Choi Soo Hyun (Sung Joon) permits his younger brother, Choi Seung Chan (Jeong Jinwoon) to stay with him on condition that he play one of the three suitors for his psychological experiment. Seung Chan initially objects to having to court 35 year old Go Hye Rim (Han Ye Seul), but decides to participate in order to keep a roof over his head. Soo Hyun readily agrees to pay Seung Chan a salary and reward him with a motorcycle should he win Hye Rim’s heart, because his flower boy student, Won Ji Ho (Lee Joo Hyung) should prove to be a formidable rival.
As cute as he may be, Ji Ho is socially awkward, and tactless, pushing laundry onto Hye Rim just before asking her out for a meal. Hye Rim is horrified by this robot in human skin.
Seung Chan gets to work right away, introducing himself to Hye Rim, and making himself useful in a tank top. He finds out that Hye Rim has a daughter studying in the US, and is told that her husband is dead.
Ji Ho pumps Go Yoo Rim (Hwang Seung Eon) for information about her sister, Hye Rim. When she asks why he is interested in Hye Rim, he robotically proclaims his love. Yoo Rim agrees to disclose all of her sister’s secrets if Ji Ho agrees to be in her documentary. Plus, Yoo Rim will help Ji Ho to act like a human being.
Soo Hyun is puzzling over the cause of his patient, the gymnast’s loss of sight. Hye Rim interrupts his brainstorming to insist that the gymnast is being bullied; the adolescent reminds Hye Rim of her daughter who suffered the same thing. When Soo Hyun is dismissive of her theory, she accuses him of wanting to complicate the matter. The gymnast only wants to be loved, much like Soo Hyun himself. Later that night, Hye Rim’s words continue to haunt him.
With Hye Rim’s suggestion in mind, Soo Hyun asks the gymnast about the day of her botched competition. Though she is initially hostile, the gymnast eventually reveals that she is being targeted by anti-fans, furious that she was photographed touching their idol. They were in the audience of the competition, and because the gymnast did not want to see them, her vision started to blur.
Seung Chan is doing winter gardening as punishment, when a plastic tarp he had laid out flies onto retired psychology professor, Bae Mi Ran (Jang Mi Hee) sitting outside. Seung Chan rushes over to help, and when it turns out that Mi Ran’s taxi has been cancelled, he forces her to wear his coat and takes her home on his scooter. Unaware that Mi Ran is Soo Hyun’s mentor, Seung Chan encourages her to return for more treatment. Mi Ran, touched by Seung Chan’s words, places her hands on his waist. (Awww, they’re playing Toad the Wet Sprocket during the scooter scene.)
Hye Rim receives a frantic call from the gymnast who is being forced to compete, and begging for Soo Hyun to intervene. Hye Rim is shocked to learn from Soo Hyun that he is the one pushing the gymnast to compete, so as not to coddle her. Hye Rim angrily accuses Soo Hyun of trying to cover up the fact that he failed to deduce that the gymnast was being bullied. Soo Hyun defensively points out that Hye Rim’s irresponsible guessing and conjecture could get people killed.
Unbeknownst to Soo Hyun and Hye Rim, the gymnast walks in and overhears their argument about her case. The gymnast interrupts, and thinking Soo Hyun has accused her of intentionally going blind, switches over to Hye Rim for treatment.
Soo Hyun sits alone in his office, listening to a voice message from the gymnast’s livid mother. He calmly goes over his experiment with Hye Rim as the subject, and decides to make himself the third suitor for the sake of revenge.
Hye Rim comes in one morning to find CCTV cameras being installed, purportedly for security and on the orders of the landlord. They are actually for Soo Hyun to spy on Hye Rim.
While Seung Chan and Ji Ho hilariously compete to cook an egg for Hye Rim, Soo Hyun approaches Hye Rim to ask if she wants to be the subject of a psychological experiment. A suspicious Hye Rim immediately refuses. When Seung Chan asks Soo Hyun why he was being so direct, Soo Hyun claims that he is trying to get consent from Hye Rim to participate in the experiment, even if she is not aware of the study’s true objective.
Hye Rim remembers the Chairman (Byun Hee Bong) directed her to stay close to Soo Hyun in order to learn and monitor for any unsavoury activity. Thus, Hye Rim swallows her pride and asks for Soo Hyun’s help in treating the gymnast; in return, she will participate in his psychological experiment.
Soo Hyun immediately starts his line of questioning, asking what she likes. He is purposely vague when Hye Rim asks if he is interested in her personally. Soo Hyun honestly claims that he needs to know her likes in order for the experiment to go well. Hye Rim also completes a MBT1 test to determine her personality archetype.
After Hye Rim receives a bouquet of red and blue roses, she seeks out Soo Hyun in his office but finds it empty. In his absence, she gets a good look at his diploma and awards. Upon his return, Soo Hyun denies that the flowers were sent by him, but Hye Rim is suspicious that this is part of the experiment. Indeed, the flowers are part of Soo Hyun’s plan to intimidate and confuse Hye Rim.
Hye Rim asks Ji Ho about the flowers, and Ji Ho denies then blinks like a robot. Seung Chan claims responsibility, but she immediately knows that he is lying.
Seung Chan goes to Soo Hyun to complain about an unknown competing suitor. With only a slight hesitation, Soo Hyun swears on their parents’ graves that the third suitor is not him. Seung Chan cheerfully concedes that Soo Hyun hated Mom. Soo Hyun thinks back to when Seung Chan was born. It turns out that he and Seung Chan only have the same father, but Soo Hyun appeared to have a good relationship with Seung Chan’s mother.
Hye Rim has no idea who sent the roses, but she continues to receive daily deliveries of a bouquet. She notices that the blue roses are systematically diminishing in number with each bouquet, which points to a countdown. Just as the MBT1 test results told Soo Hyun, Hye Rim gets excited at the prospect of a surprise.
Soo Hyun will help Hye Rim to counsel the gymnast via a one-way mirror, and an earpiece, as part of his plan to help Hye Rim when she is vulnerable. He instigates physical connection by lightly touching her hand while passing over the earpiece. Hye Rim appears unnerved.
During the counselling session with the gymnast, Hye Rim practically parrots Soo Hyun’s words. After some coaxing, the gymnast admits that she hates herself for being stubborn, and not knowing when to stop. This prompts Hye Rim to remember her husband leaving her for another woman, and hating herself as much as he did.
Amazingly, all it takes to turn the gymnast around is some compliments about how cute she is, and stating that she deserves to be loved. However, Soo Hyun’s words also have an affect on Hye Rim who takes them personally.
After the counselling session, Hye Rim goes to find Soo Hyun, but he has already left. It is part of his plan to put butterflies in her stomach then disappear at the moment of decision. She calls him, as he expected, and Soo Hyun refuses her call.
Soo Hyun’s mentor, Mi Ran has changed her mind, and decided to come out of retirement to work with him. Soo Hyun notices her swollen neck while picking her up, and Mi Ran dismisses it, but pointedly looks at a poster warning against procrastinating on cancer testing.
Mi Ran is fondly remembering Seung Chan when he suddenly walks into her new office. He becomes alarmed, thinking that she is a patient, so Mi Ran reveals who she really is. Seung Chan appears confused when Mi Ran flirts with him, and she is embarrassed afterwards by her attempt at flirting.
Soo Hyun meets with the two other suitors to review their reports. Both Seung Chan and Ji Ho object to Soo Hyun’s advantages as a competing suitor, but Soo Hyun uses his authority as a scientist to shut down the discussion. He changes the subject by announcing that Hye Rim will undergo a physical examination in a month, and any suitor who elicits less than 5 percent brain activity will be disqualified. He reminds them that the suitors cannot badmouth each other.
At a gymnastic competition, Yoo Rim gathers the anti-fans who have come to torment the gymnast. Acting on the orders of Soo Hyun, Hye Rim easily reads the teenage girls and convinces them that to save their beloved idol from misfortune, they must show support for the gymnast by singing her favourite song when she steps up to compete.
Meanwhile, Soo Hyun brings the gymnast a recording of the first performance of a Chinese pianist after seven years of imprisonment. Despite not being able to play a piano during his incarceration, the pianist mentally practiced, and came in second in the competition. The gymnast decides to listen to the music, and is mentally fortified by it. This, in combination with the removal of the threat of the anti-fans, results in the return of the gymnast’s vision, and a successful landing in competition.
Hye Rim expresses confusion over how all three of the men around her appear to be pursuing her. Yoo Rim tells her to just enjoy this unbelievable scenario. Hye Rim goes on to enjoy a drive to the supermarket with Seung Chan, Ji Ho, and her sister who tags along. Yoo Rim coaches Ji Ho, but Seung Chan repeatedly trumps Ji Ho in feats of strength, sausage sampling, and shopping cart racing.
The final bouquet delivered consists solely of red roses, but includes tickets to a musical. Hye Rim excitedly goes to the theatre, waiting for the person who sent her the flowers to appear, but Soo Hyun never does.
The next day, Soo Hyun asks Hye Rim how it felt to be left in the lurch, claiming that it is all part of the experiment. After getting Soo Hyun to agree to paying her for her participation in this experiment, she reluctantly admits that she is disappointed, and still wants to meet the person who sent the flowers. However, she does not enjoy the drama.
Ji Ho is standing in Soo Hyun’s office when he returns, and reveals that he knows it was Soo Hyun sending the flowers. He wants to know Soo Hyun’s next step, claiming that it is for his education. Soo Hyun explains that he intends to continue showering Hye Rim with gifts while remaining out of reach, then appear before her at the right time. Unfortunately, just after he has set Hye Rim up to dine alone, a steely Hye Rim appears unexpectedly before him.
The liberal perversion of psychology and research methodology in “Madame Antoine” is so over the top that I don’t even mind anymore. It’s like watching a train wreck when Soo Hyun inserts himself into his own experiment, clearly motivated by petty revenge, and attempts to get Hye Rim’s consent for participation in the experiment after she has already been engaged by study cohorts, Seung Chan and Ji Ho. I laughed out loud when Soo Hyun’s professional treatment of the gymnast, using Hye Rim as a proxy, consisted of complimenting her on her looks and her work ethic.
You have to pity Hye Rim for her selection of suitors. Ji Ho is an emotionally stunted weirdo. Seung Chan is supposed to be the manly option (!). Finally, she has Soo Hyun whose romantic strategy is to repeatedly leave Hye Rim all alone in the lap of luxury. Plus, Soo Hyun’s quest for revenge is creepy, but he is proving to be so inept that I am willing to suspend disbelief that this amoral narcissist is supposed to be the romantic lead.
It was disheartening that a grown woman like Hye Rim appeared to fall for the ruse of the three men so easily. Even worse was how much she relied on Soo Hyun during her counselling session with the gymnast, given how much skill and experience she should have in that very field. So, it was a relief to see her cut Soo Hyun’s ridiculous strategy off, at the end of the episode. Yoo Rim claims that Hye Rim is living the kdrama dream, but to me, the scenario thus far has been more of a nightmare. However, as a spectator, it has been very entertaining to watch this warped depiction of love and science.
Madame Antoine (마담 앙트완)