The Third Charm: Episode 1
Now that everyone’s in the fall mood, JTBC’s wistful romance The Third Charm is a welcome delight. Though this drama is simple in plot, it uses the four seasons to take us through the stages of one long relationship. We spend most of today’s episode in the sweetness of spring, where our couple learns that their “type” may actually lie on the other side of the spectrum.
EPISODE 1 RECAP
It’s New Year’s Eve, going into 2013, and love is in the air. Several police officers are on a stakeout, watching the outside of nightclub, as well as the many couples passing by. One officer teases the team leader OHN JOON-YOUNG (Seo Kang-joon), saying he wouldn’t be so grouchy if he were out there dating like everyone else.
Joon-young insists that he does have someone on his mind, but this woman is totally insensitive and incapable of keeping promises. His partner thinks that sounds pretty charming, and Joon-young scoffs that she’s the exact opposite.
Inside the club, a young woman, LEE YOUNG-JAE (Esom), is dancing with her girlfriend, though she’s clearly out of New Year’s spirit. She heads back to their table for drinks, where her friend BAEK JOO-RAN (Lee Yoon-ji) chides her for neglecting her personal life, or more specifically, her dating life.
Young-jae goes on to describe a past boyfriend who really knew how to frustrate her. Although he did have cuteness on his side. Joo-ran stops her right there and says to forget cute guys and go after the wild ones. Joo-ran’s boss, a bigshot musician, then joins the party and greets the girls before heading into a private room.
Meanwhile, the police finally spot their trench-coated criminal as he sneaks into the club. Joon-young gives the order to wait for the right time. We later see Trench Coat counting his money as Joo-ran’s boss takes whatever drugs he purchased.
Ten minutes to midnight and Joon-young gives his signal. His team piles out of their cars, and they all march toward the entrance. They fight past the bouncers and flood into the club just as the DJ commences the big countdown.
Joon-young points out Trench Coat up on the second floor, and his team jumps into action. He moves in to join them, only to freeze at the sight of someone celebrating in the crowd: Young-jae.
The DJ reaches “one” and it starts raining confetti. Young-jae is smiling brightly as she takes it all in, her eyes eventually landing on Joon-young’s shocked face. Her smile falters, and the two stare at each other in disbelief. In the background, Joon-young’s team gang up on Trench Coat and successfully get him in handcuffs.
“There are two types of women in the world,” Joon-young narrates. “The woman that you must meet and the woman that you would be better off not meeting.” Young-jae’s smile slowly returns as Joon-young continues, “Today, I saw the third type. The woman I should’ve never seen again. That horrible wench.”
We flash back to years before, when a college student is studying his notes in a jam-packed subway car. It’s revealed to be a younger Joon-young, who’s rocking the trifecta: a bowl cut, Harry Potter glasses, and braces. I love it.
At his stop, Joon-young inches forward, but his polite “Excuse me”s are ignored and he’s pushed further in. He helplessly watches as the doors shut. But it’s okay; after calculating the exact time of this detour, he confirms he should still make his test.
An annoyed voice breaks Joon-young’s train of thought. To his left is Young-jae, who’s scowling at the man between them. She loudly accuses this man of groping the woman in front of them, which earns the attention of the whole car. Joon-young ignores this, thinking about how much he hates outspoken girls like her. He quietly gets off at the next stop, while Young-jae drags the man out and reports him to the police.
Pervert McPerve denies Young-jae’s accusations, even turning it around on and suggesting the police investigate her instead. Young-jae stands her ground, but without evidence, the police won’t budge.
“Excuse me,” a quiet voice interrupts. Joon-young comes through, timidly presenting a video on his phone. He explains that he filmed it since he doesn’t like misunderstandings. They all get a closer look and, what do you know, it’s McPerve groping the woman on the subway. Got ‘em.
Joon-young and Young-jae are running late for their respective appointments, but the police officer holds them back to write out their testimonies. The officer takes up more time by commenting on their matching yellow backpacks, assuming they’re a “CC” (Campus Couple).
They’re eventually released, and they have to run to make their next trains. As they part ways, Young-jae yells out a thank you to Joon-young with a smile.
Though Joon-young is a few minutes late to his test, the professor lets it slide as a first strike. As for Young-jae, it turns out her appointment is an exam as well; she’s trying to get her certification as a hairdresser.
Later, we see that their home lives are just as different as they’re personalities. Joon-young prepares a home-cooked meal for his parents and younger sister RI-WON (Park Gyu-young). As Ri-won ignores several calls, their folks worry she may be too harsh with her admirer.
But Ri-won suggests they worry about Joon-young and his nonexistent love life—maybe he’s gay. Mom disagrees, saying his glasses and braces are his only downfall. She assures Joon-young that he’s as pretty as his grandmother, a former Miss Korea contestant. Pffft, he doesn’t exactly take that as a compliment.
Elsewhere, Young-jae eats grilled meet with her older brother SOO-JAE (Yang Dong-geun) and his girlfriend. Soo-jae gives her a hard time for failing her exam again, but she blames it on the fact that she was late.
After dinner, Young-jae whips out some killer aegyo so Soo-jae will make his delicious instant coffee. Soo-jae responds with funny faces of his own, but ultimately brings out coffee for everyone. He considers it a sweet end to a date, and Young-jae pities his girlfriend for having to date someone like him. “You said your ideal type was a tough guy like me,” Soo-jae jokes, challenging her to a fight.
Soo-jae walks his girlfriend out, promising he’ll marry her as soon as he passes his exam. From the rooftop, Young-jae cringes at their smooches, though she watches them leave with a smile.
Joon-young’s long-time buddy HYUN SANG-HYUN (Lee Sang-yi) invites him and their two other friends to a group date. Joon-young insists he already has plans to help his family harvest fern, but Sang-hyun argues that this is more important.
So the next day, Joon-young skips the harvesting and dresses up for his date, giving a million-dollar smile in his mirror. As he leaves, Ri-won notes that college must be changing him.
At the hair salon where Young-jae works, she attends to some old high school friends. She assures her friend MI-YOUNG that blue-black hair is all the rage these days, but their other friend KIM SO-HEE (Shin Do-hyun) indifferently states that she doesn’t know what she’s talking about.
Young-jae and Mi-young continue talking about the good old days, back when she was more popular than So-hee. Young-jae suggests getting tteokbokki like they always used to, but Mi-young deflates and says that she already has plans.
When the friends leave, Mi-young tells So-hee that she feels bad for not inviting Young-jae. “How can she go on a group date when she’s not even in college?” So-hee says. Despite their friendship in high school, So-hee thinks they’re not on the same level anymore.
The girls head to a cafe to meet their dates, Joon-young and crew. The boys ask when the fourth girl will arrive, but it looks like she’s a no-show. With no other options, So-hee gives in to letting Young-jae come. Young-jae hesitates after getting the call, but her boss urges her to go out and have fun like a college student. Aw, yay!
So-hee sees no point in waiting for Young-jae and proposes they break off into pairs now. Sang-hyun agrees, saying the last one standing can wait for Young-jae. So at the count of three, everyone immediately points to the person they like… And Joon-young is the one left out. The poor guy didn’t even have time to point.
The pairs leave Joon-young at the cafe to enjoy their own dates, and it’s no surprise that ladies’ man Sang-hyun ends up with queen bee So-hee. Joon-young sweetly moves from the big table to a smaller one and waits for his date. He perks up every time a girl walks in, only to shrink back down when they find their boyfriends.
Eventually, Joon-young gives up and starts reading one of his textbooks. That’s when an eager voice asks, “You’re here for the Hyunsung Women’s College group date, right?”
He turns to face Young-jae, and their eyes widen with recognition. “Subway?!” they exclaim simultaneously. Young-jae is overjoyed to see him again, but Joon-young looks as nervous as ever. With the others gone, Young-jae suggests they have a day of fun and drags him out before he can answer.
Their day of fun starts at the amusement park, which seems to be a whole new experience for Joon-young. He doesn’t know how to react on the pirate ship ride, so Young-jae holds his hand up and he shocks himself by letting out a small whoop. LOL, that’s so freaking cute. And as the day goes on, Young-jae starts to find him endearing as well.
For dinner, Young-jae takes them to the tteokbokki place she used to visit in high school. Joon-young starts to say that he can’t eat spicy food, but Young-jae interrupts and urges him to dig in.
His hand shaking, he takes one piece of ddeokbokki, wipes the majority of the sauce off, and takes a bite. Yeong-jae asks if it’s killer and he responds that he certainly feels like he’s going to die. To that, she says he can’t die just yet. She adds a huge dollop of extra hot sauce and feeds him a larger bite.
Joon-young’s mouth is set on fire, and he runs outside to grab a popsicle. He then hears the excitement of a beer chugging competition and runs out to grab the nearest glass. He downs the drink easily, beating all the other contestants, but it’s not enough to cool his mouth down.
Young-jae joins the audience and cheers for Joon-young all the way to the final round. Joon-young is up against a tough Marine, and he’s looking pretty drunk, but even still, he downs his beer like it’s water. With that, he’s named the Beer King.
The MC notices an excited Young-jae and, assuming she’s Joon-young’s girlfriend, invites her up on stage for a picture. They all pose together with Joon-young’s giant beer mug trophy and plushie, but he’s too out of it to keep his eyes open.
He tries to smile for the camera again, but instead, he just vomits into his trophy.
Joon-young is still burping and slurring on their bus ride home, but Young-jae’s a good sport. She says that thanks to him, she was able to relieve all her stress.
They both nod off, Young-jae on her plushie and Joon-young on her shoulder, looking content and comfortable. She wakes up to get off at her stop and tells Joon-young to get a hold of himself. He waves goodbye, making her smile, and falls back asleep.
At home, Young-jae finds Soo-jae passed out over his desk. She sighs at her brother’s state and urges him to sleep on his bed. She then goes into her room and opens her backpack, surprised to find Joon-young’s books instead of her stuff.
At Joon-young’s place, his parents and sister are engrossed in a drama. As the onscreen couple is about to kiss, Ri-won coolly says that it’s going to end right there. When it does end there, Mom and Dad groan with frustration.
Just then, they hear Joon-young cry out in horror. They all hurry over to his room to find him passed out on the bed. And strewn on the floor is his open backpack and Young-jae’s hairstyling mannequin head. Now there’s a sight.
The next day at school, Sang-hyun gives all the juicy details to the boys, saying he and So-hee ended their date with a kiss. He tells them that his secret to kissing is timing—if the atmosphere is right, they go for it.
Joon-young is listening a little too intently, even gulping as Sang-hyun describes the steps. He asks if he can get Young-jae’s number, and the boys all turn to him. He stresses that it’s only to switch their backpacks, but they’re not buying it.
The boys stop by the Hyunsung campus to meet the girls. Sang-hyun asks So-hee for Young-jae’s number and it strikes a nerve of jealousy, to which he points out she has another boyfriend. (Seriously, girl?) Joong-hyun clarifies that the number is for him and asks if Young-jae is still in class.
So-hee knowingly smirks and says that she doesn’t know Young-jae’s number, but she knows where she is.
At the hair salon, Young-jae stares at Joon-young’s backpack. She calls Mi-young to ask for is number, though she makes sure to comment that he’s not really her type. The door chimes with a customer and she turns to see Joon-young. She hangs up the phone, suddenly looking very nervous.
Joon-young returns her backpack, joking that the mannequin head scared the bejeezus out of him. He finds it interesting that a college student like her is working at a hair salon. She starts to correct him, but he continues that what she does is cool, especially since his mom still pays for him. Young-jae is so touched by his words that she’s speechless. Feeling awkward, Joon-young starts to leave, but Young-jae calls him back.
Soo-jae’s work buddies drop him off at Young-jae’s hair salon. He calls his girlfriend, saying he’s going to pick up Young-jae before they all meet up for dinner. But he stops short when he notices his baby sister with a boy. He smiles and tells his girlfriend it’ll just be the two of them tonight.
Inside, Young-jae is in the middle of testing her perm techniques on Joon-young’s hair. He’s not so sure if it’s cool for men to have perms, so Young-jae shows him a magazine article of actor Lee Jung-jae with a perm. He doesn’t think he’s on Lee Jung-jae’s level, but she says he’s not at all bad-looking.
Once Joon-young is all set, they have to wait an hour and forty-five minutes before they can take out the curlers. Boy, do I look forward to that.
The air is a bit awkward as they sit around and wait for the curls to set. Young-jae brings up the notes she found in his backpack and asks what he wants to be, but he doesn’t really have an answer. He then turns the question on her, and she says she wants to be rich; she’s just not sure how. So he has a plan but no goal, while she has the complete opposite.
Joon-young says that she’s not like other girls, which makes her deflate a bit. But when he says that it’s meant as a compliment, she’s smiling again. She jumps up, saying it’s time to reveal his hair.
With the soft, romantic music playing on the radio, Joon-young starts to recall Sang-hyun’s descriptions of perfect timing. Young-jae’s gaze, her lips—it all seems to be falling into place. He thinks, “Now,” just as Young-jae leans in and kisses him.
Can we please stay in spring forever? Because, my goodness, the beginning stage of this relationship is too cute for words. We’ve had plenty of opposites-attract couples in dramaland, but I would say that most of the time, it’s solely treated as a trope. Here, it looks like they’re going to examine this type of relationship much more closely, and that alone gets me excited. After that cold, wintery opening, I already had so many questions: Can this relationship really work? Is love enough to outweigh clashing personalities? Clashing goals?
Before we get into all that, let’s backtrack. As much as I love the budding romance, I think the familial relationships are on an entirely different level of precious. Young-jae and Soo-jae have my heart feeling full with their lovely bond. They can be sassy and silly around each other, but in the quieter moments, they can be awfully sweet. When Soo-jae saw Young-jae in the hair salon with a boy, I half-expected him to march in there and get all big-brotherly. The fact that he was excited enough to cancel their original plans killed me. Besides that, I’m also interested in their history together. Being raised by your brother has it quirks, but it seems to have had its toll on Soo-jae and Young-jae in different ways. He’s had to work hard to take care of her, and that has to make her feel pretty guilty.
Joon-young’s parents and little sister were hilarious together, especially during that dinner scene. They obviously care so much for him, but they want to see him loosen up a bit, and understandably so. He’s so efficient in his schoolwork that he seems to have completely disregarded every other aspect of his life. It’ll be good for him, having a girlfriend that seizes the day rather than one that plans every moment out. I loved the gag with the matching backpacks because I don’t know if they would’ve met again otherwise. They were too shy to make the next move, so the backpacks served as a nice excuse. And then the perm served as a nice excuse to spend even more time together.
Young-jae’s shyness at the end surprised me the most, considering her open and loud personality. Esom did a wonderful job of showing how vulnerable even the most outgoing of people can be around someone they like. And Seo Kang-joon, you dorky little puppy, keep doin’ what you’re doin’. It’s working like a charm (sorry, not sorry).