adults who commit or attempt suicide leave no clues at all. They don’t give out typical warning signs you might read about, like talking about death or giving away their possessions. Even professional psychologists can’t pick it up. They may or may not even leave a note. It’s devastating for friends and family that are left behind, because you forever wonder what you failed to recognize. My mom gave absolutely zero signs that she was planning her suicide–in fact, it was almost the other way around. She seemed relatively upbeat about everything in the days before she took that overdose of pills almost two years ago.
Cha Sik tries to pull one over on his mom by asking her if she thought he was smoking! He swears he would never smoke and worry her. I hope she’s not buying his false bravado, but I will admit–he’s convincing. However, Cha Sik finally melts down as they leave the hospital. He doesn’t know what he is gonna do…all he’s ever done is sports. At least his mom hugs him as he sobs (Ji Soo is a fantastic crier) and tries to listen to him–which is way more than either Yoo Seul’s mom or Jin Mok’s dad could possibly manage.
Cha Sik quits high school since he can no longer compete, and lays around the house moping all day. I like how his mom is concerned, but she doesn’t try to immediately fix his life. She’s giving him some time to mourn his loss. That’s important. There’s a time to intervene, and a time to step back. He’s gonna have to find a new passion in life. Seeing a normally outgoing and happy Cha Sik this depressed has to make his mom worry, but she seems to be the kind of mom to give him some space–yet still be supportive. His mom goes and takes a picture out of a photo album, but we don’t get to see it.
Meanwhile, Yoo Seul’s mom is in full helicopter rescue mode, finding her daughter a special piano teacher that only teaches blind kids, buying Braille books, putting padding on every corner of the furniture, and advising her daughter that she will need a guide to go to school now–and Mom will be that guide! OMG! What a hover-mom she is! Most kids I know would hate having their mom follow them around school all day.
Cha Sik is about as depressed as he can get, staying in bed all day and popping bubble wrap. His mom wants to talk to him about his father. That immediately gets his attention, and mine too. I wonder why Cha Sik’s mom never told her son about his father before now. She shows him a photo:
At first CS doesn’t believe that’s his dad. Then we get a more recent pic:
Cha Sik’s mom drops the bomb. She says his dad is the famous concert pianist Hyeon Myeong Se. OMG, I know that guy! It’s Professor Jo from Secret Love Affair aka real life pianist Park Jong Hoon! **fans self**
Dear Readers, please forgive this delusional moment:
Heol! Professor Jo is Cha Sik’s dad?!? Oh my goodness, his wife is gonna be mad but since it likely happened before they got together, she’ll forgive him I’m sure. And now Cha Sik will have brothers and sisters too! A whole ‘nother family! Professor Jo had four kids, to the best of my memory. I didn’t know he went to Germany after SeoHan University was shut down (because I didn’t write it that way in the Fanfic!) but I can definitely buy this as an alternate SLA epilogue! He must have moved recently to one of the other Hochschules since he wasn’t at the Hochschule in Cologne with Hye Won and Seon Jae. Yep, there’s nothing like believing your own Fanfic! Wow, Professor Jo was the closest thing to a dad that Seon Jae had. Cha Sik has hit the Dad Jackpot, that’s for sure. Professor Jo is wise, calm, reasonable–and he will be a great influence on Cha Sik. This is gonna be great! Show, I love you!!! Muah! Muah!
The fact that Park Jong Hoon is part of this drama gives me confidence. I wonder what role he had in selecting the music?
Cha Sik’s mom counters her son’s doubts about his famous father persuasively; reminding her son of his big hands, slender fingers and “Fur Elise” ringtone–after all, what kind of teenager has that for a ringtone–lol!
Side note: I used to have a piano rendition of Katy Perry’s “Last Friday Night” as my ringtone. Adults would compliment me on what a classy ringtone I had, and my kids friends thought I was the hippest and coolest mom ever! Win-win, right?!
In a matter of minutes, he’s back to his old self, fired up and ready to go:
By the end of the first episode, I’m as fired up as Cha Sik! This is way better than I expected! I am even willing to forgive the little cartoony character intros that either the writer or PD thought we viewers needed.