I love shows based on contractual relationships! It’s an old trope, but when a show based on such a premise is done this well, I will gladly embrace it with open arms.
Episode 1: How to Break Up in a Civil Way
Our show opens, interestingly enough, with a court case. Our defendant is none other than the heroine of the show Joo Jang Mi (portrayed by Han Groo). She is on trial for “continual torment” aka stalking. She laughs off the allegation like a mad woman and says bitterly, “I’m a crazy witch. I must have been insane”. Well with the way you’re acting, that’s actually not too hard to believe. In the same courthouse, our hero, Gong Gi Tae (portrayed by Yeon Woo Jin), rushes to testify for his fiancée. Can you guess who that is? Once he enters the courtroom, Jang Mi stares at him in shock while he just smiles at her.
Cut away to Jang Mi who is singing along to Lee Seung Gi’s classic song, Will You Marry Me. She is in high spirits while she pretties herself up (as if that’s really necessary, the girl’s gorgeous) and decks out her hotel room with candles, heart shaped balloons and rose petals. The male lead to this little surprise she’s putting on isn’t there yet so she makes a phone call.
On the desk in the office of Gong Gi Tae Plastic Surgery, a phone rings. The owner, however, is busy in the OR doing what he does best, to make people pretty (while taking away their individuality but I digress…). He’s so good at what he does that when blood splatters on his face, he doesn’t even bother to wipe it off. I know he’s dedicated but that doesn’t look very sanitary.
Gi Tae finally picks up the phone and asks whoever is on the other side what it is that they needs him to see. Jang Mi also gets her call answered and she says that she wants him to see it with his own eyes.
Gi Tae arrives at a hotel, looking rather dapper, and asks where the person on the other end of the line is since all he sees is “some stranger” waving and smiling at him. He’s in disbelief when he realizes his friend, Lee Hoon Dong (portrayed by Heo Jung Min), has set him up on a mat-seon, or blind date at his mom’s request. Hah! His anger is so very palpable!
Hoon Dong isn’t far away, in fact, he’s the mystery man that Jang Mi has been waiting for. Jang Mi receives him with a rose in her mouth and calls him oppa. He obviously has other plans in mind until he looks at the room and realizes that Jang Mi is about to do the very thing he fears the most, ask him to get married. Dun dun dun. Of course he does what any mature man would do in that situation, he hides in the bathroom and calls Gi Tae for help.
Gi Tae is not happy to say the least about the turn of events. He rudely exchanges texts with Hoon Dong while his date sits across from him. When she coughs to indicate that, well she’s still there, he apologizes and asks where he was. Hilariously, she responds with “you haven’t said anything”! Ha! Clearly he is taking this veeery seriously! He tells her to go ahead and ask him any question then.
Annnnnd this is how the conversation goes
Date: Where do you live?
Gi Tae: Gangnam. You wanted to see if I lived in a ritzy area huh? More specifically in an apartment complex in my parent’s name, it’s not huge but nice to live in alone. There are a few celebrities too. It’s super close to the subway.
Date: Excuse me?
Gi Tae: Of course that doesn’t mean much to me because I have a car. You must’ve though I might not have a car. Next question.
Meanwhile, Hoon Dong is still hiding in the bathroom faking a tummy ache while begging Gi Tae to help him. Gi Tae flat out tells him to tell Jang Mi that he doesn’t want to get married but Hoon Dong is too much of a coward to face Jang Mi head on. He uses the excuse that he just can’t be mean to girls unlike Gi Tae.
The blind date couple continues with the “getting to know you” stage. If you can really call it that.
Date: You must meet a lot of pretty girls since you’re a plastic surgeon.
Gi Tae: You mean girls who want to be pretty. They come with big bucks. If you’re wondering if my practice is successful, yes it is. I own a house, a car and a hospital. Nice huh? I’m done, now it’s your turn. What can you give me?
Gi Tae simultaneously texts the final question to Hoon Dong as well. Gi Tae’s date finally can’t take it anymore and asks him what he is doing. He flat out tells her that
“Isn’t this what makes an ideal marriage. I have what you don’t and you have have what I don’t have so we can help and rely on each other”
She still can’t believe that he is so blatantly ignoring her and he says that he has someone waiting for him in a room upstairs and he’s deciding whether to go up or not and that he’ll make his decision after he hears what she has to offer. Ha he’s such an ass! When Hoon Dong finally replies that he’ll freeze Gi Tae’s rent for 3 years, the two make a deal and Gi Tae prepares himself for the water splash that is about to come. Looks like this happens often because he even takes off his glasses and braces himself for the much deserved water shower coming his way.
Gi Tae makes it up to Jang Mi’s hotel room and completely ruins her plans. She tries to motion him to get out of the room but he just continues to pop the balloons, eat the cake with his bare hands (since his blood sugar dropped, ha!), drink the wine and destroy her rose petal covered bed. That last bit was too much and Jang Mi pushes him away causing him to dramatically fall backwards. That gives Hoon Dong the excuse he’s been waiting for to leave the room, leaving poor Jang Mi grasping nothing but air.
Commence Hoon Dong’s plan to break up with Jang Mi in a “Civil Way”. But is there really a civil way to break someone’s heart? There might be but his is definitely NOT the way.
How to Break-Up in a Civil Way Step 1: Disappearing
Hoon Dong thinks that with this step, Jang Mi will be worried sick and be anxious. She’ll also probably check his SNS so he writes “Love always changes” as his status. Instead of doing what he thinks she’ll do, Jang Mi is just contemplating on how to propose! This girl! She continues to try and contact him but all her phone calls just go to voice mail. Her co-worker Nam Hyun Hee (portrayed by Yoon So Hee) suggests she check his SNS but Jang Mi continues to try and call him. Hoon Dong thinks that by ignoring her calls, she’ll stop but next thing you see is a baggy eyed Hoon Dong who hasn’t been able to sleep since Jang Mi is so persistent and keeps calling him through the night. Serves him right! He checks his phone, thinking he’s in the clear, but he’s greeted with 300 missed calls, 102 messages and an incoming call from Jang Mi. Damn girl!
Jang Mi is still confused as to why her calls aren’t going through when Hyun Hee asks her if she brought up marriage. Jang Mi says that she was just about to bring it up when he had to use the bathroom. It’s obvious for Hyun Hee that Hoon Dong caught on and that it’s over between them but Jang Mi is still in denial, thinking that he’s upset because she accidentally hit Gi Tae.
Hoon Dong believes that after a week, Jang Mi will get it, since girls these days are smart and will get over it soon. Gi Tae hilariously sits back, sips his coffee and asks, ever so calmly, “Does she stalk you?” Hoon Dong says no but Gi Tae makes his eye motion and asks “Then who’s that girl?” and there Jang Mi is, biking to his café. Of course, the oh so mature man-child decides to hide when she arrives and leaves Gi Tae to handle the situation. OMG this cracks me up!
She asks the waiter, Han Yeo Reum (portrayed by Jeong Jin Woo) if the manager is present and if he’s okay. It’s endearing that that’s the first thing she asks. Jang Mi sees Hoon Dong’s reflection in the mirror and as she’s about to walk towards it, Gi Tae steps in to block her. He receives a phone call from his aunt, scolding him for messing up another blind date so badly, especially one that was a close friend of Hoon Dong’s mom. Gi Tae pointedly says that he hates dealing with gold diggers since they are the worst, all while staring at Jang Mi, who is actually nodding her head in agreement! LOL He also continues to say that the girl he met was just so desperate to get married. Jang Mi actually picks up on how strange Gi Tae is being and asks if he’s talking about her, which he responds by saying that he’s not talking about her, but about his blind date. Uh huh. She even apologizes for interrupting his conversation!
Ki Tae finds out that his aunt and mom are out to get him for a blind date they set up that night. He immediately tries to run away. Forget friendship, now it’s everyman for himself. Jang Mi tries to ask him about Hoon Dong but Gi Tae is in too much of a hurry to deal with this. He finally says that she’s pathetic and that it’s over.
How to Break-Up in a Civil Way Step 2: Saying Goodbye Through a 3rd Party
Jang Mi chases Gi Tae to ask him for an explanation. What does he mean that it’s all over? He tells her that it’s obvious that Hoon Dong is avoiding her and then tries to get in his car. She doesn’t take this lying down and steps in front of his car to stop him and then gets into the passenger seat demanding that he explain himself. Gi Tae does this great countdown while answering all of her questions. When Jang Mi thinks that Hoon Dong is sick (ha! How dramas have ruined us all!), Gi Tae laughs at her lack of perception and blurts out
“Are you really ignoring the obvious? He ran away because you wanted marriage!”
It finally sinks in for Jang Mi that Hoon Dong ran away. However, she’s still in denial and thinks that this is only what Gi Tae thinks and that she needs to meet with Hoon Dong to confirm it. Exasperated by her persistence, Ki Tae says
“I’ve never pitied him before. What guy wouldn’t run away from such as clingy girl?…I’ll explain so the slowest person could understand. Just like you’re after his money, he wanted your pretty face and body, ok?”
Harsh words, and he’ll probably regret it soon. Jang Mi tears up and then takes the grapefruit juice that Yeo Reum delivers to her and throws it on Gi Tae’s face. Brava! She tells him that “It wasn’t the money” and that she actually did love Hoon Dong, which actually earns a shocked and potentially regretful reaction from Gi Tae. Yeo Reum on the other hand, finds all of this quite amusing and seems to take particular interest in Jang Mi. Who wouldn’t? She’s a bit crazy, but she’s fierce and she wears her heart on her sleeve.
Of course his mom and aunt witnesses this argument and thinks that it is a lover’s quarrel. His mom decides to follow Jang Mi and actually invites her to their house for dinner and apologizes for her son. Of course Jang Mi thinks that she’s Dong Hoon’s mom and is rather confused.
Gi Tae returns to his office to change after his little shower and Hoon Dong tries to apologize but he’s taking none of it since he “feels like crap”. Telling words. Hoon Dong believes that he’s now in the clear and updates his status with “a new start”. Just then, Gi Tae comes out and smacks him hard on the head! A long time coming! Gi Tae tells Hoon Dong to clean up his own mess next time and asks what Jang Mi was to him. Gi Tae probably feels terrible and tells Hoon Dong that Jang Mi seems like she’s actually sincere.
A client walks in, with the obligatory wind blowing in her hair which means it’s Kang Se Ah (portrayed by Han Sunhwa). Se Ah is friends with Gi Tae, an ex actually, and is a plastic surgeon herself but obviously can’t perform surgeries on herself. There’s a funny bit where Hoon Dong meets her without recognizing her and says, “I hate church but I believe in God. That is God’s masterpiece” to which Gi Tae just plainly says, “She’s my masterpiece”. Ha!
Jang Mi drinks and continues to call Hoon Dong but still, she can’t reach him. She thinks back to when they first met and when they were dating. He had taken her out to eat and tells her that he loves that she eats like a little piglet. When her heels were too painful to walk in, he took off his shoes and exchanged them for her heels. He’s obviously a playboy but now I can see why she would think he loved her and even thought of proposing marriage. She cries and thinks that he must have at least cared for her.
Her friend, Hyun Hee suggests that she go talk to Hoon Dong’s mom (or the person she thinks is his mom) to clear this all up and as long as his mom agrees to their marraige, Hoon Dong won’t be able to do anything but thankfully Jang Mi is sensible and says that she doesn’t want that kind of marriage. She is determined to cut it off with that jerk and move on.
Buuuuuuut next thing we know, Jang Mi is walking up to Hoon Dong’s house with a cake. *face palm* This is going to be bad! Jang Mi walks up to the door and vacillates between whether or not she should enter. She even goes through this outward dialogue with herself, which makes her seem a bit (more) cray cray. Just then, Hoon Dong’s mom pulls up and asks who she is since she’s lurking outside of her home. Jang Mi says that she was invited by Hoon Dong’s mom, but obviously she wasn’t.
Gi Tae also pulls up and witnesses the whole encounter. Hoon Dong’s mom identifies Jang Mi as the girl who is clinging and tormenting her son even though he “politely” tried to break up with her. “Politely” my ass. Hoon Dong’s mom tells her to stop stalking her son and, although Jang Mi tries to defend herself, it’s pointless since Hoon Dong has obviously told his mom a very distorted version of the events that makes him out to be the victim. Lady, do you even know your son?! But at least, this is slowly chipping away at Jang Mi’s idealized image of Hoon Dong. She can finally see what kind of man he really is. Her shock and anger grows and is evidenced by that fact that the way she addresses him slowly changes, from calling him oppa to Lee Hoon Dong-shi to that jerk.
Hoon Dong’s mom throws down her cake and Jang Mi has had enough. I love that she doesn’t take any of this crap from his mom and gives as good as she gets. She calls Hoon Dong out for being a coward and for avoiding her, a person that he date for a whole year, and that although she now knows what kind of person he is, she still wants to hear it from him directly. Gi Tae, having watched all this with, what I can only describe as a worried expression, finally steps out of his car and looks at her with sympathy.
At Gi Tae’s house, the family waits for Jang Mi to show up for dinner but obviously she won’t be able to make it. There’s clearly some tension between Gi Tae’s mom and dad. Dad decides to get up and leave, it looks like he no longer lives with the family, which earns him an expressionless look from mom. I sense that there’s a lot of pain behind her façade. Mom, disappointed in the no-show, decides to call the real estate agent. Something is a-brewing!
How to Break up in a Civil Way Step 3: Text Messaging
At Jang Mi’s parent’s friend chicken and beer shop, the two don’t seem to have the best relationship either, communicating via text and an etch-a-sketch. After receiving a text from Hoon Dong that reads “thanks, sorry, be happy” Jang Mi drinks her sorrow/anger away by downing a whole bottle of soju like it’s water! Damn girl, that stuff tastes like nail polish remover! *Bleh*
Gi Tae goes to talks with Hoon Dong at his café and seriously tells him to meet with Jang Mi and to directly tell her that it’s over. You’re a jerk, but at least you’re a good man! Just as Hoon Dong tells Gi Tae that Jang Mi won’t ever show up again, we have a very drunk Jang Mi stumbling through his doors. She downs a beer right in front of the boys, who seem to be breaking a sweat, and now having some (more) liquid courage running through her, she chases Hoon Dong down with the glass bottle in her hand. Everyone else just watches the show that’s taking place with amusement.
Hoon Dong waves for Gi Tae to come help but he gets ignored. Ha! Jang Mi is legitimately upset that he has made a fool out of her when she truly loved him and even dreamt of a future with him. She’s so angry that she brings the bottle over her head about to strike him but Gi Tae steps in to stop her. He tells her that he’s helping her and that she should be grateful but after seeing her cry, he lets her go chase after Hoon Dong. Hoon Dong actually runs and hides in the bathroom while calling the police to report his stalker. Gi Tae tries to calm her down but instead gets hit in the face by the bottle.
Jang Mi finally manages to open the door to the bathroom, but seeing the pure terror in Hoon Dong’s eyes she realizes just what a complete jerk he is and comes to the realization that yes, she was the only one in love, all by herself.
Jang Mi gets taken to the police office where she’s falling asleep and yells drunken remarks to all of the polices officers questions. Sitting next to her is Gi Tae, who’s there since he was a victim to her little bottle tirade. She only realizes that she stalked did in fact stalked Hoon Dong when the only person that agrees with her is a man at the police station, in for molesting his colleague. She starts crying at the fact and then asks the police officer if he can find a missing person, you know, just while she’s already here! This girl is great! Jang Mi wants to find the lady who invited her over for dinner. While Jang Mi is sleeping, Gi Tae sweetly asks the police officer if she’ll be punished since it’s only her first crime. He even asks if she can just receive a fine instead of going to court and when the officer asks why, didn’t she cause his bloody nose, he lies and says that he did it to himself. Awwww. Too bad Hoon Dong’s mom is adamant of filing charges.
While taking a bath in his fancy bathtub, Gi Tae thinks about Jang Mi but gets interrupted by prospective leasers to his apartment. Turns out, his mom put his apartment up for rent. Mom and son obviously have a very tense relationship and Mom actually threatens Gi Tae that if he doesn’t want to move back home then he better bring the girl she invited. Gi Tae automatically connects the dots and realizes that the missing lady that Jang Mi was talking about want in fact his mom.
Cut back to the scene that opened this episode. Gi Tae storms into the courtroom and helps defend Jang Mi by stating that for it to be a crime of stalking, the victim must clearly reject the actions of the perpetrator. However, Hoon Dong never once said no, he just avoided her so of course it would be natural for her to seek out the man that she was dating if he just disappeared. The judge understands the situation but still fines her $50 for causing a commotion in a place of business.
Gi Tae is all, it’s okay you don’t have to thank me, but Jang Mi just glares as him. She’s sad that she still has to pay up $50,
“The price I need to pay for my love is higher than jaywalking but lower than soliciting. My love, like urinating on the street, ended like that. Will I be able to love again?”
Enter Gi Tae who asks her to go to his place and meet his mom since it was really his mom that invited her over.
Finally, a heroine that I can stand behind! I absolutely love the trajectory Jang Mi goes through to come to the realization that her love was one-sided. Initially I thought that she was going to be the hopeless girl who will wallow away in her sadness and continue to chase after a man that doesn’t love her. I was a little bit annoyed when she couldn’t get the message that he is “civilly” breaking up with her but then again, the girl was simply adorable and real to life in her confusion. I was so happy when she finally understood the meaning behind the missed calls and the constant avoidance and chose to move on from the jerk, but not before demanding from him what she is owed!
I also love, love our hero. He’s kind of a pessimistic and brutally straightforward jerk but at least he’s a stand-up guy. He doesn’t approve of the methods that Hoon Dong goes through to break up with Jang Mi, and sympathizes with her after seeing that her love his real. I’m also very glad that the show made it so that he just wants to stay single a little longer rather than because of the result of some tragic love or that he’s secretly pining after Se-Ah. I’m also loving his growing interest in Jang Mi and how he is already looking out for her.
It’s interesting to note that both Gi Tae and Jang Mi comes from families that don’t have a history of the most ideal marriages. It’s obvious that both of their parents have some serious issues and were probably not the best roles models of a perfect marriage. I’d say the reason why Gi Tae is so marriage-phobic is that he grew up watching his parent’s deteriorating marriage and decided that love and marriage don’t last and that he’ll never get married. On the other hand, Jang Mi’s desire to get married is probably because she wants to build a marriage that is completely the opposite of her parents. This is why the two of them are so compatible, one doesn’t believe that marriage works while the other will do anything to make her marriage perfect.
What I didn’t understand was why a successful plastic surgeon can still be threatened by his parents financially. If he really didn’t want to get married, he just needs to cut off any financial dependence he has on his parents. But then again we wouldn’t get this lovely show.
It’s also great that although Hoon Dong is kind of a major jerk and terrible boyfriend material, I ended up liking all of the 6 main characters thus far, which is great! Of course, the best part of the show is Yeon Woo Jin and Han Groo who are both doing a fantastic job. They are a pure joy to watch on screen, together and individually. Let the contract relationship fiasco begin!