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Understanding Women: Audiobook Review

A few months ago, from a comment on a message board, I discovered Alison Armstrong and her study of relationships, but especially of men. Since reading her book Keys to the Kingdom, I have been reading or listening to everything she has published out there, as the information is fascinating and helpful. The most helpful part about what she does is explaining to men and women that we really do not understand the opposite sex and how different we actually are. Our society today, and even men themselves, often think men are simple and maybe even shallow. Armstrong herself used to think this until she starting actually researching and asking men about themselves. What she found surprised both herself and them: Men are complicated and very deep creatures, with a staggering amount of thoughtfulness put into everything they do.

In learning more about men and why they act the way they do, Armstrong has also unearthed a lot of information about women as well. I decided to give her Understanding Women workshop a listen, especially because her In Sync with the Opposite Sex workshop was hilarious. The first thing I have to say about the workshop audiobook is please, please don’t make this your first listen or read of her stuff. Armstrong’s information about women is difficult for both men and women to hear, and I realized immediately that it would have been worse if I didn’t already know some of it from her other works. I say this, because although Understanding Women is about women, it’s actually about Armstrong’s continuing studies on men. Men are often reacting to women in ways that both sexes scarcely comprehend. Much of the time, the workshop does not put women in a flattering light, and Armstrong’s goal, which she states at the end, is to get women to realize they have a responsibility to check themselves. The information is a far cry from the feminism and women power of today, while at the same time being empowering in its own right. The good thing is, Armstrong offers solutions and explains just how beneficial men are for women. Men, you can actually help save us from ourselves, which is a pretty awesome feat if what all she says is true!

As I had so many thoughts about the workshop, this article will be pretty long. I will give each topic a heading to make things easier.

Criticism

Women and men handle criticism differently. Men may not know this, but women actually deal with constant criticism, sometimes coming from others, but mostly coming from themselves. Armstrong calls this criticizer the “Perfect or Ideal Woman.” This Perfect Woman is one of the main problems between men and women, because women not only feel they have to be this Perfect Woman, but feel and think men should be this Perfect Woman also. The Perfect Woman has little to do with realistic expectations and can be a complex that keeps women in constant guilt that they are never good enough. Well, who is good enough, anyway? Only Jesus Christ, that I know of. Men have told Armstrong one of the most attractive qualities in a woman is self-confidence. She can only have this by overcoming the Perfect Woman in her head and telling her to shut up. This is much easier if the woman is secure, safe, and loved, and men are rather good at doing those three things for women.

Criticism is not often handled well by women. I know for myself, being one. Even a comment that is not actually a criticism is easily taken as one. We will never wear that skirt or those shoes again. We change or adapt to actual or perceived criticism. According to Armstrong, men take criticism as a suggestion or interesting thing to note. It doesn’t affect their whole sense of self as if often does with women. They will consider it more if it comes from someone they respect, but their behavior doesn’t necessarily change because of it.

I think this is why it can be very easy to take all of this workshop as criticism of women, especially by women. The information is really much the same as her information on men: Many of these behaviors are hard for both sexes to control unless we know they are happening, why, and how to curtail them. Some can’t be controlled, and most aren’t “wrong,” just ways in which the sexes differ. Armstrong shares how women react to criticism to men because she says, “You may not have meant to change her by what you said, but you did.” Sounds like a heavy burden to shoulder.

Focus

The most well known difference between men and women is that men are single focused and that women multitask. Armstrong takes this a step further, saying that women actually don’t focus at all! We can, but it takes a lot of energy for us to do so. This is because women have what she calls “diffuse awareness.” Women are aware of everything in their surroundings, often paying attention to a plethora of things at once all needing to be fixed or beautified in some way. It’s the reason why women often wander from one task to the next, often working on a number of projects at one time. Too ignore a messy environment screaming at her to clean it, a women has to zone out, often by getting involved in a story or something like that. That, I can relate to. I often hole up with a book or K-drama when my house is a mess and I’m too tired to do anything about it.

Is it true that women don’t focus? For myself, yes, it is often difficult and truly focusing on a project or task tires me out quickly. Focusing at work all day is super draining and many jobs are geared towards single focus. Armstrong describes diffuse awareness as women going to the meadow to gather different things for their family/tribe. It’s sort of like shopping. We go out to look and see all the possibilities out there and bring back what’s best. I imagine a job involving diffuse awareness would be something creative–decorating or party planning, etc. Secretary or personal assistant jobs can require a similar kind of creativeness and also multitasking. Women do multitask, but often we are not focused on one single goal at a time, so a lot gets done, but it can appear chaotic to men. Armstrong says this ability in women is what makes it possible for them to have all the dishes ready for dinner on time, plus have the house picked up, all while keeping an eye on the kids and making lunch for the next day. She also says that some men and women are the reverse. Often creative men will have more diffuse awareness and career women often have single focus. Their partners, then will usually have the opposite trait.

The times I am most aware of having diffuse awareness is when I’m at an event or gathering with a lot of people, especially people that I know. Somehow I monitor everything around me, how I think others might be feeling, even. Is that a spill on the floor? Do we need more coffee? Why does Betty look so distraught? Why’s Luke standing in the corner? Why is no one taking that child off the table? It’s super hard to focus on whatever conversation I’m in. Armstrong says men are often hurt by our not focusing on them while they are talking to us. It can come across as not caring about what they are saying. It’s not that we don’t care, it’s that the environment around us is screaming for our attention. This is similar to how men in their single focus mode can often seem uncaring, too. He hears us say to take out the garbage, but he doesn’t HEAR it. Just like women have to choose when we make requests of men–not while they’re in the middle of something–so men have a way of getting women to focus. Actually, to me it sounds like a super power.

Touch

Armstrong says that for most women, touch is a big deal. It brings us back into our bodies. She explains it like that because women so easily lose our sense of self, while men have strong sense of self and physicality. It’s that awareness of everything going on around us and our monitoring feelings, etc. that does it. Armstrong says if a man wants his woman to focus on him (as much as she can) he has to be the “loudest” thing in the room. In touching her hand or arm, etc, he will immediately become the loudest thing in the room and her focus will be on him.

I can imagine this works, but I don’t know for sure, and will have to note if and when it happens. But it makes sense to me in a way, because the way women reassure and comfort other women is with hugs or a touch on the arm, etc. We are a rather touch averse society these days, so I definitely notice more if someone does touch me, but it will take some time to determine if that affects how I focus. Always ready to get the laugh, Armstrong instructs men that even while love making, “don’t let go of her.” Men anchor us with their touch, and much of that may have to do with them often being bigger, stronger, and the provider.

Safety

This one was easy. I know it’s true without having to watch and see. Women are constantly monitoring their own physical safety. Although we may lose our physicality in some ways, when it comes to danger to our person, we are acutely aware all of the time. Most men, Armstrong says, don’t have a continual fear of their physical safety. They just don’t. Being smaller and weaker than men, women do. The workshop offers a lot on this topic, and much of it is hard to hear. Logically women often know we are safe, but the “cavewoman” as Armstrong calls her, takes over. We cannot think straight around an angry man, for example, even if he’s not angry at us. At that moment he is the tiger in the room that might eat us. Even a man excited about something can seem threatening–all that testosterone has to be neutralized. Fear and concern over safety is one of the main reasons women emasculate men. Sadly, this is all too often because women’s threat radar is, as Armstrong says, “set way too high.” It’s not fair to men, but it is the reality. Again, touch can help. It can say “you are safe, you are loved, etc.” It’s why, bizarrely, a women might ask a man if he’s mad at her, when clearly he isn’t. She needs the reassurance because she’s worried if he’s mad at her he might not protect her when the real tiger comes around.

Honor

This is where things start to get really dicey. Armstrong says that the reason women fear an angry man, thinking that if he’s mad at her he won’t save her when the tiger or danger comes, is because a woman would be angry and let the tiger eat that person. She wouldn’t save that person. She says that women have no honor. She says this because honor is about doing the right thing even if you don’t feel like it and that women don’t act against their feelings.

I can say that when I usually think of honor it’s in regard to soldiers or battle, usually involving men. I don’t personally think much of honor connected to women, but I’m not sure we have zero of it. Armstrong states that if a women is angry at another women she’d let the tiger have her. Never could I imagine the women I know doing such a thing, but I’ve never really contemplated honor, so maybe I’m wrong. Maybe I’m mixing it up with integrity and courage, traits that Armstrong says women have a lot of. She says that things like honor, loyalty, team spirit, etc. all belong to the province of men, that they are essentially manly things and qualities and why it’s so important for male children to have dads or male figures around to teach them these things, because women can’t.

Do women have no honor? I have seen many women leave their men for the next best thing, but men leave their women for that, too. I have seen cruelty come from women that is not at all honorable and very different from a man’s cruelty. It can be true, as Armstrong says, that women at work can be even more vicious than men. They take on single focus and other male traits without being tempered by honor, loyalty, etc. I can say that this is sometimes true, that women are this way, but am reluctant to say that’s built into our sex. Armstrong doesn’t mean it as a criticism so much as to explain to men why we are compelled to please them. We must make sure they always are please with us so they protect us from the tiger. We are compelled. We need men’s protection and providing for us even if we have a gun and a million dollar job. Armstrong says in our modern life, a woman “needs to have a man to prove she doesn’t need a man.” It doesn’t make sense, but yet it makes perfect sense in our upside down world where both sexes are told they must act like the opposite sex much of the time.

Feelings

The honor thing, however, was not the most shocking thing said at the workshop. One of the last things Armstrong goes through is how much women are controlled and compelled by feelings. She compares our feelings to a chakra thing different from our emotions, and I kind of understood what she was saying, but it sounded rather hokey. I don’t think of “women’s intuition” as we often call it, as a direct connecting line to God and universe. Maybe it is, but I’ve never thought of it that way.

Because women so often misinterpret what men are doing, really putting the worst construction on a given situation, women often get their feelings hurt for no reason. For more on how this works, I suggest reading Keys to the Kingdom and The Queen’s Code because those books are written in story format and illustrate the concepts very well and show how relationships can be so much better without the misinterpretation. Getting our feelings hurt is a big deal for women, or so Armstrong says. She then goes on to describe something she calls the “rage monster.”

I know I’ve been there, so angry and hurt that every bad thought you’ve had about someone rises to the surface and you just want to spit it all out in an argument, but know you would instantly regret it. I never considered it a uniquely female thing, though. Armstrong says that when our feelings get hurt it is devastating to a woman. She describes what it’s like and, well, the portrayal of it is rather repulsive. She makes it sound like in that moment women are worse off than children in a meltdown. The solution to this, the only solution, she says, that works, is for the man to say, “I’m sorry I hurt your feelings.” This is also a time when touch is not wanted. The woman is hurt, needs the “I’m sorry,” and the time to recover, and then you can wrap your arms around her and dry her tears.

Maybe the rage monster is something that’s more unique to a romantic partnership or relationship. I’ve been in arguments, I’ve been angry, but not to the degree that she’s describing; or at least, it’s something I may have experienced a very long time ago, so long ago as to have forgotten it entirely. Never do I recall having to hear a man or anyone say, “I’m sorry I hurt your feelings,” and then things being all better. The worst part is, that in the situation she’s describing, the woman’s feelings are hurt not because the man actually did anything wrong, but because she is interpreting his actions and behavior wrongly. Yet the only thing that works to snap the woman out of this “rage monster” is him saying, “I’m sorry I hurt your feelings.”

The men in the workshop were not having this. They struggled with the instruction to say they are sorry for something they didn’t do. Feelings were hurt, but it wasn’t their fault. They objected also to treating their women like children. I objected also and have trouble believing that this is the only thing that works. It also creates a situation in which some women will then use that as a way to treat the men as if they did do something wrong. Armstrong warns women not to do this, but it seems to me that if we indeed have no honor, the temptation here is just too strong. In the situation she describes, the man didn’t hurt the women’s feelings, the woman hurt her own feelings. If, as she says, a woman’s feelings are so, so hurt that she covers it up with rage all the while desperately wanting her man to save her from herself, and touch won’t work in this instance, wow. I mean the “sorry for the feelings” thing must make it stop, at least for some women, but there’s gotta to be a better way to resolve that. Certainly women being aware of when this is happening may help, but it sounds like a state of being so totally out of control that only God can lift you up. I guess it’s a warning to women to really watch how we interpret things.

In Sync

All in all, I always find Armstrong’s research and information really fascinating and helpful, however, one has to remember that her focus is understanding men, and because that’s her focus, I think her works on men are far more positive and life affirming than this particular audiobook, workshop. Understanding Women many times makes women seem really crazy. The information was alarming at times, and more disturbing than any of her stuff on men. However, I like her goal, which is to get women to pay attention to what they are doing, how and why they are reacting, and so on. If as a women you can’t stop talking, consider, “what am I afraid of right now?” If you are with a women who can’t stop talking, touch her arm or hand. Anchor her. Focus her. Let her know she’s safe even though there’s no reason to fear. It doesn’t make sense, but as a woman, I can say that we often don’t make sense. What I mean is, perhaps understanding men is all about making sense–they have a good reason for everything they do–and understanding women is about connecting them to reality instead of whatever thing they may be imagining in their heads. From what Armstrong says, that’s the real dragon to slay. Throughout the workshop, she affirms again and again that women need saving from themselves, and that men are the best equipped to do just that.

It’s all about men and women being in sync with each other. We have certain needs that can only be met or best met by the opposite sex. Fortunately, the desire to meet those needs is built right into us. Men naturally want to protect and provide for women and women naturally want to please men and give them attention. The biggest problem, Armstrong often says, is that in our modern society we simply do not know this about each other. And that is why her work is so revolutionary, especially for women, who every day are taught by society that men are hairy misbehaving women instead of the honorable, loyal men they actually are, and are even more bizarrely, taught to be like those misbehaving men rather than their own feminine selves. Upside down world does not even begin to describe it.

K-drama Review: Because This Is My First Life

This will be more a review of the second half of this sweet contemplation on couples in their thirties trying to adjust to the work, social, and romance demands that come with being an adult. For my thoughts on the first part, please see Winter’s Last Hurrah. Because This Is My First Life stars Lee Min Ki (Shut Up Flower Boy Band) and the awesome Jung So Min (The Smile Has Left Your Eyes). The writing of this series is good, which is always a helpful thing when one of the characters is a writer, too. Somehow, the show managed to hit the right combination of sentimentality, comedy, and drama.

Would you enter a contract marriage? In America, living together while not being married is pretty commonplace, so it’s more difficult to imagine that people would find it necessary to do a contract marriage unless some huge amount of money was involved or some high stakes circumstances. South Korea’s a bit more conservative and traditional still, so the plot works in this show and they highlight especially the family pressure on the two: Living as landlord and tenant like they want to do would not be at all acceptable to their families.

Would I enter into a contract marriage? As a forty-something-year-old single lady, spinster if we were in Jane Austen’s world, the thought of it is sometimes tempting. Dating has never really been a fun thought for me, though romance and marriage always have been. And my family is conservative Christian, so living together wouldn’t be acceptable, for me or for them. I just couldn’t carry on the charade. And they’d be so disappointed with the lie and really disappointed that there was no love, not to mention being a huge diss on the institution of marriage itself. We often joke about marriage being just a contract, but it’s not, it’s absolutely not. It’s a commitment unlike any other, which is why so many cohabitate instead of taking the plunge. Jumping with both feet in takes real courage, and I don’t get writers like Agatha Christie, for example, in which her characters get married after a couple of weeks. It boggles the mind. Besides, what would I have to offer in a contract marriage: Money? Nope. Carnal favors? Yikes. No, marriage for me would have to be about love, but it is hard sometimes. I have four weddings to go to this spring and summer and they are all for beautiful young women in love and loved, and it seems something, well, only for the young. It seems something that’s passed me by, or I’ve passed it by. Did I mention it’s going to be a difficult season?

Back to the review: I last watched, I think, episode six, when writing the first half review, and the writers had just introduced a corny love triangle. I am happy to report that the love triangle really isn’t one, merely a vehicle to test the main characters’ contract–is it really that, or is their marriage more a real marriage than they want to acknowledge? Of course it’s the latter. Both have already given each other their hearts by this time, and there’s no going back. The biggest problem they have, is really the Korean traditions of one having to help one’s in-laws for certain events. We have a little bit of this in America, but it’s not this pressure of making one person do all the work for something just because they are the new daughter-in-law.

On the night they first met, Jung So Min’s character, Ji Ho, kissed Lee Min Ki’s Se Hee out of the blue because she’d never kissed anyone before and wanted to have a first kiss. Later on, when he’s acknowledging how into her he is, he scoffs, “That wasn’t a kiss, that was a peck, a touching of lips at most,” and shows her what real kiss is. It was very swoon worthy and had me thinking of Crocodile Dundee: “That’s not a knife, this is a knife.” ūüôā Se Hee is so hilariously robotic and analytic, yet he is sweet and alluring as a man in love, and probably more dangerous, too. His goal is simply to not be a hindrance to Ji Ho. If that’s not romantic, I don’t know what is. Like I said before, there was no way she would not fall for him. He’s offering her safety, stability, security, and love that allows her to be who she is instead of asking her to become a pretzel.

More on the pretzel thing: A few posts ago, I talked about Alison Armstrong, her Keys to the Kingdom and The Queen’s Code. Because she’s truly curious, Armstrong has a learned a lot about men, women, and their differences. She often gives the advice: Don’t go for the people you’re super physically attracted to. It will never work. Why? You can’t be yourself. You won’t be yourself, you will constantly be trying to be someone else that you think will impress them. And you won’t be able to turn that off. It’s true, when you think about it. Mostly, I hate all exercise except walking and dancing, and I have professed a profound interest and love in running all to impress a guy that would have never have been the right one for, and who would have never been right for me. I know now, I would have exhausted myself, turning myself into a pretzel for him and still wouldn’t have felt good enough. Armstrong says it best: The people you’re most attracted to, don’t really like you, mostly because they’ve never met you and never will. The people who are attracted to you, but you’re not so physically into them, they’ve actually met you and know you quite well, which is why they like you so much. She says if you’re not having any luck in romance, to give those people a chance. Se Hee’s kind of that man that’s not super attractive, mostly due to his manner, but for the woman he loves–and the love probably came a lot sooner that he thinks it did–he is gold. He is the perfect one for her. With him, she is loved for who she is and she doesn’t have to be somebody else to please him.

The two of them do end up happy, though it takes a mild separation for them to get there. They first have to acknowledge just how much they’ve been dissing marriage and each other, as a whole, but they do end up getting married for real, but keep their “contract” part for fun. And that is great, because, that kind of communication about the relationship is vital to keep it going. They assess where they are, what their expectations are of each other, etc. It’s actually very romantic. As for the other couples, they, too, end up happy, but the women especially have to put aside timelines and expectations. There’s no year in life in which you absolutely have to be married by or have a baby by. Some people have families under the most dire of circumstances and thrive; for others, not even a six-figure salary and a mansion is enough. The question is, what do you want? Do you want marriage? Is it something you can plan for or do you just want to jump in with both feet?

Babies are trickier. In our whole march on the feminism road, we often forget that women’s bodies are built to have babies when their young. Instead it’s encourage in their 30s or even 40s and more as an afterthought after they’ve accomplished career goals or other kinds of goals. As a woman whose time is running out, whose biological clock is ticking: Don’t wait. Your body will drive you crazy wanting to make a baby, and failing the ability to do that, you will want to mother and take care of everyone–the whole world!–with comedic, yet, decidedly disastrous results. All I’m saying is if you’re in your twenties now, I can say as a forty-one year old, you might someday regret that you didn’t have children sooner, and this is a choice that cannot be corrected. There’s no cure. You could have a baby in your forties, but you would every day realize how much easier it would be if your body was younger. Am I being too depressing? I don’t mean to be, it’s just as a person ages, you start to look back on your life and see all the missed chances. The times where if you’d just taken the time to stop, or given that person a chance, that maybe now, you might be so happy in love and family. And I expect it only the gets worse the older one gets. I don’t see it as anything to be depressed over, just contemplating the new perspectives, the new information. Because this is my first life. As Se Hee says, this is all our first lives. We’ve never done this before, and of course we will make mistakes.

Honestly, I am glad to be a Christian where we only have one life to live. If I could go back and relive my life, not only would I likely make the exact same mistakes, but I’d probably make even worse mistakes and would always have the memory of how the first life went a lot better when I couldn’t anticipate what was coming. Like a time traveler who keeps going back to save the life of the woman he loves, but he can never do it. She was always supposed to die. You were always supposed to be as you are now and with who you are with now. Reliving life won’t make you a cooler more sexy person. You might win at sports gambling, but if you didn’t have money in your first life, in your second you probably wouldn’t be able to hang on to it. This first and only life is precious, every second. And a commitment like marriage should be honored, not brushed off as merely a business contract. If it’s a contract, it’s one of the heart, and hearts shouldn’t be navigated idly. Who can win another’s heart? It’s just given, isn’t it? In this, our first lives, we should appreciate that.

My Strange Hero: Review

Sometimes life is such that I don’t get a lot of time to watch, read and/or write, so it’s been a little while. I will start with K-dramas and move onto Christie mysteries.

Lately, I’ve been struggling to find a Korean drama that I like beyond the first couple of episodes. I miss DramaFever a lot, because I always had a slew of things I wanted to watch and shows that kept my interest. Viki is great, but it just doesn’t seem to get as many new shows in as fast as Dramafever did, and their new shows have few intriguing plots and actors or actresses that I want to watch. Not entirely their fault, though, as they are now having to compete with powerhouses like Netflix for licensing of the dramas.

Initially, I was impressed with The Last Empress, starring Jang Nara (Oh Sunny), who is an amazing actress. Trouble is, she’s such a good actress that when playing a character that’s a bit repulsive she succeeds in helping us to feel revulsion. The Last Empress is a crazy, over the top soap opera set in an alternate universe in which Korea still has a royal family. Down to the last child, this family is full of gossiping, spying, backstabbing, loathsome characters, of whom, Oh Sunny, the new queen and empress, is only a milder version. Ok, she is the heroine, but somehow the writers made her really not likable. She’s greedy for money and really doesn’t seem that talented as a play actress. I was also looking forward to seeing Choi Jin Hyuk in an action role, but his character who goes through a transformation is so unemotional that it’s difficult to connect with him.

Long story short: Although The Last Empress delivers in excitement and nonstop plot twists and turns, it offers little in character growth, and offers few characters to truly root for. I quickly got tired of the constant bickering and intrigues of the royal family and wished Oh Sunny would just leave the palace altogether and be rid of them. After awhile, I just felt like I was wasting my time because I didn’t really care who won in the end. Although I’ve never seen Game of Thrones, I imagine the shows are similar to the extent that one is just watching highly immoral people trying to outdo each other, and any “good” character changes to bad or gets murdered or kicked by the wayside. It felt spiritually draining, and I think as I age I am looking more for stories with integrity than entertainment value. In the middle of Episode 18 I realized I just didn’t care anything about the characters or their fates, and that there was so many more (the show being in half-hour increments) episodes to go.

The next drama I tried was much more promising, but it stars the handsome Sung Hoon (Oh My Venus) who I think could be a pretty actor given the right script. Up until now his acting, except in Oh My Venus, in which he capably played a strangely vulnerable sport fighter, has been rather wooden and expressionless. I Picked up a Celebrity on the Street had the possibility of being pretty funny, so I gave it a go. The first episode was actually kind of freaky, with scary music and a creepy opening montage. I figured I wouldn’t make it past the first ten minutes, but something about the way the story unfolded was unusual. Spoilers: A young woman ends up accidentally murdering a celebrity, only to find he’s not dead, but that she has to hold him hostage in order to not get caught.

The main character, Lee Yeon Seo (Kim Ga Eun), come off as truly psycho, and, although the drama is supposed to be a dark comedy, it just turned me off after awhile. Keeping someone hostage, continually knocking them out, and deliberating how to best get rid of the body isn’t really that funny. In a movie, sure, it could probably work, but hours and hours of this? No way. The plot also became quickly repetitive. It seemed that every episode ended with Yeon Seo thinking, yet again, that she’d killed the celebrity, only to have him wake up at the beginning of the next one. It got old, fast. However, I do have to say that Sung Hoon may have a knack for this kind of comedy, and that his lack of expression in some cases ended up being a plus. I Picked up a Celebrity just wasn’t good enough to keep watching until it became great.

After that, I retreated to rewatching a drama I knew delivered both in comedy and heart: I am Not a Robot. A story about a wannabe inventor who ends pretending to be a robot for a part-time job, the story makes few false moves, and nearly all the characters are given room to grow. It’s an instant classic, and both Yoo Seung Ho and Chae Soon Bin are extremely watchable.

Now, I am watching My Strange Hero, also starring Yoo Seung Ho, and realizing what a great actor he is, having the advantage of naturally expressive eyes, especially when paired with a pretty, but not very good actress, Jo Bo Ah. Jo Bo Ah has definitely improved her skills since Shut Up, Flower Boy Band, but she’s still not quite on point as an actress. The second lead, played by Kwak Dong Yeon, goes almost toe-to-toe with Yoo Seung Ho in screen presence, giving him a bit of a run for his money. Kwak Dong Yeon will be someone to watch in the future, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he soon gets his own starring role. The plot for My Strange Hero is a little weak, but the half-hour episodes help keep things moving along, and additions of veteran actors like Kim Mi Kyung (Healer) and Cheon Ho Jin (City Hunter) are a good move. I’m only on episode 9, and there’s already quite a bit of heart in the story, and I’m excited to see where it goes and if it ends up having a great payoff.

The Smile Has Left Your Eyes: Ep 15 Review

This story is breaking my heart, but then, that’s what good stories sometimes do. ¬†Kim Moo Young’s memories of his little sister, Jin Kang, coming rushing to him. Instead of returning to her with the medicine for her burn, he runs all the way to CEO Jang’s house, demanding for her to tell him all that she knows. ¬†Jang tells him she can see the truth of it in his eyes: he didn’t have a little brother, but a sister, a sister that Officer Yoo’s family adopted: Jin Kang.¬†

Moo young leaves, devastated. Seo In Guk pulls out all of his acting stops as the young man feels the full impact of the information. As he breaks down crying, the beautiful music is strangely upbeat, hopeful, almost. Moo Young is buckets of tears and definitely has his emotions back. This information seem as if it will break him completely.

When at last Moo Young returns to a concerned Jin Kang, he asks her for his keys back and breaks up with her. This is the Moo Young of the Damsel days, and he even mentions her, that he’s dropping Jin Kang just like he dropped the Damsel. Jin Kang believes he is lying and asks to know what is wrong. Like any man on a mission to protect someone he loves, Moo Young doesn’t budge and Jin Kang leaves in distress. (Why is it that so often liars look one straight in the eye when lying? They don’t look all over the room–some liars do that, but the best ones don’t.) Quickly, Moo Young gets to work at ridding his house of everything related to her.¬†

The next day Moo Young goes straight away to CEO Jang to reaccept her offer to manage the nightclub Angel’s Tear. She seems delighted and intrigued by this, even telling her assistant that she has found a trump card to use against Moo Young: Jin Kang is his sister. Originally, the CEO just made that up for kicks, but she says the look in Moo Young’s eyes confirmed it. Argh! So, is she his sister or not? Moo Young’s memories seem to seal the deal, but the show makers are obviously playing with this. Whether or not Jin Kang actually is his biological sister, that is now what Moo Young believes.¬†

When Moo Young returns home he find Jin Kang waiting there. She has been waiting all day and is freezing. Forgetting himself, Moo Young almost pulls off his coat to drop over her, but quickly remembers. She pleads with him to tell her what’s wrong, but he pull his arm away, goes inside, and slams the door. Like a desperate, little child, Jin Kang bangs on the door, continually pleading with him as he sits on the couch and covers his ears. It’s a heart-wrenching, pathetic scene and when Moo Young can’t take any more of her crying, he calls Officer Yoo to come take his sister home. Officer Yoo immediately complies and piggybacks a despondent Jin Kang home. It’s no surprise the next day Officer Yoo is visiting the pharmacy for cold medicine for her.¬†

Officer Yoo crosses paths with Moo Young and tells him he did a good job breaking up with Jin Kang. Moo Young tells the officer it wasn’t because of him, it was that he just got tired of Jin Kang. Not sure if Officer Yoo believes that, but I think he’s just relieved and probably isn’t going to analyze it too much. Later, Officer Yoo is surprised to find that Jin Kang has Moo Young’s childhood drawing in her possession. He remembers clearly finding it on the day he killed Moo Young’s father. ¬†At that time, he took it and slipped it in Moo Young’s gown at the hospital, thinking the kid maybe would want to save that last image of a happy family. He remembers visiting not only Moo Young in the hospital, but also Jin Kang.¬†

CEO Jang is busy securing Moo Young as her pet. She’s given him a new job, new clothes, and now a new car. Moo Young accepts the keys and she asks him, why not get a new house, too? He replies that he should at least keep his real house, right?¬†

“Does that mean everything else is fake?” she scoffs.

“Don’t you have those times, too, when are more desperate for the fake?” he says.

After Jin Kang recovers from her cold, she’s still not quite her happy self, but she refuses to think bad of Moo Young. She knows she just doesn’t have all the information yet. Moo Young is looking like he’s going to break his vow of staying away from her as he keeps tabs on her to make sure she’s really okay. Jin Kang calls up Deputy Tak for a meeting and finds out from her that Officer Yoo killed Moo Young’s axe murder father. For some reason I thought that Jin Kang knew this information, but with shows like this, it’s sometimes hard to keep up. In exchange, Tak finds out that Jin Kang knows she’s not really Officer Yoo’s sister.¬†

Jin Kang visits Moo Young at Angel’s Tear as well, but he refuses to talk alone with her, and CEO Jang stresses him out by acting like she’s going to spill the fact that he and Jin Kang are brother and sister at any moment. Not surprisingly, then, when he drives Jang home later that night, he agrees to go up to her apartment in the hope of finding out what she has already told Jin Kang. Oblivious as perhaps only a super wealthy person can be, CEO Jang pushes all of Moo Young’s buttons that she can. Moo Young asks her if she has any intention of stopping and she laughs and asks him if he wants to stop the game.

“This isn’t a game.” Moo Young is incredulous, and in that moment we as the audience can tell that although the two do have similarities, they really are nothing alike in substance. Moo Young has the clear capacity for good and for love. Moo Young decides this game is definitely over, turning in his car keys to the CEO, bidding her goodbye, and telling her not to mess with him. But Jang just can’t give it up and keeps taunting him, threatening him that she’ll tell Jin Kang everything. As she sees his expression, she says she can’t believe it. He really loves Jin Kang. CEO Jang is obviously jealous, but why she would want a man supposedly in love with his sister…well, these characters all have their problems. Power is the most important thing to her, I think, even more important than self-preservation. Seemingly oblivious to the fact that her words are sparking a cold rage in Moo Young, she doesn’t even stopping talking and taunting as he goes to the bureau where she placed the gun he borrowed earlier, pulls it out, and shoots her three times. Maybe Jang secretly wanted to die, to have her endless games ended. ¬†Who knows? In any case, Moo Young is now definitely a murderer.¬†

The news of the murder breaks quickly, especially as Moo Young has been caught on camera, though has eluded capture. Jin Kang is devastated yet again and convinced he is innocent. Officer Yoo is less sure and even though Deputy Tak cautions him that Moo Young is wandering around with a gun and will probably shoot him next, Yoo isn’t worried about his own safety. He readily goes to meet Moo Young at the temple when Moo Young calls.¬†

Generally, episode 15 was a downer, but this show is a tragedy. It seems more and more likely that Moo Young will end up dead somehow, and there will likely be some kind of big reveal at the end, making things even worse. Tragedies always seem to me like the writers needlessly torturing their characters. Isn’t there something sadistic about that? Anyhow, it’s definitely an emotional roller coaster. Maybe Officer Yoo will somehow save the day.

The Smile Has Left Your Eyes: Ep. 14 Review

In this episode the audience finally gets the news we’ve been waiting for. Are we to be grossed out by brother-sister love or not? I was hoping for a thrilling cat and mouse game, and it started that way, but The Smile Has Left Your Eyes is now more a series of character pieces, Kim Moo Young being the primary one. The writer and director are going for profound more than anything else. Is it possible to survive one’s past, to separate from it completely and be a new person?

Moo Young doesn’t shoot Officer Yoo. He asks the detective, “so you knew who I was, right? Is that why you hated me so much?” He also demands to know why Yoo killed his father, but Yoo won’t give a reason (he later says it was an accident). “People like you are the most repulsive,” Moo Young says. He remembers his dad as loving and smiling and struggles with there being no apparent reason he was shot.

They are interrupted by Deputy Tak at the door and she’s shocked to find Moo Young in the Yoo house and freaks out even more after she finds out Moo Young had a gun aimed at Officer Yoo and even shot out his flowerpot.

Ever helpful, CEO Jang sends Moo Young an article about his father and Moo Young gets a sudden, shocking education about his family. It seems his mother was involved in some kind of cult and his father was upset by it and murdered her and two others with an axe. Moo Young is the son of a killer and things are clicking into place for him especially Officer’s Yoo’s attitude. Seo In Guk does a masterful job portraying a nonemotional man who finds his emotions suddenly pouring back in. Although the truth is ugly, knowing it will likely be the first steps of Moo Young’s ability to finally heal.

He doesn’t run to Jin Kang for comfort, but to the psychiatrist, basically asking, “Dude, why didn’t you stop me?” Moo Young is also fixated on how Officer Yoo views him: as a devil. Instead of saying “I told you so,” the doctor reveals that he, too, is the son of a murderer, and he was hoping in letting Moo Young leave the hospital as a child that he might escape ever knowing that about himself. The doctor says it’s only now that he’s older that he understands that the sins of the father are the father’s, not the child’s to bear. He tells Moo Young that his past doesn’t define him. The present is what makes him. The doctor implores him not to let this knowledge hurt him or anyone else.

Meanwhile, CEO Jang is still on the hunt for information and brings in Officer Yoo’s old teammate, the current leader of the detective team, for questioning. She gives the recording of the interview to Moo Young and also offers to take out Officer Yoo for him. Moo Young says not to harm a hair on Yoo’s head and for the second time states that he can’t believe Jang thinks that he and her are the same kind of people.

Moo Young now has both his mother and father’s names. After listening to the recording he calls out Officer Yoo for a talk. He is wondering why Officer Yoo was looking for him as a child. Who would care about the son of a murderer? Officer Yoo says it was that he killed his father and lost him at the scene. He is surprised to learn that Moo Young now knows what his father did. Even though Yoo was justified in shooting Moo Young’s dad, he still feels bad because he took a life. Moo Young’s father was trying to hide the bloody axe from his son’s sight when Officer Yoo felt he had no choice but to shoot the armed, still dangerous man. ¬†Moo Young tells Officer Yoo that he wishes he hadn’t looked for him because he grew up thinking his dad was good, that his dad was a police officer.

“Don’t mistake me not shooting you for forgiving you. I’ll never forgive you,” Moo Young says, sounding like his old self. Officer Yoo responds by telling him the temple where he can visit his dead parents.

Despite talking like he won’t go, Moo Young does eventually go to the temple and cry over his parents. Thoroughly over revenge, he brings CEO Jang back the gun. She says she’s disappointed he brought it back and he can borrow it again whenever he wants. She also has news about his younger brother’s whereabouts.

“There is no younger brother,” she tells him. Through a flashback, we learn she has discovered that it wasn’t a younger brother, but a younger sister who was adopted by Officer Yoo’s mother. Jin Kang is Moo Young’s sister. Since Moo Young’s not treating her particularly nice, however, the CEO is in the mood to make him wait for the information and gives him a job to do first.

Moo Young comes back to a restless Jin Kang, to whom he has finally told the truth about his axe murderer father.

“Are you really ok with me as I am?” Moo Young asks her. Jin Kang’s answer is “of course,” and to give him a hug. This girl truly does have hope and believes in redemption and goodness. Following an underlying biblical theme of the show, Moo Young says that he wants to be born again. It seems that he may really be on the way to healing and peace. Jin Kang says he needs love, home, family, and ramen! So much cuteness with this couple.

They stand in sleeveless shirts in front of the mirror, Moo Young hugging Jin Kang from above, and they marvel how their burn scars are so similar. Jin Kang even calls it a map. As the audience, we perhaps guess that Moo Young tried to protect his sister from the boiling kettle as it fell and that’s why their scars look as if they could be joined. ¬†But it’s frustrating that for fairly smart characters they never once consider the possibility that their accidents are not two different accidents, but the same accident.

Fate refuses to leave them in the dark any longer. When heating water in a kettle, probably for more ramen, Jin Kang gets burned. Moo Young rushes to the pharmacy to get some ointment and on the way home more memories come flooding in, the incident having triggered it. He remembers the moment his dad was shot and the boiling kettle fell. He was standing there and his little sister behind him. He remembers what she looked like–exactly like Jin Kang as a child and from a previous episode he conveniently has a photo of her to pull out of his wallet.

Jin Kang is Moo Young’s sister. This will set any progress he’s made at healing, way, way back. He will now feel more a monster than ever and is really not going to want to tell her this information. He’s also going to be seriously ticked off that Officer Yoo kept this information to himself instead of coming clean. Letting someone commit incest–Moo Young’s kind of right, people like him are the worst, putting all of their sins on other people. First how Jin Kang had to grow up, feeling burdened and guilty, how Moo Young had to grow up anchorless, and now this. Yikes.

Ultimately, I’m finding the story more tragic than gross, but I really hope there aren’t anymore love scenes unless they decide to do another flip and reveal that Jin Kang is actually a childhood friend or something. What is Moo Young going to do? ¬†How’s he going to form any sort of life after this? His one true love is his sister, thus explaining their uncanny comfortableness with each other. Smiles will be nowhere to be found for quite awhile.

The Smile Has Left Your Eyes: Ep. 13 Review

Revelations are coming fast now as the plot picks up speed; however, a lot of this episode was filling in gaps that we maybe already know or guess, but the characters on the show do not. It’s an engaging episode despite mostly setup for Episode 14.

Ever amused by Officer Yoo, Moo Young tells him that being a murderer doesn’t suit him, recalling an earlier conversation they had about murderers. No hard feelings about the stabbing, ok? Moo Young is an odd duck, that’s for sure.

Episode 13 is primarily about Moo Young’s quest to learn about his past. He is going on this journey alone, though Jin Kang gives him moral support. Moo Young travels to the mountain in Haesan where his dad supposedly committed suicide and gets bombarded with a slew of memories that lead him to his old house on the mountain. It’s a house made of stone with an angel on top and a cross inside. His family was perhaps Christian. Everything appears to be left as it was after the accident/shooting he remembers. New things he now remembers are his kid brother by the name of Yoon and the fact that he did actually see it was Officer Yoo who shot his dad.

Moo Young is amused by Officer Yoo no longer.

As for Officer Yoo, he talks briefly on the phone with the psychiatrist and we realize that the doctor is just taking his word for it that Moo Young’s dad committed suicide. So looks like no collusion between the two. Officer Yoo meets Deputy Tak for a drink as usual and he confirms for her that Moo Young is the child he was searching for so long ago. Officer Yoo also says that he shot Moo Young’s dad because he was scared. He recalls Moo Young saying that he doesn’t like things for free, that he likes living by “eye for eye and tooth for tooth.” Officer Yoo agrees, nothing in life is free, and he tells Tak that if Moo Young wants eye for eye and tooth for tooth that’s ok with him. Officer Yoo fully expects retaliation for what he did.

I had to point this out because it’s a Korean film reference I actually get because I saw the movie. There’s a shot of Kim Moo Young waiting for Jin Kang at a nearby school. He’s hanging upside down on the bars and staring across the track and field area to the school. This is a very direct reference to the movie Our Town¬†that I quick reviewed not too long ago. It’s an extremely disturbing film about how trauma begets trauma with psycho killers reenacting their pasts over and over again. ¬†I actually do not recommend watching it as although it may offer some truth, it offers no hope or goodness, unlike this show that has hope in how the story is told and in the characters of Tak, Eom Cho Rong, and especially Jin Kang. Is Moo Young like the psycho killers in Our Town? Is his past something he is unable to escape and must live over and over again, maybe even kill because of over and over again?

Moo Young lies to Jin Kang about lying. This news about what her pretend brother did is something he can’t share with her. But he has to be sure, so while the pretend siblings are at work, Moo Young breaks into their house (he did memorize the code!) and finds the lost child ad that Officer Yoo keeps in his room. Officer Yoo returns early due to a pot being left on the stove. Although he misses Moo Young, he encounters him on the street and from the daggers in his eyes and the fact that someone turned off the stove and put the pot in the sink, Officer Yoo knows the young man was in their house. He finds his beloved missing child ad missing. One thing Moo Young has confirmed is that the missing child is himself.

Perhaps returning to his monster status roots, Moo Young visits CEO Jang who is dead gone on him and is going to be in serious trouble. She makes him wait, pretending she has any leverage here, but there’s no question that Moo Young is calling the shots just like he does with every woman. Moo Young asks the CEO to get him a gun and also agrees to do anything for her. Since he’s just playing her, it’s unlikely that he really means that promise, but then he has an odd tendency for honesty, so we’ll see.

Moo Young gets the gun and bullets and CEO Jang tells him she wants him, has fallen for him, etc. He pretty much scoffs and rolls his eyes–this is definitely a man who really doesn’t like being chased, preferring to do the chasing–and flatly disagrees that they are at all alike, an assertion CEO Jang keeps bringing up oh so hopefully. She’s lonely. It’s kind of sad. She does reveal to him, however, that it was Officer Yoo looking for him as a child, not his father like he thought. Since Moo Young has thought his dad was a police officer this whole time, this news confuses him. He asks CEO Jang if she’ll look more into his past for him and especially find out the whereabouts of his mother and younger brother. Perhaps thinking of her dead brother, CEO Jang says that younger brothers are no use in having and why would Moo Young want to look for him. ¬†“And you think we’re alike?” Moo Young scoffs. Yeah, he holds the cards. Every single one.

The end is a standard cliffhanger. After establishing that Jin Kang will be pulling an all-nighter at work, Moo Young decides it’s a good night to shoot Officer Yoo and the episode ends with him threatening to do just that.

A few other notable things:

Jin Kang and her coworkers are just a vehicle for the show to advertise food and instant coffee. The ad in this episode was particularly egregious and really detracts from such a fine show that has a production quality to rival any film.

Upon seeing a robot that Moo Young brought from his childhood home, Jin Kang doesn’t suddenly have memories revealing she, too, was there. So, either she really wasn’t there and their similar burns come from two separate accidents, or (more likely) she was too young or honestly doesn’t remember anything about the accident or her childhood. Moo Young seems pretty sure this Yoon he now remembers–actually he eventually says Kang Yoon–is his younger brother, but that’s super unlikely considering the show this one is based on. Will they ultimately turn out to be siblings? If so, will Moo Young try to keep the truth from Jin Kang at any cost? Will he and Officer Yoo even make an agreement to do just that? Does the officer even know they are siblings (if they are)? He hasn’t mentioned it, but that doesn’t mean anything.

Lastly, a shout out to all of the awesome plaid shirts and coats that mostly Moo Young wears. It just makes me think, again, of the great state of Minnesota. And it’s sad we seem to be saying goodby to the breweries as Moo Young has been fired/laid off from Eagle brewery.

Ep. 14 review up for next time.

The Smile Has Left Your Eyes: Ep. 12 Review

I have sooo much to say about this episode and will do my best to keep everything concise, but there’s so much at play to go through, especially subtext.

First off, considering Officer Yoo: If Moo Young and Jin Kang are actually siblings, does he know this and how does he know this? Why does he always fall to the ground when being overcome with–I hesitate to say emotion–anxiety, maybe? Guilt, maybe? This is not a man in control, least of all of his body.

Second: I am noticing a lot of crosswalks, the three leads walking the same crosswalks. This is symbolic of their sealed fates, perhaps. They are all walking the same path. Also, I have to wonder, since Jin Kang is caught in the middle, will she be the one to die at the end? Somebody’s going to die at the end of this, just not sure who yet.

Moo Young gets stabbed by dead eyes Officer Yoo and flees to the psychiatrist’s (he prescribes meds, so I’m going to go with that over psychologist). By some instinct, Moo Young knows this doctor can be trusted.

The day after the stabbing, Officer Yoo goes to turn himself in. Now this is interesting because he’d rather do time or be fired for stabbing Moo Young than have the truth come out about his past. Either way he looks like a murderer, so this is making the past look shadowy indeed. Yoo’s fellow officers laugh him off. It is predictably only deputy Tak and Eom Cho Rong that consider this may be a serious issue. Tak is in “protect my man” mode, so she tells Cho Rong not to look into things further, but she herself does. Props for her actually being upset at Officer Yoo this time. The only evidence of the stabbing is a video and Tak says it could also be interpreted as Moo Young stumbling while drunk. Since Moo Young didn’t go to a hospital, he’s unlikely to bring charges and Officer Yoo’s not going to get into any trouble at all.

Jin Kang is frantic when Moo Young never comes home and spends a lot of time worried and searching for him. She even calls Tak to ask if the police have any news of him, but Tak won’t tell her anything. Eventually, Moo Young is well enough to call Jin Kang and reassure her he’s at least still alive. Probably to protect her, he wants her to think he’s fine and just at a friend’s house. Of course Jin Kang isn’t buying this, and he knows that, too, but wants to ease her worries, at least momentarily.

At the psychiatrist’s house/office, the doctor asks Moo Young how he knows Im Yoo Ri (Tattoo girl). Moo Young answers, “Through you, I guess,” and then changes the subject. Hmm. He also tells the doctor that he and Officer Yoo are frenemies, not friends, but not enemies either. As with everything to do with Officer Yoo, Moo Young just seems amused by him, even after getting stabbed. This reinforces the idea that if Moo Young is playing some sort of long game, it’s with Officer Yoo, no one else.

Jin Kang is really starting to get scared now, especially when she finds out what her pretend older brother did. Something is really off with Officer Yoo. Despite that he seems to have been trying to live a good life, since meeting Moo Young his actions seem to shout out that perhaps he has that murderer God complex that Moo Young joked about a few episodes ago. Officer Yoo tells Jin Kang that he stabbed Moo Young for her. Ridiculous. He did it for himself hoping Moo Young dies and no one ever finds out the truth. Moo Young’s no saint, but Jin Kang seems to have genuine compassion for him, unlike everyone else. She pleads with Officer Yoo to no avail. This is a man she’s well rid of by this point. Their relationship is toxic and likely beyond repair unless Officer Yoo becomes willing to face what he did and has done.

Speaking of that: Tak. Instead of turning him in or doing something a normal person would do, Tak asks Officer Yoo to meet her for a drink. She is upset that he stabbed Moo Young, but is all in in helping him cover it up. Psychologically, this is horrible for Officer Yoo, who is having such a tough time because guilt is eating him alive. It is now obvious why he appeared to have some sort of demotion in his job at the beginning of the show: Not being brought to justice is literally driving him crazy.

Tak is totally helping in this process, but probably thinks she’s loving him. What’s that saying? With friends like these who needs enemies, right?¬†Hey, Moo Young is that kid you were looking for 25 years ago? That’s ok, he doesn’t remember a thing! Not a thing! No worries, oppa! You don’t have to stab him again!¬†I am starting to see why Jin Kook has never made a move on Tak. The kind of love she has for him is downright unhealthy for both of them. Tak should be encouraging him to confess everything, to face his punishment, and to go on and be a better person, just as he encouraged Im Yoo Ri to do.

We get a little clarity as to why Officer Yoo’s detective team won’t turn him in or let him resign. The lead detective, and his former Haesan teammate yells at him and tells him he’s been doing this for years: trying to turn himself in for things he didn’t do. Have to wonder if these crimes are imagined or not. Everything is in question at this point. Maybe Yoo’s a serial criminal or something but somehow always gets away with things. At any rate, his colleague is livid. Yoo resigning would only be one more scandal that the team just doesn’t need. “This is your s—, you deal with it. Don’t involve the team by resigning.” Ah, politics.

Meanwhile, back at the psychiatrist’s place Moo Young is remembering more and more and lo and behold he remembers this same doctor spoke to him at the Haesang University Hospital when he was being treated there as a child. The doctor finally gives in and tells him, yes, I saw you there. The doc was a first year intern, knew that Moo Young had lost his memory, and let him leave the hospital. A kid. A child all on his own with nowhere to do and who has no memories of his past? What kind of life did this really bad doctor expect he’d be walking into that would be better than staying safe at the hospital? For me, this took me out of the story completely. No matter the kid’s past, I don’t know any normal adult that would take such a risk. The doc thought it was Moo Young’s last chance to be completely free of his past. Okay, sure. A psych doctor who thinks one can be completely free of their past. Sure, sure. Moo Young is looking less and less like the crazy person here. How is this doctor at all in charge of caring for children?

Even more unbelievably, the doctor says he came across Moo Young three years later on a random day fishing at the river. Moo Young was by himself and still didn’t remember anything. At this point Moo Young became his first patient and why the doctor ended up going into pediatric psychiatry/psychology in the first place. This is all very strange and we clearly don’t have all of the information. The doc keeps mentioning the fact that he lost his memory, but this is not that unusual for someone who’s gone through a trauma, is it? And he doesn’t mention Moo Young’s photographic memory at all. Also strange.

“Wow, I guess my past was just that horrible,” Moo Young says sarcastically. He’s rightly ticked at finding all of this out. Anything, anything, child prostitution, starving on the street, anything could have happened to him when the doctor let him leave. Moo Young also now wants to know everything, and it’s his right to know. The doctor rightly feels guilty for what he did. It is his fault Moo Young has been living so recklessly since then. The kid never had any roots to build on.

Maybe the reason Moo Young plays games with people is that he’s continually trying to sound out a foundation under his feet, a lay of the land. Perhaps this is a way to compensate for not being able to tune in with people’s emotions. He again tests Jin Kang as to her commitment to him. Jin Kang has told her brother (out of fear for Moo Young’s safety) that she will no longer see Moo Young. At this point, after being stabbed, Moo Young’s gotta wonder if he should cut his losses while he can. His life is on the line and he’s rightly uneasy as to where Jin Kang’s loyalties lie. It may be safer for both of them to stop seeing each other.

Excited to find Moo Young’s runaway cat in the neighborhood, Jin Kang and Moo Young cross paths. Pretending to talk to the cat, Moo Young says it’s ok, the cat can stay or go as it pleases. Either way is fine.¬†This scene is so great because although Moo Young doesn’t have normal emotions, it still really highlights the male vs. female struggle. Men don’t want to be ogres and keep their women captive, so they try to be nice. It’s ok, honey, either way it’s your decision. I will be happy with whatever you choose.¬†Sounds great, right? Nope. It’s not at all what women want to hear (probably what men don’t want to hear, either). Props to Jin Kang both for calling him out on this ridiculous statement and simultaneously reassuring him that whatever she told crazy bro, she’s all in. Women want men to fight for them. They absolutely don’t want to hear that it doesn’t matter if they choose to walk away from the relationship. “Where would I go? And why would I go? I would only come back,” Jin Kang tells him. “And you said you would stop me, you would stop me from leaving.” He told her he’d fight for her and she’s asking him to keep his word without any fear because she won’t leave him either.

And they are killing me with this couple and they better not turn out to be siblings, because Moo Young responds in the exact way required: Tender but passionate kisses that tell Jin Kang he’s all in, too. The genius of the kisses are all Seo In Guk. No offense to Jung So Min, but he is the one in the driver’s seat here, but he’s playing a man taming a woman, so there you go. This man is so good at what he does, though, because he really thinks about everything in the story and how it’s all going to play out. Seo has that in common with a Bollywood fave of mine, Shahrukh Khan. Both men really love analyzing and talking about stories, and it shows in both their interviews and in their work. Even before filming The Smile Has Left Your Eyes, people were saying that Seo In Guk already had pages of questions. Everyone should be like that with their work. Everyone. Passion. It’s what’s required. Faint heart never won fair lady, and all that.

Jin Kang tells Moo Young she lied to her brother about seeing him. Moo Young unexpectedly says, “even if I tell you I hate you, don’t leave. Not even then.” Jin Kang doesn’t think this is funny (but Moo Young doesn’t intend it to be) and makes him promise he will never say such a thing. He does promise, but it’s obvious that he’s smart enough to foresee there may be a time coming when he has to say this for her safety. They jokingly decide to be secret lovers. Of course, this will never work.

This scene was so fun to pick apart, again, because of the male vs. female dynamics at play. Jin Kang seems to actually think they are going to continue on in secrecy, and Moo Young’s expression asks, “you’re not really that naive, are you?” Maybe she’s just wishful thinking. At any rate, Moo Young is not naive about this in the slightest. He knows this thing with Officer Yoo and his past has to be faced, but Moo Young may choose to fight this battle by himself.

“What if my past is so bad, it’s better not knowing?” He asks Jin Kang. Very carefully, he gauges her response: How much am I going to have to protect you from the truth?¬†This idea clearly troubles her. This woman is not into this fight, she’s not into getting hurt by this awful past. She tells him it’s better not to know, then.¬†With a bit of manly relief, Moo Young says not to worry about it. He will fight this battle–it’s his battle to fight. And not really an option to walk away from it, either, with his memories rapidly coming back.

Still Jin Kang strongly supports him in this, saying he’s free to follow his heart about what he should know and do. It would not be right of her to stop him. She has him promise that he’s not going to disappear on her again. Jin Kang is in essence saying that although she can’t fight this battle with him or for him, she still wants to be with him and support him in it. All of this scene is a lot of subtext and just a fantastic job by the writer, director, and actors.

[At some point a shadowy meeting takes place between the psychiatrist and Officer Yoo. Finally, they both realize that they were both at the university hospital when Moo Young was there. Whatever the doctor learns from Officer Yoo later changes how helpful he is to Moo Young.]

The next day Moo Young launches into his investigation. He is now the de facto hero of the story, and it will be interesting to see how this plays out with his seemingly sociopathic/psychotic tendencies. He visits the doctor to pump him for more information, but the doctor’s tune has changed. He’s sticking to the official story now, and is trying to plant a false memory in Moo Young’s head. They had previously talked about Moo Young’s dream or memory of someone shooting his father with a gun. No, the doctor tells him, your father committed suicide just like the official report says. Argh. Curses on you, Officer Yoo! I am really, really curious to know why the doctor has sided with Yoo in this. Really curious. Moo Young knows this is B.S. and tells the doctor he’s not going to stop trying to find out the truth. But now Moo Young is obligated to look into this official story and see if it crumbles on close inspection. We may be in for a wild ride the next couple of episodes as Moo Young tries to uncover the truth.

We do at least learn Moo Young’s real name, so that’s something: Kang Seon Ho. Kang as in Jin Kang?!?! Yikes.

The episode ends with Officer Yoo, whose smile has definitely left his eyes and is never coming back, and Moo Young, ever amused by him, meeting at a crosswalk. Not changing his spots for a moment, Moo Young’s expression is the same as it always is for the officer: I am so looking forward to messing with your head and torturing you until the end of time or until the truth comes out. Whichever comes first.¬†

Yeah, this review ended up being a mini-novel, but, wow, story-wise it was awesome. Just so much going on and the fascinating ways that characters (and people) deal with situations. Until next time.