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It has been ages since I dipped my toes into long dramas. You’re The Best Lee Soon Shin was my last attempt but sadly I dropped it after 30 or so episodes. I was actually having an urge from few days to try a weekend drama for a change. I know. It’s not like I’m not already flooded with dramas left, right and center. But I just wanted to go for a comfy, typical Korean ride this time.

I’m happy to announce that I liked episode 1 of Man Who Sets The Table, the new kid on the weekend block for MBC. I’ve also decided to recap it as it will help me to keep track of things in the long run and well, just want to share the love!

EPISODE 1 RECAP

Let me introduce some characters first.

Lee Shin Mo (Kim Gab Soo, The K2) and Hong Young Hye (Kim Mi Sook, City Hunter) are husband and wife with two children — the older son, a doctor, Lee So Won (Park Jin Woo, Love On A Rooftop) and younger daughter, Lee Roo Ri (Sooyoung, Dating Agency Cyrano). So Won is married to Ha Yun Joo (Seo Hyo Rim, Beautiful Gong Shim).

Yang Choon Ok is Yun Joo’s mom (Kim Soo Mi, loved her in Incarnation Of Money). Yun Joo is a dim-witted, materialistic woman. Her mother is also similarly over-the-top and it looks like they were not so rich from the beginning.

We start with Roo Ri’s childhood when she was a swimmer. Her father had high hopes of her winning a competition but she could not get first position. Instead of encouraging her with comforting words, her father disregards her efforts. Her mother is visibly hurt by his behaviour.

Cut to many years forward, we hear as Roo Ri narrates that her father never looked at her with kind or loving words, calling her idiot and a disappointment. We soon learn that he is a very arrogant person who only orders around, and does not give any importance to anyone, including his wife Young Hye. All these years he has worked hard and only paid attention to getting successful. Meanwhile, Young Hye has supported him all these years without demanding anything in return.

Roo Ri has failed many interviews and now, she has one more lined up. Dad tells her that if she fails again, she will have to get married to Myung Tae (Lee Shi Un, Answer Me 1997, in a cameo) who is her boyfriend.

Roo Ri is in a rush to reach the interview venue and hence, her skirt gets stuck in the door of the subway. We meet Jung Tae Yang (Ohn Joo Wan, Village: Secret Of Achiara) in the metro station and his first impressions tell the kind of person he is — kind, cheerful, caring. When he sees Roo Ri, he tries to help her with her skirt, which of course, she misunderstands as perverted behaviour. She shouts and in the ensuing events, more people come to her rescue and this all results in Tae Yang getting burned by hot water, in that area of his body.

Tae Yang gets down with other people holding him tight despite his protests, while Roo Ri goes on her way to the interview. Cops are called but thanks to an eye-witness, misunderstanding is cleared. But doctor is not so sure about Tae Yang’s condition.

We meet Tae Yang’s mom, Jung Hwa Young (Lee Il Hwa, Answer Me 1988) who runs a dance school. She is married to Ko Jung Do (Shim Hyung Tak, My Sassy Girl), clearly their second marriage. They have two more kids — Kim Woo Joo and Ko Eun Byul.

Roo Ri reaches late and thus not allowed to sit for the interview. She is sad and goes to meet her boyfriend Myung Tae and finds him in bed with some other girl. She is astonished. He blames everything on her, saying that she is a loser who does not match his level.

Utterly sad and miserable, thinking she is idiot and a disappointment, Roo Ri decides to jump from a building but at the last-minute, she reads a newspaper clipping about someone else attempting suicide and killing a passerby in the process. She jolts out of her depression and decides that she won’t accept defeat and try to do something in life with full determination.

Around three months have passed. She takes up a temporary job at a hotel, seemingly outside South Korea but does not tell her family about the kind of work. She is clearly very happy with what she is doing.

Roo Ri’s dad’s retirement day comes. He doesn’t even take his wife to the ceremony. As a token of thanks, he has bought cruise tickets for him and his wife, and also taken admission in dance class, run by Tae Yang’s mom, for both.

During dinner at a restaurant, dad keeps on showing off how great he is. As a father, husband, employee. His son and daughter-in-law keep on praising him. He tells mom about his surprises but instead of showing any gratitude, he is more like he is doing some kind of generosity. He says he has planned the rest of her life for her.

Mom couldn’t take in any more and announces that she wants a separation from him. Not a divorce, but a contract where they are free to live their life independently and she does not want to live with him anymore.

Dad is outraged at this, his ego getting hurt. He creates a huge scene in the restaurant. Mom is determined and leaves him there. Dad drinks a lot.

Next morning, when mom tells him that food is ready, he thinks she has forgotten everything and tells her to say sorry. She makes it clear that she wants him to sign the contract papers. He tells her that he has called Roo Ri home and that he will discuss it when she comes. Mom messages her to not come home or receive her dad’s calls.

Roo Ri tells her friend that she will keep on extending her contract till her job becomes permanent. Her friend is super excited on hearing about the news that their manager Tae Yang is coming as is the rest of female staff as the manager is very handsome. Roo Ri also becomes excited.

But when the two comes face to face, it does not take long for them to recognise each other. He immediately takes her with him and accuses her he went through a lot these past three months because of her. He also clears her misunderstanding. She apologizes but he says he won’t renew her contract.

Later, her friend informs Roo Ri that due to her, the manager has become incapable to be a man due to the accident caused by her. Roo Ri again goes to him to say sorry. Tae Yang is working out but Roo Ri (again) misinterprets the situation as if he is trying to hang himself. She comes rushing towards him to stop him, leading to him falling on top of her!

THOUGHTS

Weekend dramas are usually wash, rinse, repeat type of stories with multiple characters and trajectories. What I like about Man Who Sets The Table is the fact that it brings some welcome freshness despite having some stereotypical characters. The heroine is rich and not the poor candy heroine juggling many part-time jobs. Yes, she is having a temporary job but still the circumstances are different here. Also, I simply loved the family of our hero! He shares so much warmth with his step father and vice-versa. His mother looks cool as well. I cheered when Roo Ri’s mom finally declared that she wants separation from her egotistic husband with a patriarchal mindset. I’m sure she must have suffered through many years and when she was sure that her children are well settled, she decided to take the action when she could not bear anymore. I’m curious to know how the story will pan out from now on in relation to these two.

I loved the light comic tough with our hero’s, ehem, problem. I know it is played for laughs and I’m loving the two leads together. I’m so ready to see them bickering their way to love. I like that he is a well-meaning and jolly person and that the argumentative relationship arose from a circumstance rather than the nature.

As for Roo Ri, I understand why she was so deflated. I’m glad she got her determination and happiness back. But I did feel it was too sudden. Also there was some editing flaw as we couldn’t guess where she started working so suddenly and how much time had passed.

Anyway, I really liked the start and hopefully, the show will be a satisfying, light-hearted ride with colourful people populating its world.

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