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20th Century Boy and Girl: Episodes 1-2

If you’re looking for something fizzy and fun, with a sweet romance and a lot of laughs, then you’ve come to the right place! 20th Century Boy and Girl is an easy watch, with characters you’ll love instantly and just enough conflict to hook you in and keep you interested. This show is pure entertainment, which is just what I’ve been needing to get me out of my drama slump—so who wants to join me?

 
EPISODE 1: “The boy we liked back then”

In 1991, a pair of mothers watch dramas as their 9-year-old children lay nearby in their pajamas. The little boy and girl make faces at each other, poking and fighting like kids do. A few years later, in 1997, the little girl is now a teenager. It’s her turn to watch dramas with her two best friends, and they agree that the 26-year-old characters in the show are waaay too old to get married.

By 2005, the girl, SA JIN-JIN (Han Ye-seul), is 23 years old, and she and her friends are still watching dramas—today it’s My Name Is Kim Sam-soon), particularly the scene in which Sam-soon gets called a spinster at thirty. Jin-jin narrates that at that age, they thought it was a sin to be thirty and unmarried.

But time passes, and the three are 35 years old now, and all of them still single. They toss around questions like “Park Bo-gum or Song Joong-ki?” and argue about which celebrity they’d prefer.

HAN AH-REUM (Ryu Hyun-kyung) asserts that the sexiest part of a man is a sinewy forearm, describing a hard-working, responsible man rolling up his sleeves. Then she starts to chide Jin-jin and their third friend, JANG YOUNG-SHIM (Lee Sang-hee), for “saving” their precious bodies, putting on airs of someone much more experienced and worldly. The friends just roll their eyes, used to Ah-reum’s ramblings.

Jin-jin brings the conversation back to the game, where the final round contenders are Gong Yoo (cue excited squeals) and… Anthony. Ah-reum and Young-shim sigh heavily as Jin-jin does an enthusiastic I Love Anthony dance on her bed. Hee, I love these three already.

The camera pans across Jin-jin’s dresser, which is crammed with photos of her life as a successful idol, model, and actress. She narrates that she’s an unmarried woman over 30, and while she no longer believes that marriage is a happy ending, people still treat her as a fool and send her hurtful, disapproving looks. But she concludes: “I won’t blame myself. Today was good, and I look forward to tomorrow.”

The last picture we see is of the three girlfriends back in high school, as Jin-jin says that she hopes that whoever is listening to her story feels the same way. There seems to be a fourth person in the picture, but they’re covered by a picture frame so that all we can see is their hand.

Back in 1997, a boy in blue-striped sneakers steps up to the school photo case, stopping in front of a large picture of Jin-jin. We don’t see his face, and he stands looking at Jin-jin for a long time.

In the present, the celebrity that Jin-jin was squealing over, ANTHONY (Lee Sang-woo), goes on a radio show, and at home, Jin-jin watches the video of the interview like it’s her job. Her surly little brother MIN-HO (Shin Won-ho) sneers at her, calling her ugly and snapping that her manager wants to see her.

Jin-jin takes her time getting ready, taking great care with her clothes, makeup, and accessories before stepping out of her room.

Meanwhile, Jin-jin’s mom (Kim Mi-kyung) goes to the department store with Ah-reum’s mom, and they both beam proudly at a large ad featuring Jin-jin as the spokesmodel. Ah-reum’s mom mentions to a salesgirl how pretty Jin-jin is, and the girl says that she often comes shopping with her mother.

Jin-jin’s mom is excited to be part of the gossip, until the salesgirl says that reportedly, Jin-jin’s mother looks nothing like her daughter, and in fact is mean-looking. Mom barks angrily that Jin-jin’s mother is REALLY NICE OKAY, pfft.

Jin-jin’s parents run a little restaurant, and her dad seems to be a sweet, soft-spoken man. But when a customer complains about a poster featuring Jin-jin has an apron strategically draped across her cleavage, Dad bellows, “Leave it alone!” HAHA.

On her way to a makeup CF shoot, Jin-jin listens to the same radio show again, where the members of idol group Golden Child fanboy over Jin-jin as their ideal type. Meanwhile, Jin-jin’s manager fields calls from reporters, all of whom want to know who Jin-jin will sign with now that her contract is ending.

Jin-jin’s stylist, MI-DAL, complains about the fact that there will be two models in the ad they’re filming today. The other model, a younger actress named JUNG DA-YOUNG (cameo by Han Sun-hwa) whines to her manager that she wants a big van like Jin-jin’s.

Da-young waits until Jin-jin gets to the studio before making a strategically late entrance, and in front of everyone she blames her manager. Jin-jin isn’t impressed, and things get chilly when both ladies turn out to be wearing the same dress.

The director asks Da-young to change, but she protests, pointing out how the dress emphasizes her fantastic… collarbones. Jin-jin interrupts her wheedling to say in an ultra-professional voice that they should hurry and do the shoot, so Da-young changes and they get the job done.

Afterward, Da-young makes a spectacle of herself, bullying her staff and acting like a complete diva. Jin-jin beckons her over and leans way over, right in Da-young’s face, and tells her about a star who was cursed for acting like a brat. She specifies that she means an actual star, suggesting that Da-young read up on Cassiopeia (a queen who was cursed by Poseidon to be an upside-down constellation, after boasting that she was more beautiful than Poseidon’s sea nymphs).

We rejoin Jin-jin’s best friends: Ah-reum works as an airline attendant, and Young-shim is a lawyer who’s job-hunting. The two talk on the phone about Jin-jin’s twenty-year obsession with Anthony. They can’t understand it, especially since Jin-jin is a much bigger star than Anthony, and she knows she’s not even his ideal type.

On the bus to the airport, Ah-reum is surprised when a handsome young man hands her her bag and introduces himself as Dong-hoon, a co-pilot. He reminds her of a flight they shared a month ago, and she remembers catching him staring at her and thinking he was cute. Dong-hoon mentions that they’re on the same flight today as well.

Jin-jin goes to see her agency head, CEO Jang, who asks her to travel to Hong Kong to film a variety show as a favor for an exec who helped her debut. She balks, not having done a variety show in ten years, but CEO Jang talks it up. He adds that she can stay in Hong Kong an extra night and relax, and she reluctantly agrees.

Jin-jin gets a text from yet another agency wanting to sign her, though she hides it, so CEO Jang thinks it’s from a guy. He tells her to let him know if she’s dating so he can do damage control. He tsk-tsks over the for the way she spoke to Da-young, who claims that Jin-jin made her cry, and clucks that that’s the kind of griping old people do.

After her flight, Ah-reum is surprised again when cute co-pilot Dong-hoon asks for her phone number and suggests they have a beer together sometime. He even gives her a gift of a box of chocolates, and later in their hotel room, her roommate teases her about the chemistry between her and Dong-hoon.

When they arrive back in Seoul, they exchange long looks as they part ways on the bus. Jin-jin pulls up to pick up her friend, who yells excitedly, “Hey, I’m getting married!” LOL.

Jin-jin drives Ah-reum to a doctor’s appointment, where she’s more interested in her doctor’s advanced pregnancy than her own uterine fibroids. The doctor assures Ah-reum that if she has surgery to remove the fibroids, she can still have children safely. Though Ah-reum makes a face like that’s not an appealing thought, she’s very proud to report that she’s not a virgin, hee.

Jin-jin and her friends gather for fried chicken and girl talk, and Ah-reum shares about her newest co-pilot crush. Jin-jin doesn’t think Dong-hoon is that into Ah-reum since he hasn’t made a definite move, but Ah-reum argues that it’s just the age difference holding him back (he’s seven years younger).

When her friends ask what Dong-hoon looks like, Ah-reum compares him to a boy they went to school with named Jung Woo-sung, who was very handsome but also very arrogant. She and Jin-jin argue about which one of them Woo-sung liked, and Young-shim recalls a time when they almost broke up their friendship over a boy.

The girls had been in high school, marking their student numbers on photos. One photo had caught their attention—it showed a boy walking out of the frame, and all you can see is one blue-striped tennis shoe. A sudden tension between them led to a pact that they would never fight over men and be friends forever.

Soon it’s time for Jin-jin to travel to Hong Kong, and she and her team make their way through a gauntlet of reporters at the airport. At one point her stylist Mi-dal stops to tie her shoe and puts down her phone, accidentally leaving it behind.

Mi-dal whines about her phone when they get to Hong Kong that night as they ready for bed. She’s prepared to sleep on the floor, but Jin-jin invites her to share the huge bed, so Mi-dal happily giggles and cuddles Jin-jin as she admires the beautiful view of the city.

The next day, we follow a man on his way to work at a company called National Chemical, where he conducts business in fluent English. The name on his office door tells us that this is GONG JI-WON (Kim Ji-suk), and he’s an analyst and investment specialist. Before long his assistant fetches him for an important meeting, and on the way, they discuss Ji-won’s upcoming return to Korea.

At the hotel where his meeting is to take place, Ji-won spots Jin-jin descending the staircase, looking gorgeous on her way to record her show. He stops dead in his tracks and stares, mesmerized and perhaps with recognition, as Jin-jin smiles and chats with the people prepping her for the show.

EPISODE 2 RECAP

Jin-jin’s team watches as she begins her interview with the host (cameo by critic and TV personality Heo Ji-woong). In another part of Hong Kong, businessman Ji-won meets with a Chinese CEO about acquiring his company. The CEO isn’t happy with the way National Chemical is forcing his hand, but agrees to consider it.

When it’s time for Ah-reum’s surgery, she grows nervous and scared, but the anesthesiologist reassures her that everything will be fine as he sedates her. She’s unconscious when her doctor goes into labor early and is unable to perform her procedure.

At the same time, Young-shim slumps out of another job interview, having been rejected yet again. She runs into a law school classmate who guesses she just took an interview, and Young-shim is too embarrassed to admit that she was already turned down.

During her interview, Jin-jin talks about her two best friends, and she tells the host that she doesn’t have any celebrity buddies. He sets up a video chat as a surprise, saying that there’s one celebrity who wants to be Jin-jin’s friend, and she’s not happy to see that it’s the spoiled brat, Da-young.

Jin-jin says that they only met once, but Da-young gushes that she feels like they’re best friends, calling Jin-jin “my Cassiopeia.” She pointedly asks how old Jin-jin is, and when Jin-jin says that she’s 35, she makes an exaggerated gasp that Jin-jin is more like a teacher than a friend. Oh, you little snot.

Da-young says she needs Jin-jin’s advice on how to handle tabloid media. But it becomes clear she’s really here to take jabs at Jin-jin on camera, and brings up Jin-jin’s dating scandals, including one about her dating an older married politician. Da-young starts to mention plastic surgery before the show’s host cuts her off, and Da-young pretends that that was all just a big oopsie. Yeah, right.

Maintaining her professional demeanor, Jin-jin offers to tell Da-young the way to deal with gossip, as the whole crew looks on nervously. We don’t hear what she says, but after the filming is over, CEO Jang yells at her for looking like she was bragging and risking her reputation.

Ah-reum wakes from her surgery to find a male doctor standing over her bed, giving her mother instructions on her care. She’s too groggy to see his face clearly, so her mother tells her that her doctor went into labor and that man performed her surgery.

Mi-dal knows Jin-jin well enough to see that her encounters with Da-young have rattled her. The ladies decide to stay an extra day and send the guys home, Jin-jin threatening to run away if CEO Jang doesn’t let her do this.

Jin-jin and Mi-dal go out on the town that evening, taking selfies all over Hong Kong and generally acting like carefree tourists. When they decide to have dinner at an outdoor cafe, the place is so crowded that they don’t notice Ji-won there, too, across the room.

Later, they stock up on gifts for Mi-dal’s friends and family, and she decides to go back for more. Jin-jin stays behind, sitting on some steps to enjoy a street busker playing the guitar.

And once again, Ji-won is also nearby, sitting in a bar with his assistant only a few feet away. He sees Jin-jin, and his expression grows soft as he remembers her as a young girl. Flashing back, he remembers her on a date, nervously peeking glances at the boy next to her, then smiling in the sun, sleeping on a bus, and staring at someone intently under the moonlight. As he watches her now, Ji-won looks for all the world like a man in love.

Mi-dal returns and whisks Jin-jin away, and a startled Ji-won rushes out to catch her. But by the time he gets outside, they’ve hopped into a taxi, and she’s gone. Sighing in disappointment, he stands at the spot where she was sitting and sees that she left her purse behind in her hurry.

In the morning, Mi-dal goes to the front desk to check out, and the receptionist hands her Jin-jin’s purse, saying that someone left it for Jin-jin last night. Mi-dal gratefully looks through the purse and finds all of Jin-jin’s documentation still there, plus something extra—a note saying “I’ll be back,” with a drawing of a basketball.

She runs up to Jin-jin, who’s waiting for her on the balcony overlooking the lobby, looking preoccupied. Mi-dal is so excited that she startles Jin-jin, who drops her phone, and they watch in horror as it crashes to the lobby floor.

Ah-reum is making a healthy recovery in the hospital, and her mother tells her that her doctor was very handsome, though Ah-reum scoffs that it’s not important. Her phone alerts her to a message, and whatever it is has her staring in surprise.

Jin-jin’s road manager, Hong-hee, runs into CEO Jang’s office in a wild panic, while at the same time, CEO Jang’s phone starts blowing up with calls. Hong-hee tries to call Jin-jin about whatever is happening, but her phone is broken from its fall, and since Mi-dal lost hers at the airport, neither of them can be reached.

We finally see what all the drama is about as CEO Jang watches a video that someone sent to him. It clearly shows a half-naked man in a hotel room, and although it’s shadowy and hard to see, the woman with him looks a lot like Jin-jin. Oh nooooo.

Ji-won is at the airport in Hong Kong, preparing to head home to Korea. His flight is slightly delayed so he settles in to wait. Someone texts him the bedroom video, and he’s horrified to see the salacious comments from men about Jin-jin’s “assets.”

CEO Jang tries to convince the reporters calling him that it couldn’t possibly be Jin-jin in the video, but he orders Hong-hee to find out who the man is so they can look into it. Jin-jin’s brother Min-ho hears about the video while working at his convenience store job, and he rushes home to warn his parents.

Ah-reum tries to reach Young-shim to tell her about the scandalous video, but Young-shim is in another job interview. The man interviewing her just sits there reading her resumé in silence, making Young-shim feel awkward and uncomfortable.

When her doctor comes to check on her, Ah-reum finally gets a good look at him. She stares at him, mouth hanging open in stunned surprise, but when he turns to go she suddenly calls out to him. He turns back, his mouth quirking into a knowing smile, and Ah-reum realizes from the name on his lab coat that he’s Jung Woo-sung, the same boy she knew in high school.

Only, he’s changed. A lot. HAHA, he’s not the model-handsome guy that Ah-reum remembers, though that arrogant smirk still looks the same. Woo-sung asks Ah-reum how the “Four Bongos” are doing these days, mentioning Young-shim and Jin-jin, but he can’t remember the name of the last person in their little friendship foursome.

By the time Jin-jin’s plane lands in Korea, the shocking scandal is all over the country. She still knows nothing about it, so it’s a shock when she arrives to an ambush of reporters, and as they crowd in on her, she and Mi-dal get separated.

At first Jin-jin tries to ignore the reporters and make her way through the lobby. But they surround her so that she can’t move, firing questions at her about the sex tape—and finally, the words start to sink in and Jin-jin realizes what this is all about.

She stands there stunned and frozen, but suddenly someone takes her by the hand and stands protectively between her and the reporters.

Jin-jin looks up, and when her protector turns to look at her, everything around her fades away. She asks, “Gong Ji-won?”

We hear Woo-sung’s voice as he remembers that the fourth friend was Gong Ji-won, and we go back to the boy standing in front of Jin-jin’s picture back in high school, the one wearing the blue-striped sneakers. We finally see young Ji-won’s face, and we’re shown that he’s the fourth person in the photograph on Jin-jin’s dresser. Woo-sung continues:

“He was the only guy, and your food—no, your light. The boy you all liked back then.”

COMMENTS

I expected 20th Century Boy and Girl to be adorable, in large part because both Han Ye-seul and Kim Ji-suk can’t help but be cute as buttons, so it’s no stretch to expect the two of them together to be as precious as a basket of kittens. And so far I’m not disappointed: The show is living up to its promise to be a sweet, quirky love story between two people who knew each other as kids. I wasn’t expecting to learn that Jin-jin and her friends were actually a foursome instead of a threesome, and that Ji-won was part of their tight little circle. I like that twist, because it adds another layer of interest to the fact that something happened, and he wasn’t able to remain friends with them.

I found myself completely charmed by Jin-jin and her quirky little world, but I was surprised by how moved I was when things got serious. Being a celebrity, Jin-jin presents a professional, impervious image to the world, but she’s not cold or unfeeling. She admits, at least to herself, that she’s not untouched when people judge her for still being single at her age. So I’m worried that this sex scandal (which I have no doubt is a fake) will devastate Jin-jin, and I know it will be painful to watch her try to hold her head up and pretend that she’s just fine.

Which brings us to Ji-won, who I’m glad to see is coming back into Jin-jin’s life right when she needs him the most. We don’t know as much about him at this point, but there’s no doubt in my mind that he’s still carrying a massive torch for Jin-jin. The way he looked at her when he saw her in Hong Kong spoke of something much more than a simple boyhood crush, and then the way he swooped in and wordlessly put himself between Jin-jin and the reporters—well, from that moment on I was totally Team Ji-won. If there was any doubt in my mind that Kim Ji-suk could pull off a romantic leading role (hint: there wasn’t), that moment would have dispelled all of my misgivings.

I wonder what happened back in school to cause Ji-won to break off from the group, while the girls continued to stick together like glue. I have a feeling that it involves the things he remembered about Jin-jin. I’m guessing that Ji-won is the boy she was looking at so nervously in his memories, and I’m assuming that they had feelings for each other, but it didn’t work out and they lost touch.

Obviously, there’s still something there between them, and a part of me hopes that Ji-won is the reason that Jin-jin hasn’t really dated even though she’s in her mid-thirties. Oh sure, there’s her crush on Anthony, but what could be “safer” than a crush on an out-of-reach celebrity?

Speaking of Jin-jin, I’ve decided that she’s officially my new favorite thing. I love how utterly professional she is when she needs to be, but she can be a complete whackadoodle when she’s with her friends. She has a wonderful way of letting go of things that bother her, but she’s not flighty or simple. She just understands that as a celebrity, there’s not much she can do about what people think of her. And it’s awesome that Jin-jin is equally as smart as she is beautiful—her putting Da-young in her place by comparing her to Cassiopeia, managing to insult Da-young’s attitude and ignorance in one fell swoop, was simply brilliant. As much as I’m looking forward to the love story between Jin-jin and Ji-won, I think I could just as happily watch a whole drama about Jin-jin just being her awesome self.

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