This relationship is creepier than it looks.
Side dish: Shin Joo Yeon drowns her sorrows at a neighbourhood restaurant with soju and mussel soup. It will take higher spirits to make your own. Aeri’s Kitchen provides a recipe here.
Episodes 1-6 Recap
A note before we start: Joo Wan, Allen Joo, and Sweet Potato are the same person.
After emigrating to the United States 17 years ago, Joo Wan (Sung Joon) returns to South Korea, buoyed by rosy memories of his former caretaker and first love, Shin Joo Yeon (Kim So Yeon). Joo Yeon’s reaction to the return of the boy she nicknamed ‘Sweet Potato’ is considerably less nostalgic; annoyed that her mother has volunteered her house as a place for Wan to stay, she cuts the invitation short by telling Wan how much she detests him over the phone.
Joo Yeon is more preoccupied with the prospect of having her boyfriend propose to her, after he is spotted buying jewelry. At the pivotal moment over dinner, the boyfriend proposes breaking up instead.
Outwardly, Joo Yeon takes it all in stride, throwing herself into her job as a fashion merchandiser at a home shopping network. Her work connections get her passes to a performance by the hot, new musician/DJ/producer, Allen Joo, who turns out to be Wan. In the midst of his DJ set, Wan notices Joo Yeon in the audience and vaguely recognizes his former babysitter, but Joo Yeon is too busy batting her eyelashes at him to notice any resemblance to the detested ‘Sweet Potato’.
Allen Joo/Joo Wan and Joo Yeon’s steamy eye contact is interrupted by the arrival of Oh Se Ryeong (Wang Ji Won), Joo Yeon’s frenemy. Joo Yeon immediately starts a bitchy exchange with Se Ryeong as Wan looks on in horrified disbelief. After Joo Yeon stalks off, Se Ryeong confirms that the caustic woman is indeed the object of Wan’s affections.
Convinced that his ‘Shing Shing’ is buried somewhere underneath the cynical Joo Yeon, Wan proceeds to pursue her on two fronts: as ‘Sweet Potato’, he arranges over the phone to stay at her house; face to face, he romances her as the suave Allen Joo. It is to Allen Joo that Joo Yeon drunkenly admits that after five breakups, no one loves her.
Sober and back at work, Joo Yeon is all business, even as her ex-boyfriend crumbles under the emotional strain of working alongside her. Joo Yeon confronts him at his home about his unprofessional behaviour, only to have her frenemy, Se Ryeong walk in. Seeing the two of them together, Joo Yeon leaps to the natural conclusion and attacks. A catfight ensues, with much slapping, hair-pulling, and screeching until she’s dragged away by Wan, who came in with Se Ryeong.
Once outside, she proceeds to destroy the side mirror of Se Ryeong’s car. Except, the car belongs to Wan, who lamely attempts to protect it. As they struggle, Joo Yeon ends up on top of him on the ground with a scraped hand. This brings about an opportunity for Wan to lovingly treat Joo Yeon’s wound, while dropping heavy (and ineffectual) hints as to his true identity.
Meanwhile, back at the home shopping network, Se Ryeong is courted as style director for a new higher end fashion line. Her presence at work disturbs not only Joo Yeon, but also network boss, Kang Tae Yoon (Namgung Min), who Se Ryeong dumped years ago. Everyone pretends that it’s business as usual while sparks of hate fly around the office.
Allen Joo courts Joo Yeon with a campaign of sexual innuendo and smooching on the beach that leaves Joo Yeon believing in love at first kiss. Joo Yeon further devolves into a 12-year-old girl in the aftermath of the kiss as she pouts over Allen Joo’s failure to call. Little does she know that Allen Joo has been calling as ‘Sweet Potato’, and even creepily cleaning her house without her knowledge.
Joo Yeon’s unseen mother proactively prepares a room in Joo Yeon’s house for ‘Sweet Potato’s stay though Joo Yeon has yet to meet her new housemate in person. Despite her aggravation towards him, Joo Yeon remembers Wan’s birthday, and invites him to breakfast. Wan chooses this morning for his big reveal, showing up to the house as Allen Joo while calling her ‘Shing Shing’. Joo Yeon rightfully reacts with horror as Allen Joo melds with her memory of ‘Sweet Potato’.
At work, Joo Yeon is more receptive to the attentions of her boss, Tae Yoon. Back home, Wan, unaware of a burgeoning love triangle, weakens his position by spouting sweet nothings to Joo Yeon. She soon brings his loving memories crashing down by recalling the negative flipside of each one, all tainted by her fear of losing the income that taking care of ‘Sweet Potato’ brought for her and her mother.
Shocked by the revelation that he was not a perfect and beloved child, Wan goes for a walk. Joo Yeon begins to regret her harsh words, and texts him to return home. This is enough to prompt the ever resilient Wan to apologize for having been a brat, and to immediately resume his pursuit of Joo Yeon.
Frenemy, Se Ryeong and network boss, Tae Yoon have their own intense moment in which Se Ryeong announces her intention to win Tae Yoon back. Tae Yoon declares that he has no interest in getting back with his ex, then drowns his true feelings in alcohol. It is Joo Yeon who receives a call from the bartender to come retrieve her boss’s unconscious body.
The next morning sees a return to hijinks when Wan rushes home with breakfast for Joo Yeon only to encounter men’s shoes in the entrance, and a man coming out of the washroom in a bathrobe. Wan acts like a jealous boyfriend, Tae Yoon yanks his chain, and Joo Yeon downplays any sexual association with either man.
Joo Yeon and Tae Yoon arrive at work in the same car, to the dismay of Se Ryeong, who notes that Tae Yoon is wearing the same clothes he wore yesterday. Joo Yeon appears to confirm her suspicions by stating that the boss spent the night at her place.
Work rivalry with Se Ryeong prompts Joo Yeon to spend most of her time at the home shopping network, leaving Wan at home alone. He continues to make gestures like leaving her dinner and flowers, which seemingly go unacknowledged by Joo Yeon.
Wan finally manages to catch Joo Yeon drowning her sorrows at her favourite mussel soup watering hole after a difficult day at work. Wan declares his love for Joo Yeon, and is rewarded with drunken skinship. As he carries his former babysitter home on his back, Wan pictures Joo Yeon as a child doing the same for him as a baby. This sweet memory is followed by a return to creepy when Wan attempts to disrobe an unconscious Joo Yeon to put on her pyjamas.
The next day, Joo Yeon launches her high stakes campaign, which fails spectacularly while Se Ryeong looks on. Joo Yeon stops by her boss’s office as she routinely does after a successful campaign, but this time, Tae Yoon is frosty and addresses her by her work title. Joo Yeon melts away.
At home, Wan finds Joo Yeon in a puddle of her own tears, upset not at her professional failure, but at her boss’s heartless reaction. As he comforts her, Wan comes to the realization that he has a true adversary in Tae Yoon for Joo Yeon’s love, even if she fails to realize her own feelings.
As a side bar, work colleagues seemingly modeled after “Sex and the City” have their own story lines. The character most like Samantha is Lee Min Jung (Park Hyo Joo). Min Jung is adverse to commitment, but dedicated to a regular love hotel hookup every Friday (who turns out to be her neighbour). She is diagnosed with early onset menopause, and told by her callous doctor that as she dries up, so will her sex drive. Her equally callous co-workers, including Joo Yeon, dismiss her concerns, prompting Min Jung to quit via SMS in the midst of an important campaign.
Jung Hee Jae (Yoon Seung Ah) is a younger version of Charlotte who remains wide eyed and innocent even as her and her student boyfriend make like rabbits in his dorm room, splurging on a love motel once a month. However, Hee Jae is tiring of the budgetary constraints of dating a student, and ends up drunkenly kissing the only male member of her team, Lee Woo Young (Park Yoo Hwan), who I could have sworn was pegged as gay. She has the usual conflict of conscience as she remains with her boyfriend while being attracted to her work colleague.
Junggugeo Kaenada 중국어 캐나다: I regret coming late to the “I Need Romance 3” party, but I had a bad experience with “I Need Romance 2012” (see Drama Reviews). So, I completely ignored any news about the latest installment of the franchise. That is, until I learned that #3 is a noona romance and stars Sung Joon and Kim So Yeon!
Only 만: Having watched six episodes, I can’t say I regret missing any of this. It’s growing on me, but more like a fungus.
중국어 캐나다: Maybe noona romances and Sung Joon are my weakness, but I’m really enjoying this series!
만: Are you really enjoying it? Or enjoying it for the randomness?
중국어 캐나다: No, I’m truly enjoying it. Admittedly, I was not a fan during the first few episodes. I thought situations and emotions seemed forced. And, I began questioning whether I really ever liked Kim So Yeon, who I loved in “Prosecutor Princess”.
만: How are you finding the pairing so far? Because I’m not finding it believable.
중국어 캐나다: I actually believe the lead couple individually. I believe that Joo Yeon regards any relationship with Wan as incestuous. And, I believe that Wan is in love with the idea of Joo Yeon. However, any romance they have had thus far has been under false pretenses, so I don’t think we’re expected to find it believable. I would need to watch the relationship progress before giving a verdict.
만: Let’s talk about Wan, then. We joked earlier that the journey of this drama appeared to be Joo Yeon learning to accept his love. But over time, it seems to be more about Wan learning to be less creepy. Because he’s been acting pretty creepy so far.
중국어 캐나다: Wan is creepy, but Sung Joon’s adorableness has kept it at acceptable levels for me. I do like that, in addition to being creepy, Wan still acts like a brat playing at being a man in love. However, he’s learning. He managed not to lash out at Joo Yeon after she destroyed his rose-coloured memories of their childhood. And, he’s sad rather than angry when he discovers that Joo Yeon is in love with her boss.
만: Sung Joon’s cuteness is pretty magical that way. A lot of Wan’s actions are pretty unacceptable, but then so are Joo Yeon’s. Actually, looking back over the recap, she seems to spend a lot more time hating Oh Se Ryeong rather than doing anything else.
중국어 캐나다: Joo Yeon is supposed to be a cold hearted bitch, but I find her professional actions reasonable given her character. She does not tolerate emotions in the office, and she values competence and results over making nice. And, her animosity towards Se Ryeong is understandable; Se Ryeong’s actions are what precipitated Joo Yeon’s transformation from naive romantic into a cynical and hard bitch. By the way, I really like Se Ryeoung.
만: She’s my favourite character so far.
중국어 캐나다: I did not appreciate the other characters slut shaming her and her success.
만: Actually, considering Joo Yeon confronted her ex-boyfriend about being unprofessional at work, the fact that she keeps attacking Se Ryeong (physically and otherwise) goes a little too far for me. Especially the slut shaming. And especially telling her boss that she thinks less of him for having dated her.
중국어 캐나다: No one ever accused Joo Yeon of being reasonable. She thinks she is professional and emotionless, but she betrays her feelings repeatedly. When she is berating her ex for being unprofessional, she is really attacking him on the only front that allows her to retain dignity. And, her reactions towards Se Ryeong are over the top, because Se Ryeong strikes a deep nerve. Finally, with the boss, you know her unprofessional reaction to his dating history stems from personal interest in him, even if it goes unacknowledged by Joo Yeon. What I found ridiculous was the Samantha character, Min Jung slut shaming Se Ryeong. The hypocrisy!
만: Even given her reasons, Joo Yeon’s actions are pretty appalling. And also given that this is supposed to be a group of cool, modern women who don’t bat an eyelash about sleeping with a guy, the slut shaming coming from any of them is pretty awful.
중국어 캐나다: Yes, I think we are seeing the result of a messy hybridization of “Sex and the City” and Korean dramas. The puritanical streak still comes through.
중국어 캐나다: Is there anything you like about “I Need Romance 3”?
만: Sung Joon is cute.
중국어 캐나다: He is dreamy.
만: And I spotted some awesome coats. I wish I could read the product placements at the end.
중국어 캐나다: You can’t say you’re bored by the series.
만: I’m definitely not bored. I don’t like either of the two leads, but I don’t have to like them. I don’t think it’s a great series, but the randomness is keeping me entertained.
중국어 캐나다: The situations were embarrassingly transparent initially, but I think it’s an interesting turn of events to have Wan realize that he doesn’t just need to win Joo Yeon over to the idea of dating him, but he must contend with a serious rival in Tae Yoon.
만: Well, he also seems to have dropped the idea of transforming her back into a nice person through the power of his love, and that’s a relief. If that actually happens, that would be a dealbreaker for me.
중국어 캐나다: It is hard not to compare this noona romance with another recent one, “I Hear Your Voice”. That one also featured an unlovable heroine, and a creepy younger man with an idealized memory of the woman based on childhood experiences. How do they compare?
만: It’s hard to say at this point because we’re still in the unlovable phase here. But going back to my sticking point, in “I Hear Your Voice”, female lead, Hye Sung had far greater reasons to be angry at her rival, Do Yeon, and she didn’t act as badly towards her as Joo Yeon has acted towards Se Ryeong.
중국어 캐나다: And, I suppose Soo Ha showed more restraint than Wan. Though, Soo Ha had to show more restraint given how young he was.
만: Though, Wan’s less mature than Soo Ha, but given the differences in their circumstances it’s understandable.
중국어 캐나다: Do you have any predictions on where “I Need Romance 3” will head over the next few episodes? And, where you would prefer it to go?
만: I don’t have predictions, but I have some hopes. I hope Joo Yeon will have some kind of redemption path that doesn’t have something to do with Wan’s admittedly blind love. I hope Wan becomes more mature. I also hope that Se Ryeong isn’t revealed to be a complete innocent to make the slut shamers feel bad in retrospect. Though, all of these scenarios would be less entertaining than having Wan and Se Ryeong run off together.
중국어 캐나다: Wan and Se Ryeong do have a lot of chemistry. I loved it when she greeted him with a hug, and he reminds her that she should be greeting him in a more Korean way.
I would like Joo Yeon to drop the wide-eye innocent act every time Wan comes on to her. Actually, she has been cynical and dismissive ever since Allen Joo became Wan, so keep up the good work, Joo Yeon. And, I would like Wan to calm down, and stop with the sexual innuendos. It is entertaining, but if I’m to respect him by the end of the drama, it has to stop. But, in a better K-drama world, Wan and Se Ryeong would drive off into the sunset in Wan’s American muscle car.
만: Oh, I forgot something else I liked about this drama! Wan doesn’t have the K-drama emo haircut.
중국어 캐나다: Yes, I noticed that Wan doesn’t have the standard male haircut. Though, Tae Yoon does. What does that say about the boss?
만: He’s clinging to yesterday’s haircut.
중국어 캐나다: I hope Joo Yeon embraces those flowing locks, thus changing the hairstyle landscape of K-dramas henceforth.
만: Yes, if nothing else of value were to come from this drama, that would be enough.
I Need Romance 3 (로맨스가 필요해 3)