When your boyfriend dumps you and you want revenge
Who you gonna call?
“Don’t have a boyfriend? Are you afraid of going to family gatherings, company functions and parties alone? Then call me whenever you need me. I will be your fake boyfriend.”
Tae-bong, just so you know, I’m booking you for Christmas. Bring your hot friend with you. (To everyone who’s MINED Lee Min-ki since 2007, don’t worry. I promise to return him. He might be a little rumpled though.)
Dal Ja’s Spring is one of those dramas that have been languishing in the outer reaches of my radar forever. Despite hearing many good things about it, I was never in any hurry to give it a go because a) I didn’t know anyone in the cast back then and b) I wasn’t particularly enamored of Dal-ja’s hair either. (Though having said that, I should add that El Cabello is an acquired taste. I wasn’t crazy about it at first but now, after five episodes, I think it’s just darling XD)
Lee Min-ki’s cameo in Shut Up Flower Boy Band changed all that and finally gave me the reason I needed to check it out. Long story short: If I were Dal-ja, this drama would have been game over by episode 3. Lucky for KBS and its sponsors, I’m not.
What is this drama about?
This drama is about that moment in your life when all the planets align and the gods send Lee Min-ki crashing into you, of all people, in the middle of a crowded sidewalk. If that isn’t a sign, I don’t know what is.
Anyway, this is Oh Dal-ja, our heroine. On the surface, she’s the woman who has it all: a respectable job as the manager of a home shopping channel, nice colleagues, a fabulous apartment…
However since this is a K-drama, all these things don’t mean squat because she’s a 33-year-old single woman. OH THE SHAME OF IT ALL!
There’s a reason for this sad state of affairs though: Dal-ja has very high standards. Yes, she’s saving herself for Prince Charming, that figure of legend who’s right up there with the Loch Ness monster and the Abominable Snowman.
Or to put it another way:
Fate soon decides to move things along by presenting her with three eligible candidates (well, actually there’s really only one choice but you know how K-dramas are.)
Candidate #1 is Shin Sae-do, Dal-ja’s longtime colleague and an inveterate skirt-chaser. Yes, I know you’re probably wondering: ‘What, he can get laid?’ but the even more unbelievable thing is that there are women queuing up to sleep with him. Humanity, I have no more faith in you.
Sae-do becomes Dal-ja’s first paramour but as she is rather green in the dating department, she fails to pick up Sae-do’s signals, and tired of waiting to score with her, he blithely moves on to her colleague Seon-joo. (CAN YOU FEEL MY BLOOD PRESSURE RISING?) Of course, Dal-ja has to find out about their relationship just when she’s finally decided she’s ready to sleep with him. Eew…Dal-ja honey, you can do SO much better.
After foaming at the mouth and drinking enough hard liquor to knock a Russian sailor out, Dal-ja comes to realise that they are better off as friends. She is obviously a bigger person than me because all I want to do is slap him senseless. Repeatedly. Especially after one of his flings goes to her office and slaps her in front of all her colleagues for stealing her ‘oppa’. RAAAAAGE.
Not to mention, he keeps making disparaging remarks about her being a spinster. How do you put up with him, Dal-ja?!
I know I’ll probably warm up to him in the later episodes but for now, this man makes my blood BOIL. May I please refer all of you to China Machado who at 81 is still rocking the runway and proving that life does not end at 30.
Moving on (thank GOD), we have Candidate #2. Kang Tae-bong is a 20-something gadabout who runs his own one-man dating agency. In the grand old tradition of trendy K-dramas, Dal-ja decides to hire Tae-bong to pretend to be her boy-toy for a month so that she can make Sae-do jealous. There is a contract and everything. You know how this is going to end, right?
“Holding hands and putting my arms around your shoulders are the basics but if there is a need to be more intimate, there will be a $20 surcharge.”
Tae-bong honey, could you please clarify what you mean by “more intimate” because I’m sure there are many noonas who can afford your $20 surcharge. In fact, I think many would consider it a bargain.
Because Dal-ja isn’t me, she doesn’t really give Tae-bong’s service extras much thought.
Instead, she gets him to do her laundry and various other miscellaneous chores. Tae-bong’s face = My feelings.
He has a point, you know.
At any rate, Tae-bong keeps to his side of the bargain and does everything she asks of him. How do I love that he isn’t the least bit embarrassed about introducing himself as her friend with benefits (or at least that’s what I think a “spare tire” means in this instance) to her mother and grandmother?
And have you seen the way he looks at her? (I should also mention that he tries to con her into buying kisses from him. Dal-ja, I think you should ask for samples first. A good merchant will always let you test his wares XD)
He also throws in little free extras and has a knack for saying the sweetest things when she’s feeling down.
Dal-ja, why are you not eloping with this man to the Bahamas yet?! Oh, right. There’s still Candidate #3 or as she likes to call him, Mr Perfect.
The suit above is Uhm Gi-joong, who is well-to-do, successful and well, you know the drill. He is everything that Dal-ja (thinks) she wants except for the fact that he has a crazy wife who refuses to divorce him. Shades of Anego right there.
I have nothing interesting or witty to say about him at this point because he hasn’t done much apart from taking her to expensive restaurants and bombarding her office with bouquets of flowers. Boooring. I assure you that I’m not the only person who feels this way:
Dal-ja, listen to your granny. She knows what she’s talking about.
Is Dal-ja’s Spring the drama Anego could have been if the latter hadn’t squandered its potential on the tedious relationship between Shinohara Ryoko’s character and her married love interest? I’m only at episode 6 but god, I hope so. If you’ve read my mini review of Anego, you’ll know that my feelings about it are tepid at best. My memory of the drama is a bit hazy but I do remember not being able to get behind a number of Naoko’s decisions and disliking the direction the story took.
One of my beefs with Anego was the way it handled the older woman-younger man relationship. As much as I wanted Naoko to get together with Kurosawa (i.e. the younger man played by Akanishi Jin), I would have respected her decision not to pursue a relationship with him had she actually given it a proper chance. But she didn’t and I always felt this was due to the fact that she was far too bothered about what people would think of their age difference to take it seriously.
I trust this will not happen with Dal-ja’s Spring because for starters, Tae-bong is a helluva lot more assertive than Kurosawa. I can’t imagine him watching her flounce away after an argument without doing anything about it. Secondly, Dal-ja has a good friend who I’d like to think will be the first in line to knock some sense into her if she is unable to realise her self-worth on her own. Naoko never had such an influence in her life. She was always solving problems for other people and had no one to turn to when it came to her own crises.
Can you tell that I love her?
Anego comparisons aside, I think there’s quite a bit to recommend Dal-ja’s Spring. It’s a fun, zippy screwball comedy with a quirky cast of characters. Dal-ja is like the Korean lovechild of Ally McBeal and Lucille Ball, with an imagination that should be mined for future K-drama productions. She’s naïve and gullible but adorably so — it’s like Tae-bong says, she’s a teenager trapped in a 33-year-old woman’s body. There’s plenty of room for growth for her character — most of all, learning to be comfortable in her own skin instead of trying so hard to live up to the image that she wants people to have of her.
This is a something that’s pointed out to her by her colleague, Seon-joo, a glamorous libertine who certainly has no lack of self-confidence. She’s the kind of woman who can get taxis to stop by flashing a bit (okay, a lot) of leg and I think it’s hilarious that she trumps Sae-do at his own game and turns him into a wreck. God, I love her.
The drama has hinted at the heartbreak lurking beneath Seon-joo’s hauteur but to be honest, I’m more interested in seeing how her relationship with Dal-ja develops. They didn’t start off on the right foot with each other but their mutual disdain of each other has given way to a grudging respect. I don’t ever expect to see them painting each other’s toe nails but I’d definitely like to see some of Seon-joo’s confidence rub off on Dal-ja.
On a separate note, I’m a bit wary of the fact that this drama runs for 22 episodes. I frequently think that many K-dramas would benefit from having a shorter run. It would force the writers to be more economical with the script, which would in turn contribute to a much tighter plot in many cases. Dal-ja’s Spring, for all its adorable quirks, doesn’t exactly have the most original story out there and I’m guessing that at some point, Tae-bong’s family is going to make a proper appearance and rain on his parade for a while. I can accept that this is going to happen. I just hope that it isn’t going to be overly tedious and melodramatic. If Tae-bong and Dal-ja are going to be separated and he’s going to be sent away to some foreign country like Mongolia to look after horses, please let me know now and I will drop this drama instantly. I have a lot on my plate and time is too short to be spent on dramas with a WTF ending.