Side dish: Since I ate a lot of kebab before writing this recap, I’ll recommend the Armenian Kitchen. It’s not easily accessible from downtown, but it’s pretty good if you’re in the area. Order the baba ganoush while you’re there; it’s really delicious.
Much like the first episode, episode 2 opens with Phillip (Phillip Choi) and Soo Kyung (Lee Soo Kyung) running for the subway. Rather than a proposal, this time we are treated to Soo Kyung harassing a teenager for taking up two seats by sitting with his legs akimbo. Soo Kyung tricks him into getting off the train, to the applause of the other subway riders, but Phillip is embarrassed, and wishes she would act more feminine.
Soo Kyung flashes back to when they first met and her assertiveness prompted Phillip to choose her over his then-girlfriend. She complains about this to her workmates, Mi Jin (Kim Mi Jin) and Hong Yu Jin (Sa Kang).
Mi Jin offers the advice that soon-to-be-married couples always fight, but veers off into reminiscing about her own broken engagement. When Yu Jin assures Mi Jin that she’s smart and beautiful, she announces that she’d prefer to be a brainless beauty instead. They find a magazine article on what men look for in a woman, and discover that men like being praised in detail, women who move their curvy bodies like cats, and for women to make ego-boosting comments after sex. Soo Kyung imagines acting like this with Phillip, and unsurprisingly, it looks ridiculous.
Back at the gym locker room, Hwan (Jung Hwan) is bragging about his brainless conquests to Ryohei (Otani Ryohei) and Dong Wook (Shin Dong Wook). They are all shirtless, which I guess is the real significance of this scene, but they complain about women’s expectations of men, and emasculation via carrying women’s handbags. Dong Wook insists that connection is important while Hwan insists that looks are paramount.
I’m so distracted by how horrible everyone’s clothes are that I only belatedly notice that the setting switches to a nightclub where Ryohei is awkwardly dancing with Min Ae (Jang Min Ae). He tries to explain that he’s a bad dancer, but she’s more interested in a seduction competition where they each put the moves on the best looking members of the opposite sex at the club. They meet up with their respective victims and abandon them together. The two victims recover quickly and start putting the moves on each other as Min Ae and Ryohei walk away.
The next day, Yu Jin gets a call from Dong Wook at work. Mi Jin’s attempt to eavesdrop results in Yu Jin spilling coffee all over herself. Before Yu Jin can explain what happened, her phone’s battery dies. As Yu Jin dabs glumly at the tiny stain, Dong Wook calls her on her desk phone to come downstairs; he’s brought her a cellphone battery, fresh coffee and a dress to change into.
The dress is so spectacularly ugly that I’m momentarily robbed of speech, but Yu Jin is happy that it fits that she asks how he knew her size. He almost blurts out that he has a lot of experience with women, but corrects himself in the end. Dong Wook is sitting down for lunch with Yu Jin, when she sends him awkwardly on his way, since she has another appointment. As Dong Wook passes Soo Kyung in the revolving door on his way out, time slows down and sappy music plays, but the two of them don’t meet.
Phillip is in the same crowded elevator as Min Ae, who is being hit on by her creepy student. Another guy cops a feel, but before Phillip can rescue her, she also grabs the guy’s ass and asks him what he’s doing.
Yu Jin appears to be successful, while Soo Kyung meets one disaster after another, until she’s bowled over by a guy who asks if he can take her for a drive. Soo Kyung takes the opportunity to leave with him in his convertible, and thus kicks off the night of bad dates.
Phillip’s bad date begins in Min Ae’s class. Phillip spends more time admiring Min Ae’s ass than taking notes, so she berates him publicly, but invites him out in a note. He goes to the bar with high expectations of further flirtation, only to find Min Ae already sitting with Ryohei. Phillip tries to leave, but she spots him and waves him over. Ryohei is wearing a shiny green leather car coat with orange pants, so I can’t really tell you what they talked about, but while Ryohei and Min Ae carry on an easy flirtation, Phillip grows progressively more awkward.
Yu Jin’s bad date starts when she leaves the speed-dating event to call Dong Wook. She meets him at a wine bar, where she discovers him chatting with the hot wine bar owner. The hot wine bar owner attempts to exclude an awkward Yu Jin from the conversation, who responds by embarrassing herself with her lack of world music knowledge. Dong Wook rescues her, and they start talking about Bongchak, also known as trot music, instead. Miffed, the jealous bar owner threatens Yu Jin in the bathroom to back off of Dong Wook, since she wants him for herself.
Phillip’s bad date continues at the noraebang, where Ryohei and Min Ae ignore his horrible singing to flirt with each other instead. Phillip gets some attention back by dancing, but Ryohei scores a coup by badly singing a cheesy song. I’m not sure whether to be more appalled by Ryohei’s singing or his pants, but Min Ae is entranced and joins him in singing, leaving Phillip alone again.
Soo Kyung, meanwhile, is freezing in the convertible, having accidentally flung her jacket away in wild abandon. Her date refuses to put the top up and mocks her instead. His boss suddenly calls him to return to work, so he drops her off by the roadside, but she forgets her purse in his car, so she chases him. Lucky for her, his destination is around the corner, where his boss berates him for taking off with a customer’s car. The guy grabs Soo Kyung’s purse and walks into the club, with her chasing behind.
Back to Yu Jin’s bad date, the evil glare of the hot bar owner proves to be too much for her, and Yu Jin leaves, protesting that she’s not feeling well. Dong Wook flags down a cab, and gets in with her to take her home.
Yu Jin’s bad date is over, but not so for Soo Kyung and Phillip. Soo Kyung’s usually aggressive voice proves ineffective in chasing down the guy (who turns out to be a waiter in the noraebang), and she mistakenly wanders into a private room. She’s accosted by Hwan, who harasses her with cheesy lines, believing she’s a hostess. Soo Kyung finally escapes, but unknowingly leaves behind her ugly engagement ring. Hwan vows to find Soo Kyung with the ring.
Back to Phillip’s bad date, Ryohei is playing piano at a bar, under the adoring gaze of Min Ae, while Phillip looks discouraged. Soo Kyung still can’t find her handbag, and ends up calling Phillip from a phone booth. Since both of them feel guilty, the conversation is stilted, and leaves me wondering why she didn’t ask him for a ride, since she lost her handbag and her jacket.
Soo Kyung gets home somehow, because everyone’s bad dates are over, and we’re at a wedding with Dong Wook, Ryohei, and Hwan. The three men rate a passing woman, and are about to start on another when the new woman approaches Dong Wook. She turns out to be his ex. Uh-oh. They meet with her new husband, then reminisce about the good old days. He looks panicked as she frantically asks him to run away with her.
It turns out that Soo Kyung is at the same wedding, a fact which does not escape the notice of the lecherous Hwan. She drags him aside to shut him up, but runs off before he can return her ring. During photos for the wedding, Soo Kyung’s paranoid imagination gets the better of her, and she drags Hwan away again, convinced that he’s blabbed to everyone that she works as a hostess. It turns out he hasn’t, and he just gives her back the ring in the end. She’s surprised to realize she didn’t even notice it was missing.
Phillip, meanwhile, tries to casually give Min Ae a ride home. She impatiently accepts his hesitant offer, then dismisses him when they arrive at her apartment building. He ignores a call from Soo Kyung in order to ask Min Ae about what she meant when she hit on him. Phillip ignores her casual dismissal, and instead grabs her to confess that he’s fallen in love. Min Ae is so moved that she tears his clothes off and shags him right there. Just kidding! They kiss, as a forlorn Soo Kyung repeatedly phones him.
Maybe I’m not buying the depiction of male-female relations in “Soulmate”, but this episode was a mixed bag for me. I find Yu Jin bizarre, Min Ae sort of uninteresting, Hwan off-putting, Phillip pitiful, and I can’t get a handle on everybody else. Thus far, no one has really emerged as a full-fledged character, so when they go through wacky misadventures that ultimately lead to sadness or happiness or whatever, it’s hard to work up any interest. Soo Kyung’s engagement with Phillip only happened last episode, so they haven’t really built up any tension on whether they’ll break up or not. Same with Min Ae and Ryohei (whatever their relationship is), and Yu Jin and Dong Wook.
As far as hilarity goes, the laughs range from Soo Kyung’s broad physical comedy to clichéd gender tropes, like the painful conversation about carrying female handbags. There were a few bright spots, but the only moment where I laughed out loud was when I saw Ryohei’s green leather jacket with orange pants; hopefully, bad fashion isn’t going to be the only thing I find funny in future episodes.
Since I’ve been so negative, I’ll come back and say, “Soulmate” is an easy watch and has good pacing. I’ll probably enjoy this show more as the characters progress and become less like one-dimensional stereotypes and more like people.