Between my recent hours at work, all the other exciting current Korean drama releases and life (which should really take precedence, although tell my completely abnormal sleep patterns that), it looks like these recaps of mine are falling (more than) a little behind; and I won’t even say that I didn’t anticipate this, given a passion for something alone doesn’t get much done, practically.
Luckily, although I’ve been short on time for quite a few things, Once Upon A Song hasn’t made me want to pull my hair out and question what I’m doing with my life quite yet (and against all popular opinion it seems!); on the other hand, what is very much questionable are the (misdirected) outbursts from some of our leading men this episode.
Episode 6 Recap
Superimposed with our opening theme (and our trainee-stars in action), the director of our meta-film Year 201314 explains the premise of his ‘masterpiece’ – a girl traverses land and sea to find her love after he suddenly disappears on January 4th, 2013; she searches continuously for him until 201314 A.D (what?) and of course, being a musical, the cast must act, dance and sing this story out.
Director Yip decrees that their opening theme song must be able to convey that love can not only last a lifetime but can overcome all obstacles; and it’s on that note that we clock in with our project’s music composer, Dai Wei Gor, who plays a Singing In The Rain instrumental before taking to wandering the training-school grounds.
Coincidentally at school to practise his dancing, Ying Jun asks if his teacher is currently in search of his muse. To this, Dai Wei Gor jokes that renowned lyricists tend to only write their masterpieces in towers (it’s the actual word he uses although I would think ‘temple’ would be a more accurate translation of the idea he’s getting across: that the song-writing process isn’t as glorious as it’s romanticised to be).
Ying Jun more seriously, asks if his mentor is bereft of inspiration then and when Dai Wei Gor admits as much, his disciple offers to help. The two relocate to a bar and watch from afar as a crowd gathers to cheer on a couple publicly getting handsy. On closer inspection, Dai Wei Gor realises it’s Agnes and he angrily breaks through the throng to lead her away.
He sits her on a curb outside and speculates that she’d gotten so drunk out of sadness. Agnes claims otherwise and Dai Wei Gor asks why then, has she even returned to Hong Kong alone (when he had heard she had gotten married in America). Agnes replies that he must be the one who’s drunk (ha) – she’s an unmarried woman and he better not ruin her marriage prospects by slandering her name.
Dai Wei Gor apologises for his misconceptions and Agnes echoes that he should be sorry for she still remembers how badly he’d hurt her. We flashback to a consultation she’d had with a psychiatrist, during which she explains, wrought with memories of Dai Wei, she has been unable to happily consider marriage to any other man.
Agnes’ shrink suggests that she confront Dai Wei again and become friends with him, because in confronting him, she would then also be facing her traumas and naturally, they would then resolve themselves. Hence, Agnes confirms, when her return to Hong Kong had come with the offer to be a dance director, of course she had agreed, on the condition that Dai Wei would also be involved.
Pulling Dai Wei close, Agnes happily pronounces that she can properly face him forget him now! Stricken, Dai Wei Gor can only agree and holding her gently, he promises to protect her from now on (whilst I say cringe at this cheese!); then, like all our typical drama heroes, he piggybacks her home, cleans her apartment, notes her mementos of him and kisses her (hand) as she sleeps.
It’s only once Dai Wei Gor’s left that Agnes opens her eyes thoughtfully and smiles. For whilst said man passes by a water fountain and reminisces on the worriless days when he and Agnes had danced, literally in the rain together (aw), Agnes recalls her vow to her psychiatrist – she would follow his plan and confront Dai Wei… in order to attain revenge and ensure he would hurt more than she ever did.
Now back home, Dai Wei Gor continues his song-writing attempts to no avail. In light of his eventful night, he allows himself to succumb to the distraction of his memories and it’s through these same memories that we’re given an insight into his history with Agnes – the two had been introduced to one another during Dai Wei’s first MV filming (with Agnes to be his dancer).
Hitting it off immediately, they had proceeded to date and although Agnes had been wary of his star status, Dai Wei had thrown caution to the wind given her imminent return to England. In a stroke of misfortune however, reporters had caught Dai Wei at the hospital with a pregnant woman (actually the responsibility of Dai Wei’s sunbae, shirked onto him) and the titanic misunderstanding had led to Agnes’ heartbreak.
In the present and in spite of his fruitless hours (failed compositions, reminiscing and disrupting their neighbours’ sleep, according to Ying Jun, aside, ha!), Dai Wei Gor succeeds in penning a melody and it’s Agnes who he first presents it to. He asks his muse for her feedback and she apologises for the trouble she had caused last night.
Dai Wei Gor returns that he doesn’t wish to see her cry anymore and promises to do everything in his power to make it up to her. Finally understanding the grief he had caused her and the reason for her hot-and-cold act around him, he vehemently (almost angrily) insists that she continue to treat him with “one spoon of sugar [followed with] one spoon of crap”.
Agnes merely indicates that she has a class to teach and leaves Dai Wei to stew by himself. When she breathlessly returns to (sweetly) invite him to lunch again today though, he smiles. He accepts and then it’s onto his meeting with the director (and co) to present his theme song.
In presenting his piece, Dai Wei Gor clarifies that naturally, it’s still but a work-in-progress. He recognises the song currently lacks depth in its ‘feel’ and the director is thrilled with their mutual understanding. When Keith on the other hand, remarks that karaoke-ing to the song, fans will naturally find a ‘feel’ to incorporate on their own, the director launches into an impassioned lecture.
Humans are differentiated from animals because they possess a greater sensitivity to/complexity in emotional perception and reception, he begins, and for Keith to have such difficulties perceiving or conveying his feelings, can only mean one of two things: one, Keith is but an emotionless animal (LOL at the other boys’ snickers on the sidelines), or two, he simply hasn’t opened his heart to feeling.
The director wisely imparts that “emotions are a two-way street, giving and receiving” and deduces that Keith doesn’t know how to love another. To this, Keith scoffs. He asks what the problem with his disbelief in love is (other than it being the problem of him uttering his famous last words once again? Hahah). The director warns that it would mark his descent into being sub-human and summons Keith to attend his acting class.
The day’s class, thus, becomes a lesson on eliciting feelings from one’s audience and each student is asked to speak about their first love. Ying Jun starts, telling the story of his ex, whose dream had been to help him accomplish his dreams although he had always taken her for granted until she had left him.
He conveys his determination to now love himself before loving another and the director praises the performance. He points out that although not everyone applauded, Ying Jun’s regret and resolve were moving enough to be felt by everyone. To believably act out a role, one must first be able to ‘feel’ their character and to feel, the director teaches, is a skill which (must and) can (legitimately) be learnt.
Next comes Jade’s tale of a boy she had known since childhood. “It was as though he knew how to read my heart,” she starts. “He knew when I was happy and when I wasn’t. He knew what I wanted and what I needed. The only problem was, that he never conceded to what I wanted [and so] as we grew up, we grew further and further apart.”
When probed, Jade firmly denies that the boy was Keith and (aw, do I actually feel for how tellingly disconcerted Kelvin was the entire time? Haha!) the director quells the questions. He redirects the attention to Chi Ching, who describes her first crush on a handsome basketball-playing upperclassman and feeling love when they had first held hands and she had felt his heartbeat (LOL).
The story, ending in her being dumped by the boy for being chubby, brings a smile to everyone’s faces but it’s Keith who the director specifically congratulates, for having opened up his heart even just a fraction. The comment leaves Keith bewildered (and Kelvin rightly suspicious), although his good humour remains (and of course it would) when he later splashes Chi Ching in a puddle driving by.
He laughs that her glare need not be so murderous and offers to compensate her for her clothes. Instead, Chi Ching offers herself a ride home in his car and Keith smiles easily (the dork) as he agrees, she’s the boss. He continues to jest that with her as passenger, the car really must be slowing down and that her love story was but a gag, although her upset protests give him pause.
Reflecting on the director’s earlier words, Keith laughs that they certainly can’t hold any truth. He relents his teasing nevertheless, not wanting to make a trip to the hospital on the chance that Chi Ching’s blood pressure were to skyrocket (in anger). Only moments after the joshing words have left his mouth however, he receives a call which leaves him rushing towards the very institute gravely.
As he races through the hallway, we see the same scenario – of Keith’s mother being hurriedly wheeled into the emergency room – play out in his childhood, only with his father having been present at the time. He regards his imagined childhood self solemnly and it’s then that Keith’s mother’s secretary ruefully arrives.
She confesses that she knew Mrs Hong had long loved Yan Man On’s art but she hadn’t foreseen that the madam, having read an article about his death, would fly into such an uncontrollable frenzy. It was during this fit that Mrs Hong had run onto the road and into the path of a car and Mrs Hong’s secretary apologises profusely for her blunder, seeing Keith’s equally violent reaction to the news.
As the doctor exits the room, Keith frantically enquires after his mother’s condition. He learns that she’s now awake and stable but will have to be admitted to be monitored for a few days. The doctor adds that Mrs Hong’s future mobility may be slightly impaired as a result of the trauma but reassures Keith that it won’t be too incapacitating.
With that, Keith enters the room to see his mother, only for her to ask why they couldn’t have just let her die. Distraught, he asks why his mother never considers his feelings before wanting to kill herself; he insists that Artist Yan is dead and will no longer produce any more works so his mother no longer needs to buy his art.
As though never having heard her son however, Mrs Hong merely cries that she’s now destroyed all the paintings. Secretary Wing soothes her with the knowledge that they can be repaired and Mrs Hong sniffs, relieved that even if she “couldn’t keep the person (from leaving), at least [she] can keep the paintings”.
Keith leaves despondently with a forgotten Chi Ching shadowing him worriedly. When he snatches the last copy of Urbane Life (I took a little creative liberty with translating the magazine title here, hee) from a fellow visitor – to find out exactly what had left his mother in her current state and subsequently, to make arrangements with Kelvin to secure the artist’s final works – it’s Chi Ching who rushes in to reimburse the man.
Likewise, it’s Chi Ching who handles the paperwork to ensure Keith’s car isn’t towed away (they had parked in a keep-clear zone) although for all her efforts, she is unceremoniously left behind. Nevertheless, she tails Keith in a taxi until he pulls over and furiously demands to know what she wants.
Chi Ching squeaks that she merely wants to help and Keith hollers that she can do so by ceasing her following of him. He drives off, abandoning her in the middle of the road and the sky darkens with the looming storm; when Chi Ching next comes to, she’s back at her aunt’s, in bed with a fever.
Rushing downstairs to her aunt’s dessert shop, Chi Ching is rebuffed and told by her aunt and Uncles Do, Re and Mi to go home and rest. They inform her that everything she could possibly help with (taking orders, washing the dishes, cleaning the toilet or even unclogging the sink) have already been taken care of, by “a silly boy who came to do community service” (aw, three guesses who and the first two don’t count haha!).
Her aunt and uncles confirm that their errand-boy for the night is Keith and it’s lucky he regretted his crime of deserting Chi Ching to the elements and turned himself in too, or they wouldn’t have been shy in punishing him. Chi Ching asks where Keith is now then, to be told he’s running deliveries.
She waits for our CEO outside the delivery address (ha, she gets there before him because he’d been lost and late to every delivery, this one included) and asks if he had been doing his deliveries in his fancy car all night. Drily he quips that it’s not against Hong Kong law and it shouldn’t be illegal to not charge a delivery fee either (since this customer had called to complain several times about the delay now), LOL.
As they head back to the dessert shop together, Chi Ching apologises for his being made a slave for the night and Keith shrugs it off as being the least he could do, having been the one to make her sick. He pulls over abruptly after (has this boy not learned his lesson yet? This kind of parking is illegal!), seeing the return of our magical bear.
Keith gives chase and Chi Ching follows, the two ending up in the hall at the childcare. Chi Ching asks what it is Keith is searching so urgently for and he replies for her to not worry, as it won’t appear with her around anyway. Hearing this, Chi Ching asks if she’s bothering him again and intruding on his meeting with someone.
Ignoring the latter part of her question, Keith asks if Chi Ching is aware then that she’s too curious and prying for her own good – after all, being overly concerned for a friend is troublesome, he conveys. For meddling (but not for being inquisitive!), Chi Ching apologises and the two make a quick prayer before she cautiously broaches the happenings of the day.
With her encouragement that no matter how unhappy today may have been, tomorrow will always be better, Keith reflects that Chi Ching truly is gifted (to be able to stay so level-headed and from a young age too, when her mother had left her and her father, disregarded her)s. Chi Ching credits her aunt’s love for her emotional stability and reassures Keith that he still has his mother too; she had even prayed for Mrs Hong just earlier, so she’d surely recover soon.
Although he smiles, Keith reveals that this was his mother’s second suicide attempt. Honestly, he continues, after his father had left, he and his mother had both been scarred; his only subsequent hope now, was for his mother to forget the man and her heartbreak.
Chi Ching contends that with such a thoughtful son, his mother could only be happy from now on and she retrieves a (super cute) hand puppet to repeat her earlier words with. Keith thanks Chi Ching for her reassurances and it’s the next morning (the two end up sleeping at the centre) when he receives good news from Kelvin – the buyer of the painting his mother had wanted, is willing to yield claim to the work to them.
The skies having cleared after the storm (literally), Keith watches Chi Ching thoughtfully as she sleeps. He props up an umbrella – of a rainbow design of course – to shade her with and thus, although when Chi Ching eventually does awaken, Keith is gone, the sight left before her is still one which enchants.
From the many comments I’ve read about this drama, across several different forums and even on Youtube, opinions (do come in a mix, although they) seem to skew more towards the negative. That said, most people seem to like the musical component of this drama well enough and it’s more the acting/story which they find more difficult to tolerate.
To that end, I won’t lie and say that this drama comes anywhere near to being perfect. After all, in this episode alone my instinctive reaction to the director’s lecturing of Keith was certainly: “ha, this is such a contrived plot point” and admittedly, the acting isn’t stellar either. For example, Keith’s scenes in the hospital weren’t great and even the more seasoned actors’ love story was a little cringe-worthy actually.
However, (as I may have touched on before), arguably it’s not as though the acting is deathly unwatchable. Points certainly need to be granted for effort if nothing else (because I’ll just as readily admit that I can’t complain, having no acting talent whatsoever to speak of myself!) and I personally feel that the less solid performances merely mean that some of the emotional beats don’t come across as powerfully as they could.
The sweet is still pretty sweet and I won’t grumble about clichés simply because, in spite of their negative connotations, clichés are known as such due to their (originally) formulaic success in positioning an audience to root for a certain pairing. Surely, I’m not saying they’re the only means of achieving this but hey, if they work, I’ll take them any day over new tricks which are novel solely for the sake of rejecting trends and are unconvincing and lacking in squee-factor too.
Whilst I’m much less forgiving towards Keith’s recurrent ‘fat jokes’ (even if they are meant to be teasing, if their purpose is to reinforce that he ‘doesn’t know how to love another’ and if I’m being overly sensitive/politically-correct in thinking they’re unhealthy body-image messages), I do appreciate our CEO’s crumbling façade of perfection this episode, along with Agnes’ explained hot-coldness and (surprise, surprise!) the implied romantic past between Kelvin and Jade is a yes too!