Fishing for a Holiday Melodrama: Early thoughts on “Love is Drop by Drop”

A/N: More Awl recaps in the works. Hopefully Episode 7 will be done by the end of December.

Shamrockmom is not the brightest bulb sometimes when it comes time to pick a new show. The allure of something I want to watch–but will surely regret–crops up from time to time. With a ginormous hole in my drama watching schedule after “Start Again” and “Working Mom, Parenting Daddy” both ended, I started searching around for new lunchtime diversions. Here’s a show I know I will end up causing me remorse, but I want to watch it anyways: “Love is Drop by Drop”. The premise: Leading lady ends up falling in love with the man who received her deceased husband’s heart in a transplant operation. Hoo-boy! Didn’t I have a meltdown over something like this a while back? Oh yeah, it was “My Spring Days”; a tear-jerker of a show with the creepiest WTF ending I’ve seen to date. It looked like the heroine’s organs were going to be harvested at the end of the show with the stamp of approval from her family and boyfriend. Ick! Soompi forum members tried to assure me that wasn’t the case, but I remained unconvinced. Although I am a fan of organ donation, that is not how to do it. I was freaked out for weeks afterward. I knew ahead of time that show would not have a happy ending, but like the fool I am, I watched it anyways.

Full disclosure: My oldest son’s best friend had 2 heart transplants….but died from the lymphoma brought on by the anti-rejection drugs. The medical field has a long, long way to go to perfecting heart transplants.

**all screencaps from Dramacool.to. Drama only comes in 720p form, so they’re not as clear as 1080p video. Apologies for the difficulty in reading the subtitles due to the news ticker at the bottom of the screen.**

Obviously having learned nothing from previous experience, I dive in to this new show. It starts out on a high note and moves fast, which always hooks me in. Bang Wool is in her early 20’s. She helps her Papa at the fish market, and works at a local restaurant. I believe Papa used to be a fisherman, but something happened to his leg, and now he limps. He’s way too tough to use a cane or a walker. Papa and Bang Wool have a wonderful father-daughter chemistry together. She’s worried about his health and nags him to quit drinking Soju; he fusses that she won’t go to college and is wasting her life hanging around their small fishing village.

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It’s clear they care for each other, and Bang Wool seems pretty happy with her life. She loves cooking and would like to be a chef someday. Papa is a widow, and never remarried. He’s done a fine job raising a daughter without a mom, although he seems like he is still grieving for his former wife. I should mention that the actor who plays BW’s father really rocks the beard/mustache. He looks like a RL gruff, tough fisherman who’s a big softy inside. I could easily see him hanging with the “Deadliest Catch” guys in his fishing village. Can I call this manly ahjussi “Oppa”?! Excellent bit of casting, as is Bang Wool, with her adorable out-of-control curly hair. No mention of it being a problem for her either! **insert low growl and side-eye to “She Was Pretty”**

One reason Bang Wool is so happy is that she has the best boyfriend ever! Yes indeed, Dong Joon would be a real ‘catch’ (pun intended) in any locale. He’s as cute as a button, sweet, totally devoted to her, and he’s about to take some kind of huge exam so he can be a judge. Nice! He hasn’t told his parents about Bang Wool (I think because she’s poor and they are middle class) but he will just as soon as he passes this test.

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Bang Wool hasn’t told her Papa yet either; knowing his overprotective nature, he’d probably go ballistic. I’m sure she’s waiting until she can tell Papa that her boyfriend is a judge, knowing that will soften him up a little.

Gaaaah, just look at them….so sweet….so innocent….

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Oopsie. Gotta take the innocent part back. Looks like Dong Joon and Bang Wool ‘done did the deed’ before he went back to Seoul to study, as she’s already having morning sickness by the end of episode 1! Omo. Didn’t he ‘keep the beef burrito wrapped’ as we say at Shamrockmom’s house? (There are at least 50 euphemisms I’ve heard for using a condom from my kids.) This also gives more credence to the theory that it’s the sweet and quiet ones you have to watch out for! They don’t run around braying about their love life, ’cause it’s nobody’s business but theirs–and they’re enjoying the heck out of it.

We don’t find out the particulars of the encounter, other than it was a ‘first at-bat home run’, which surprises Bang Wool–but should not surprise any Kdrama viewers at all.

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When you are 22, one time without a beef burrito wrapper is more than enough!

Bang Wool wants to call Dong Joon who lives in Seoul, and tell him the news, but they made a pact that there would be no calls so he wouldn’t be distracted from studying. Of course, it doesn’t take long for her Papa to find out (Hint to BW: hide your journal) and predictably, he blows a gasket. First he yells at his daughter, then his wrath turns to the guy who got his daughter pregnant.

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His reaction is a bit over the top, but not unexpected. After they go round and round several times, BW has had it with her dad screaming non-stop at her:

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I should mention that the BG music is so over-the-top melodramatic, it veers between true tear-jerking manipulation and almost laughable. I expect no less from these daily dramas!

Meanwhile, BW tries to call DJ and tell him about the baby…only to be inadvertently thwarted by Dong Joon’s overprotective and borderline obsessive mom. Papa starts to freak out when BW takes a bus up to Seoul to find DJ when she can’t get him on the phone. BW gets nowhere in her quest to find DJ in Seoul, and by this time, Papa has lost his last marble and starts to walk with his bad foot (yes, you read that right) up to Seoul and find her and/or Dong Joon. Umm….couldn’t he take a bus too? Or get a friend to drive him?

Bang Wool’s father has his luck run out, as he’s hit and killed on a dark rain-slick road. Who did it? An immature, whiny, drunken spoiled brat by the name of Chae Rin.

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She just broke up with her awesome boyfriend Sang Chul (BFF of Dong Joon) because he suggested that she try to get along with her stepmom, whom she hates. Her cardiologist dad is a clueless sort who throws money around to solve problems, so he doesn’t understand his daughter either. The stepmom wants to have Chae Rin like her so much, she agrees to cover for her stepdaughter’s drunken hit-and-run accident. Only one problem….Papa grabbed onto Chae Rin’s necklace (a gift from Sang Chul) when she briefly stopped to see what she hit on the road. Uh, oh…

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Not even a call to 119/911! Sheesh!

Bang Wool gets back home, only to find her Papa in the hospital, dying from his injuries. On his deathbed, he discloses that her mom is not really dead; she bailed out on them when BW was a baby:

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After her dad passes away, BW is given the necklace that was in his hand when he was picked up by the ambulance. Meanwhile, DJ gets a new phone (his mom waterboarded his old one–pun intended) and tries to call BW….they finally connect and he immediately leaves for her fishing village when he finds out about the baby and the death of her father.

Like the swell guy he is, DJ stays with her, and helps with the funeral. He then goes back to Seoul and drops the bomb on his parents. His dad is upset, but starts to come around almost immediately. However, DJ’s mom puts on the makjang drama show of a lifetime to keep her son from marrying ‘beneath’ him. She finally caps it with this scene where she visits Bang Wool:

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…and gain a lifetime of regrets. 

I’d been losing patience with Dong Joon’s mom for a few episodes, but this is way, way over the line. WTH kind of mom asks her son’s girlfriend to kill her child? Her precious son’s baby? Her own grandchild? I’m at a loss. I can’t even imagine doing this to my sons, or my daughter. Ever. It’s so upsetting and disturbing to watch this play out. Even Dong Joon’s dad is appalled, and knows his wife has gone too far.

Side note: This kind of pressure/coercion to abort is commonplace: 64% of US women who’ve had abortions report being pressured to abort a child by their partner, family, friends or medical personnel. I can easily guess the SK rate would be even higher.

Thankfully, Bang Wool has a strong backbone. She informs Dong Joon’s mom that she will raise the baby herself, thank you very much! If her Papa raised her by himself, then she can do the same with this baby.

Meanwhile, DJ is subjected to the strongest level of emotional manipulation by his parents, especially his mom who asks him to pick between her and Bang Wool! DJ seems to have a spine too, as he walks out on his mom, but BW nobly sends him back home because she doesn’t want to break up his family. Hmmm…maybe he doesn’t have a spine after all. This is such a foreign concept to this Western-culture locked viewer, who believes that a real man emotionally leaves his parent(s) and puts his wife and new family first when he gets married. Thank goodness Bang Wool has good people around her, especially the restaurant ahjumma who gives DJ’s witchy mom an earful later on, and her Papa’s BFF ahjussi. Heaven knows she’s gonna need them on her side later on.

After Dong Joon finds out about his mother pressuring Bang Wool to abort his baby, he tells his mom that he’s embarrassed to be her son. I get it. As a mother myself, I’m embarrassed that she’s a mother too!

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Yessss! You go Dong Joon! Speak the truth….

At least Dong Joon knows right from wrong. That’s a mighty good quality to have if he’s gonna be a judge someday!

Now his Dad loses it. He makes DJ lie down in the courtyard of their house, and Dad beats him with a broomstick! Older brother Dong Min makes a weak-sauce effort to stop Dad:

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but it’s pathetic to watch. I can’t screencap the beating–too disturbing. Just hearing the whoosh of the blows is enough to become part of my nightmares….

OMG! Why, why, why am I watching this show?! I watch these daily 30 minute episode Kdramas at lunch so I can have a moment to laugh, or at least view something simple and enjoyable. Now I am sick, and ready to lose my lunch. My stomach rebels all afternoon as the scene plays over and over in my head. How in the world can a father savagely beat his college educated adult son who’s about to become a father himself and a judge to boot?!? Geez! WTH is wrong with this family?

To his credit, DJ takes the beating with nary a word of protest. Luckily, he’s got one more ace up his sleeve. Just when I thought he was gonna give up, he informs his parents that since they will not let him marry and take care of his girlfriend and child, he can’t possibly be a judge:

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It wouldn’t be morally right to be the judge of someone else while his child doesn’t have a father around, and the mother of his child is suffering alone. He steadfastly refuses to enter the training program for judges, and he will take (my guess) a minimum wage job. His parents almost immediately cave to his strong will and high morals, accepting the marriage. What a winner this Dong Joon is. He gives off a real ‘hero complex’ vibe, kinda like In Sang in “Heard it through the Grapevine”.

Bang Wool and Dong Joon have a modest wedding, which Dong Joon’s father is on board with…

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Preach it, Abeonim!

and DJ’s mom cries through the whole thing like a petulant sore loser. The honeymoon? Well, let’s just say I can get behind this idea!

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Daebak! It’s Shamrockmom’s dream honeymoon too!

As all of the above plays out, we are introduced to the future recipient of the heart transplant: Woo Hyuk. It’s not often I feel the need to give a character a special nickname, unless it’s a Writer Jung/Director Ahn drama. But this time I think it’s justified. Woo Hyuk is a Prick: a self centered, irritating, condescending douchebag of a man (I use that word ‘man’ only to indicate gender, not character) who thinks everyone else is beneath him. He’s got a married adult sister Woo Kyung who he deems ‘slow since birth’, and a mom who at least merits a smidgen of respect and kindness from her son.

Bang Wool’s Papa has a run in with The Prick, who has decided that the fish from Papa’s company is too expensive for his restaurant. Note: The props and restaurant name “Gram-Gram” are straight-up stolen from the set of “Five Children”. Heh…my readers know how much I love Kdrama prop recycling!

The Prick is obsessed with cost cutting to improve the bottom line. BW’s Papa tries to reason with him, but Pricks seldom listen to the facts after their minds are made up.

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The Prick insists the price must be dropped:lidd2-3

And then there’s this ugly scene:

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Remarkable restraint shown here. Papa could’ve punched him out!

Heol! I’m grinding my teeth….during my lunch hour!

Woo Kyung’s husband is a huge A-hole as we find out they haven’t even been married two years (arranged of course!) and he’s cheating on her with impunity. Instead of supporting his sis, Woo Hyuk the Prick and his mom gang up on her, and tell her to stay with the cheater husband. Ugh! Then we find out The Prick has been suspicious of his brother-in-law from the get-go, and hired a detective to catch him cheating. The Prick confronts his BiL:

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Woo Kyung’s husband is certainly keeping the beef burrito wrapper industry busy.

He physically beats and threatens his BiL for a large alimony settlement for his sis, but that’s nowhere near enough to get me on his side. Woo Hyuk’s hideous treatment of anyone that says “No” to him is indicative that he’s been radically catered to and spoiled his entire life.

Like her brother said, Woo Kyung is not terribly bright. I think she’s just naive and sheltered; so far it’s worked for her. Knowing that her hubby is openly seeing (and sleeping with) other women, she decides that it’s time to have some fun too. She has good memories of being in theater when she was in school, so she ‘sponsors’ a hot young actor in a musical theater production of “Grease”. This brings on a warning from the much older ahjussi who is the main lead in the musical.

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Then we find out something super cool for Shamrockmom–the ahjussi is also a dentist! Woot! Yay for portrayals of dentists that are not psychopaths or complete lunatics! This is quite possibly one of the most creative and unique side characters in all of TV land. Am I gonna find a singing/dancing dentist in any US/UK show? Heck no! I am beyond thrilled….Tell me more, Tell me more Writer-nim. Bwaaahaaahaa! Here’s a clip of Ji Hyun Woo, my favorite perfectionist and born outcast from “Awl” in a stage production of “Grease” from 2005.

I mean–how freakin’ hawwt is Ji Hyun Woo as Danny? John Travolta?  Ehh….no. Not my type. Ji Hyun Woo–oh heck yeah!

Chae Rin’s cardiologist dad has practically disowned his brother Woo Wan over the fact that he’s a very part time dentist and prefers his low-paying musical theater gig. Woo Wan is bored of dentistry, and far prefers to be singing and dancing in stage productions than drilling teeth. I’m on his side! The scenes from “Grease” that are shown where Woo Wan and the rest of the troupe perform (the songs are sung half in Korean, half in English just like in the video) are instantly recognizable and perfect comic relief. I find it both funny and ironic that in RL, Kang Dong Ho aka Dong Joon was also in a musical theater production of “Grease”! (BTW, KDH has a lovely voice, and I am sorry he did not get to sing in this drama.) The hate-at-first-sight sparks fly almost immediately between Woo Kyung and Woo Wan, and I am super excited to see how the writer is going to handle the relationship between these two mature characters. Woo Wan also seems like a loving and concerned uncle to Chae Rin, and maybe he can be a positive influence on her in the future. Woo Wan may not be a ‘flower-boy’…but how can I not watch a forty-something dentist dance and sing his heart out!

Woo Hyuk soon starts to get chest pains, especially when he exercises. It’s not long before he’s in the hospital, and finds out he needs a heart transplant from the doctor aka Chae Rin’s dad. Predictably, The Prick throws a tantrum…how can this be?!? He works out, eats right…but then we find out that his dad died of a heart attack in his early 40’s, so genetic issues are partially to blame. Along with some bad luck, of course.

After the freak accident that leaves Dong Joon brain dead, the push to have his family donate his organs is relentless. Seriously, show! If the point is to give a more positive spin on organ donations, pressuring the family of the donor is not the way to go. Things turn around a little bit as Dong Joon is shown in a flashback to want his organs donated so he can live on after his death through others. Of course, his mom is 100% against donating his organs; Dad at least has the decency to respect his son’s wishes.

I am reasonably certain that writer-nim and PD-nim got together over the past weekend and said, “Gosh, Shamrockmom is wavering over watching our show. Since Episode 10 was delayed because of President Park Geun Hye’s impeachment vote, let’s give Shamrockmom a present. How about a potent dose of drama crack something extra special so she knows this drama is for her?” Success! The cupid’s arrow hits my heart in Episode 10, when Dong Joon and Bang Wool are listening to the famous song “Tian Mi Mi” featured in “Comrades: Almost a Love Story” I recognize the tune immediately (ok, the local Vietnamese market plays it almost every time I am in there, lol) and the movie gets a mention too as DJ’s fave. (And a Korean remake is in the works for next year! Woo-hoo!)

My mouth drops, the arrow hits….and sentimental Dong Joon tears up as he listens, as does Shamrockmom:

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He’s got the perfect shoulders to rest on!

Aaaagh! Show, you know how to get to me! Inundated by flashbacks to “My Love Eun Dong“, I am back on the melodrama rollercoaster for another ride!

At 10+ episodes, show is continuing to move quickly, and I am already invested in the characters. With approximately 110 episodes to go, I am fully aware that all kinds of shenanigans can mess things up. I am still trying to figure out all the relationships between the characters. I do see some promise in the side characters being particularly strong, like the dentist who sings and dances. However, it’s so far, so good–as is another daily drama: “Golden Pocket” aka “Golden Pouch”, which has Ahn Nae Sang from “Awl” in it. “Golden Pouch” is a significant notch above the typical daily drama in terms of cinematography and acting, especially by the main male lead. (I am considering a possible write up in the future. No promises.) I know all too well that a drama that starts out strong can lag later on (see “Second to Last Love”, “Beautiful Gong Shim”, and “The Man Living at my House” for recent evidence) but a drama that starts poorly will almost assuredly be dropped.

I really want to see The Prick go through H-E-double hockey sticks and back to change into a decent human being, loving husband and honorable father. Shamrockmom loves both a romantic love story–and Karma for the baddies! It would be fantastic to see both in this show. I pinky-promise I will drop the ugly nickname for Woo Hyuk if I see major personality changes. I am deeply sorry that sweet and perfect Dong Joon won’t be around for his son and wife, but perhaps the impending heart transplant will give the best of Dong Joon to Woo Hyuk. Alternately, perhaps now that Chae Rin has broken up with her nice boyfriend Sang Chul, maybe he will comfort his BFF’s grieving widow. I’d go for that in a heartbeat! (pun intended)

Do I believe that a transplanted organ sends some info from the previous owner to the new owner? No, not really. Over the years, I’ve asked a couple of my patients who have been recipients of kidney transplants if they noticed anything different after the surgery that they thought might be attributed to the former kidney’s owner, but they did not. After my jawbone graft this summer I have someone else’s bone embedded in my jawbone, and I have not noticed anything different either. But if I can suspend belief in reality to watch an exquisitely beautiful mermaid and hottie conman time travel to Joseon days in “The Legend of the Blue Sea”, (I’m only on Episode 1) then believing a transplanted organ brings the best parts of the former owners personality to its new owner isn’t such a stretch!

I’m sure you are thinking to yourself, “Why do I want to watch this show? It looks like it has a high probability to derail badly–the only question is will it be sooner or later.” Well, if you prefer to watch melodrama over the upcoming Christmas holidays, like I do….as opposed to participating in it–this might be for you. Tired of your family arguing over politics, food preferences, living arrangements and how to raise children every time there’s a gathering? Come over here and watch other people fight and act badly for a change! Then you won’t feel so crummy when your family get-togethers have awkward moments like these gems–courtesy of the Yoon brothers from Episode 10. Dong Min gets it rolling:

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Yep, he’s got ‘Mouth Diarrhea’ alright. But at least he knows how to keep his beef burrito wrapped! I cheered when his mom gave him a good hard smack. Yunno, double standards and all…

and a great zinger from Dong Joon to his mom as the sonogram pic is passed around:

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You and me both, Dong Joon…you and me both.

So whether your holiday gatherings resemble a daily Kdrama… or are much more placid affairs–find an escape from holiday stress with a show that works for you! Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas from Shamrockmom’s House!

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2 thoughts on “Fishing for a Holiday Melodrama: Early thoughts on “Love is Drop by Drop”

    • I honestly hope for no derailment at all! I’m so looking forward to the dentist ahjussi character. There’s another scene where he hangs up his underwear on the rooftop clothesline while singing and dancing tunes from “Grease”. So funny 👍

      Liked by 1 person

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