After actually getting a look at the full opening theme for Once Upon A Song today, it looks like in the near future I may just have to retract what I’ve mentioned about no exaggerated musical spectacles; fingers crossed these grand-scale performances serve some (if even just tenuous!) logical purpose in propelling our story forward.
Episode 2 Recap
The episode kick-starts with a refresher of The Slap; Jade warns Chi Ching against taking her for a fool and ahh, my mistake earlier, she snaps at Chi Ching’s ‘audacity’ for wanting to be her friend (not just a fan) and wanting to help her. Truth be told, I can’t say I can see how much differently Chi Ching could have imagined this scenario playing out in her mind.
Defeated, she returns home (well, to her aunt’s shop) and Ying Jun attempts to comfort her. He declares that if the worst comes to worst he’ll help to clear everything up! Chi Ching thanks him for the thought and he asks that she doesn’t treat him so well.
After all, he explains, the first time he had seen her had actually been at the piano store and it had been him who had uploaded the video of her singing. Well, no surprises there; both the camcorder and checkered shirt were pretty big giveaways for those of us who picked up on them.
Cross over to Keith chauffeuring Jade, the two stopped at a red light. Once more we return to The Slap, but this time we see it from Keith’s perspective. Decidedly he turns the car around and orders that Jade apologise to Chi Ching.
Jade protests – she was merely provoked into doing what she did. Regardless, Keith returns, Jade was wrong to have lashed out with violence. Really, at this point I’d say that this is less him defending Chi Ching personally, than him feeling ill in conscience and hence purporting a moral-based rebuttal.
Alas, Jade doesn’t take this well and demands that they either turn around or he stop the car and let her out. Based on this exchange, we could also perhaps begin to question whether their relationship is based on genuine emotional investment (which may have dulled with time or have been the brunt of differences in opinions), or whether it all really is just for show and business.
At the same time, having accompanied Chi Ching on an emotional-binge – inclusive of ice-cream, yoghurt, spicy fish balls and hot chips – to cheer her up, Ying Jun asks what else he can possibly do to compensate her for the trouble he’s caused.
Chi Ching tells him it’s enough for him to have been there to listen to her worries and he jokes that he could still offer her free hugs. She laughs for him to quit joking when an incensed Jade-fan suddenly appears and begins to pelt her with eggs. It’s subsequently to this scene, with Ying Jun shielding Chi Ching from the attack, which Keith and Jade pull up to.
Stormily, Keith endeavours to intervene but the assailant just as quickly leaves and he’s left to watch in the car as Ying Jun envelops Chi Ching in a hug. He encourages her to not be bothered by the incident. Jade, in the passenger seat, looks on unimpressed.
Washing up, Chi Ching thinks back to her childhood. At a department store she pets a plush toy fondly when a young Jade snatches it away and accuses Chi Ching of stealing her toy. Chi Ching apologises (unaware it was Jade’s belonging), before Jade runs to her mother’s side, her mother having just publicly slapped Chi Ching’s mother and warned her to stay away from her husband.
Chi Ching implores for her mother to not cry, pronouncing that she’ll strike Jade’s mother in return, aw. Her mother however, only embraces her tightly and tells Chi Ching that it’s the two of them who have wronged the other mother-daughter pair. In the present, Chi Ching sighs to herself and a cookie-baking sequence with Dai Wei Gor ensues.
Seeing Chi Ching watching the baking cookies as intently as she is, Dai Wei Gor jokes that it’s okay to look away, for it’s not as though the cookies have legs and will run away. Chi Ching smiles but replies earnestly that it was him who had taught her to amass all of her unhappiness, set it in the oven and wait for the sound of the ding to incinerate all of her sadness.
Flashback again, this time to teenage Chi Ching lighting up at the macaroons on display at Dai Wei Gor’s café. Her boyfriend exclaims incredulously at her ability to continue gorging and he rebukes her for pressuring him to have to “hold the hand of a pig whilst walking along the streets” (that ass!). Chi Ching pouts, upset, and her boyfriend uses their circumstances as the excuse to break up with her (completely his loss I’d say).
We see then, Dai Wei Gor sharing his first words of wisdom with Chi Ching. Now, he praises her for her resilience, sharing that he’d also once been egged and it took him a whole year to recover from it. Chi Ching laments it was unfair to him then because he hadn’t been in the wrong, but in her scenario, she is.
Dai Wei Gor thinks otherwise but surrenders the argument when Chi Ching brings up sinning according to Christianity. He suggests that they listen to some music instead and plays Singing In The Rain for her. Meanwhile, Ying Jun phones in to a call-in radio station, seeking advice on cheering up an important friend, aw.
The operator asks if this ‘friend’ is a girl and with Ying Jun’s swift exclamation that they’re really only platonic friends, she prods that his concern must mean he has some kind of interest. Ying Jun insists that he’s determined to find a dream before pursuing his next relationship (as his ex-girlfriend had broken up with him for his lack of ambition). I’m just sayin’ but like other drama leads, your dream could always just be the girl, hahah; but no really, I’m glad it’s not something so tacky (yet, anyway).
The advice he receives is ‘simple’: “sincerely comfort the girl, sincerely stay by her side and sincerely hope for her happiness; then, naturally, she will feel his sincerity and will be encouraged”. Ying Jun hangs up contemplatively, watching Dai Wei Gor (the adorable goof) dancing inside with a now-smiling Chi Ching and then, outside, the heavens really begin to open up.
It’s another day and Keith meets with a musical-film director with the objective of securing a leading role for Jade (cringe at this meta?). The director – reeking of self-righteousness; he shows up late and has the meeting relocated to an alley so he can smoke – however, presents a prerequisite to casting Jade: first he wants to personally critique her talent.
Reading netizens’ comments have left Jade in no mood to co-operate, but in front of the cameras, she negates the rumours that she’s involved in Chi Ching’s egging incident and amiably, she even asks that the reporters ask after Chi Ching on her behalf. Her displeasure isn’t tamped down for long though and she storms out of the meeting with the director, flatly refusing to collaborate with him at his insinuations of her having a ‘dark side’ underneath her untainted idol façade.
Amusingly, upon witnessing this display, the director becomes ever more insistent that Jade would be perfect for the split-personality lead he has in mind. Keith, pleased, instructs Kelvin to go full-steam-ahead with the project.
At the childcare centre, Keith is drawn to the concert hall by the sounds of piano-playing. Here he encounters Chi Ching with one of the children – little Zhong Fung – who asks Chi Ching if Keith should be reported to the police for slacking on the job when he’s supposed to be working his community service hours, ha. Little Fung also asks Chi Ching to continue teaching him the piano but busy, Chi Ching offers in the meantime, to let him play with her phone.
Keith shakes his head at Chi Ching’s spoiling of the boy then more tactfully, mentions the egging incident, apologetic. At her brushing off of his concerns, he makes to leave; that is, until she calls after him, handing him a makeshift newspaper hat. The thought makes him smile and she also gifts him an origami butterfly when he pauses to appreciate them.
Shortly after, Chi Ching plays the piano for the children. Unbeknownst to her, today her father also listens along outside. With his exit, Keith exchanges a nod with the older man, before Chi Ching calls after him, this time with a collapsed Little Fung in her arms. Chi Ching’s father approaches and offers to drive them to the hospital.
Restless, Chi Ching is quick to greet Little Fung’s father when the man finally arrives but Mr Tse is dismissive of Chi Ching’s concerns for his child. He suggests that she just contact him again when Little Fung has stabilised. Pleading, Chi Ching emphasises that she understands Mr Tse’s rush to return to work and that Little Fung can be naughty at times but, she explains, this is only because he yearns for his father’s – his only immediate family, given his mother’s passing – attention.
When the man remains unmoved, Chi Ching erupts. “You’re his only family!” she cries, “And even as much as you may neglect him, [your child] still loves you unconditionally; kids are simple to appease so why is it that when he needs your care the most, you can’t even give him that much!? To be a responsible dad should be instinct. How can you be so heartless? Why must you disappoint Little Fung? Why must you make him hate you!?”
The speech evidently hitting home, Chi Ching’s dad makes a quiet exit. Shortly after, Little Fung’s father follows suit and Keith and Chi Ching are left to hear that the child will require surgery in order to treat his heart condition. The operation has a high success rate but the catch? It will require written parental consent.
Now in a stable condition, Little Fung asks where his father is. Chi Ching breaks the news to the boy but assures him that as soon as he’s better, they can go somewhere fun together. Keith echoes the suggestion and promises a trip to Disneyland. In the hall, Chi Ching describes how Mr Tse had returned to sign the consent forms but left immediately after, with instructions to simply call when everything had been taken care of.
To Keith’s earlier comment, she now explains that it’s because she sympathises with Little Fung, for having such an absent father, that she spoils him; what’s more, her promise to go to Disneyland with him was also a means of compensating her childhood self, whose dreams of going to an amusement park with her own father, were also unfulfilled.
Tentatively, Keith asks if she resents her own father for his absence but Chi Ching shakes her head – she finds it unfortunate but she understands that he had his own family to take care of. Moreover, she admits that even if she were to meet her father again, she hasn’t thought of needing to mend their relationship; rather, she’d be equally content to just have a conversation with him.
That night playing his saxophone, Chi Ching’s father reflects on Chi Ching’s words. His wife remarks that it’s been a long time since he’s last played that particular tune and if it’s because he misses Chi Ching, she doesn’t mind him meeting with her. To this, Chi Ching’s father reveals that he has met his daughter but he guesses she must still hate him for she refuses to speak to him.
Jade’s mother sighs sympathetically that it seems true then that nothing has changed (Chi Ching has never replied to any of her father’s letters over the years; and do I smell a manipulative wife trope sowing its seeds here? I hope not) and she suggests that for Chi Ching’s happiness, it may be best not to force the issue.
Sometime later and Keith organises to have Little Fung picked up from the hospital, only to hear that the boy has already been released and is (likely to be) at Disneyland with Chi Ching. It’s subsequently whilst waiting in line for entry to the theme park, that Chi Ching, Ying Jun, Little Fung and Dai Wei Gor, are presented with free passes and an exclusive tour guide. Three guesses from who, though you may not need them – our CEO makes his entrance just moments later.
What follows is a very winning advertisement for Disneyland (just kidding) a day of fun, photos and cute (like when Little Fung loses his Pluto plush and as they drop by a wishing well to wish for it to be found, Dai Wei Gor pulls Ying Jun aside to instruct him, “a penny may not be enough to grant a wish but a [handful of] bill[s] should buy one”). Or in Keith’s case (as Chi Ching later realises, having looked through the day’s photos), what promised to be a day of fun turns out instead, to be one of repeated near-miss run-in attempts (aw).
It’s at Jade’s commercial shoot, that Chi Ching has one such near-miss photo delivered to Keith, along with a thankyou note and desserts on the house. He smiles and is about to call her, when Jade, on break, questions his presence. Keith discloses he’s come with good news: the director of the film she had refused intends to scout Agnes Man (a famous choreographer) to work with them, as an appeal towards Jade’s acceptance of the deal.
Keith invites everyone to help themselves to the desserts and excusing himself, makes his call to Chi Ching. At his immediate change in tone on the phone, Jade rolls her eyes and Kelvin observes Jade before eyeing Keith warily. Jade’s irritation is only exacerbated when she overhears the praise the crew have for the desserts; thus when offered a bowl, she flings it aside and leaves in a huff.
Noting Jade’s reaction, Keith smiles – an action which the much-less-humoured Kelvin queries. Rather than answering, Keith simply instructs him to continue with their plans (as he’s confident Jade will participate in the film) and to arrange for an audition to be held. He also requests that Kelvin looks into Jade’s dad’s schedule. Not a moment after the words have left his mouth, a text arrives from the man, requesting a meeting.
At the designated restaurant, Keith cuts through Chi Ching’s father’s pretence of wanting to enquire about Little Fung’s state of health (given his abrupt departure at the time); he indicates that he’s aware that the man is Chi Ching’s father and conveys Chi Ching’s message to him, effectively helping to clear the older man’s misunderstandings.
Next, Keith arranges to meet with Chi Ching (who had just seconds earlier been discussing with Dai Wei Gor and Ying Jun how she had initially seen only Keith’s face but hated his back too, ha!). When Ying Jun makes no move to stop Chi Ching from leaving, Dai Wei Gor nags that he’ll regret it later (ie when he’s no longer so obstinate about denying his feelings).
Chi Ching asks how Keith had known where to find her and when talk falls on dreams, Keith asks if he can say he played a part in fulfilling Little Fung’s. Chi Ching replies in the affirmative, detailing how Little Fung had asked Sister Teresa if Keith was his very own guardian angel and how he had even confessed to having been regrettably impolite to Keith when they’d first met.
Keith smiles, asking Chi Ching if she’d like him to be her angel also and fulfil a dream of her’s… whilst Ying Jun stews jealously in the background, wondering if the CEO is spouting a confession after all, LOL! Ying Jun’s esteem plummets even further in acknowledgement that Keith is both attractive and rich but Dai Wei Gor reminds him that Keith’s money is his grandfather’s and with Ying Jun’s father owning a Michelin-worthy restaurant, the playing field is not all that uneven.
That night, Chi Ching explains her complicated family dynamics to Karlie, who points out that Ying Jun’s initially troublesome actions seem to have benefitted her after all. Chi Ching acknowledges this and also expresses her gratitude towards Keith. Though the two wonder how they could possibly break the news to Chi Ching’s aunt, they’re surprised to hear she approves of a meeting between Chi Ching and her father.
Thus it’s with a cake in hand that Chi Ching waits in anticipation at a park (lending happier memories of her childhood) for her father. When the two finally sit down together, he articulates his happiness at having their respective misconceptions corrected and in being able to talk with his daughter (though he’s essentially doing all the talking). But, and of course there would be a ‘but’…
He still considers his most immediate family to be Jade and her mother; given Jade’s career in the limelight, he also hopes that his relationship with Chi Ching can be kept as quiet as possible. He follows with an apology, telling Chi Ching that he has an important meeting to attend but hopes that they can meet again.
Having said his piece, Chi Ching’s dad gives her one last (to his credit) regretful glance, then rises, leaving Chi Ching to sob with his departure.
Well with another episode wrapped up, I think several things are clearer now (like that building in Episode 1 being a church, eeek!!). On the singing, dancing and BGM fronts, Once Upon A Song continues to deliver and I can see how the actors’ talents will be able to continue to be utilised, given the direction the story seems to be taking. In terms of emotional beats, whilst I feel there were some in this episode, they still felt a little lacklustre in their punch.
The introduction of Little Fung for example, initially seemed completely left-field to me, but I can see now how daddy issues and maybe to a lesser degree, romantic interest could be explored through it; I’d argue however, that it requires us to overlook the character himself as having much/any depth and purpose, other than serving as a narrative prop.
On a positive note, our more primary cast’s relationships were made more transparent in this episode. It’s clear now for example, that Jade, as well as her mother, are plenty aware of their family’s relations to Chi Ching and it seems to be implied that Chi Ching and her father both recognised each other but through some ‘misunderstandings’, were unsure whether the other did?
Chi Ching and Keith’s relationship on the other hand, for me at least, seems to require quite a bit of suspension of belief to digest. I think partially this would be because of their unexceptional (and rather confusing) initial meet-cute, which officially, I can only assume, would be the car accident from Episode 1 (unless the encounter outside Jade’s concert counts).
For a drama apparently based on a ‘love triangle’ between Keith and the half-sisters, for now, I feel the triangle being much more relevant when applied to the two boys and Chi Ching (and that’s saying something!). Whilst I feel a love square does have the potential to eventuate after all, the moments of cute so far have been pretty few and far between. Still, Keith and Chi Ching do look sweet together, so hopefully the chemistry picks up.
Personally, my favourite character so far would likely have to be Dai Wei Gor, who’s acted consistently and portrayed as a reliable mentor. The uncles thus far, seem to have had very little relevance and the same can seem to be said for Kelvin; if Jade’s mother is to be a villain, she certainly also seems to make for a more compelling one than Jade at the moment, given she seems to have more to lose if Chi Ching and her father are to make amends.
With at least 14 more episodes to go however, I think generally speaking I’m just grateful that the episodes so far have steadily churned out continuous plot (as opposed to merely musical filler moments) and on the character front, I admit that it may still be too early to judge with certainty. All our characters after all – save for perhaps Chi Ching – are essentially still enigmas so I guess we’ll just have to continue to stay tuned.