Side dish: If you can’t pick up an order of Korean fried chicken, you could try making your own. This recipe doesn’t produce the dry rub version that I enjoy, but it gets good ratings, so it may be just as good: Korean Fried Chicken (Yangnyeom Chikin).
At a Joseon era banquet, gisaeng, Kim Soo Jin (Song Ji Hyo) tries to catch the eye of another gisaeng who has just made an entrance to the party. Chaos erupts when a group of flying ninjas attack. Soo Jin crawls between fighting men to the other gisaeng. It is at this point that a video camera becomes visible, and Soo Jin convinces the actress playing the gisaeng to sign on for a new movie in development.
A satisfied Soo Jin returns to the company where she is a Production Director. It is an empty office thanks to a lack of funds, with only one colleague, Song Eun Hye (Kang Soo Jin), and the President to hear the good news that will hopefully garner them financial backing. Rather than congratulate her, the President nags Soo Jin to read the webtoon that they hope to acquire the rights for.
Soo Jin is dubious about the webtoon, and disapproves of the male character. Eun Hye likes it, as do a hundred thousand other readers, because the webtoon accurately reflects the frustrations of the contemporary dating scene. Eun Hye suggests that Soo Jin can’t relate due to a lack of relationship experience.
An uneasy Soo Jin joins a group of younger colleagues at a bar. Just as Soo Jin is about to address the group, frenemy Shim Ji Hee shows up, and undermines her professional credibility. At the end of the night, Soo Jin finds out why she was greeted with such great enthusiasm when she is stuck with the bill. Ji Hee also thanks her for dinner then pours salt on the wound by mentioning Bang Myeong Soo (Byun Yo Han) while pretending not to know that he is Soo Jin’s ex.
Soo Jin is packing up to move out of her sister’s apartment when she comes across a photo of her and Myeong Soo posing with “Misaeng” actor, Lee Sung Min. Soo Jin thinks back to how she first met Myeong Soo, when he charmed his way into hitching a ride with her and Ji Hee. Ji Hee was the one who convinced Soo Jin to let Myeong Soo into the car, but Ji Hee becomes the third wheel as Soo Jin and Myeong Soo click over drinks. Even now, Soo Jin smiles at the memory.
After Soo Jin discovers that Myeong Soo is the contracted writer behind the webtoon, she gains a new appreciation for it. However, in discussion with her brother-in-law, Soo Jin scoffs at the idea of working with her ex on such fluffy material. Her brother-in-law points out that since the webtoon is about Myeong Soo’s actual dating experiences, Soo Jin is sure to show up as character.
When Eun Hye has a meeting with Myeong Soo, Soo Jin cannot help but take her place for the opportunity to meet up with her ex again. At the café, Soo Jin is so intent on applying lipstick that she does not see Myeong Soo approach. Startled by the appearance of Myeong Soo, Soo Jin smears the lipstick across her cheek. She then becomes flustered when Myeong Soo wipes the stain off with his hand as he compliments her on her career.
Soo Jin learns that Myeong Soo no longer goes clubbing, but is not married. He reminisces about the time they got stuck in the rain after a music festival, and admits that those were the best times of his life. Soo Jin hides how affected she is by his admission.
Myeong Soo appears pleased when he figures out that Soo Jin is at the café to meet up with a man. Unaware that he is the man in question. Myeong Soo starts to leave to catch his business appointment. There is an awkward moment when Myeong Soo attempts to confirm Soo Jin’s phone number, and confuses her with three other Soo Jins in his contacts list. An irate Soo Jin finally reveals that she is his business meeting contact.
Myeong Soo attempts to win Soo Jin over by teasing her, but she is having none of it. She states that despite the President’s enthusiasm for Myeong Soo’s webtoon, it is unlikely to be adapted into a movie. The situation becomes tense as old hostilities flare up and ends in a stare off. Back home, Soo Jin is still stewing in bed, and ends up venting anonymously via an online forum.
The next morning, Soo Jin wakes up to a financial disaster at the office. The President has cleared out the company bank accounts and left loans in arrears with creditors ready to seize all company assets. After failing to reach the President by phone, Soo Jin and Eun Hye camp outside his house until he finally returns from a day of golf.
The President gives a sob story about using the company funds for his sick child. When Soo Jin and Eun Hye appear unmoved, he offers to go to jail for his crime. He is about to call the police when he starts sobbing about his child again as his finger hovers over the keys.
Things go from bad to worse when Ji Hee steals the writer Soo Jin had contracted. Soo Jin meets with Ji Hee in a fury, but ends up begging on her knees for her movie back, but to no avail.
It is the final nail in the coffin when Soo Jin is contacted by Myeong Soo who wishes to break his contract. Soo Jin is furious, because Myeong Soo intends to sign with Ji Hee, too.
A rainy night reminds Myeoung Soo of more carefree times with Soo Jin, and he decides to honour his contract with her company. At a BBQ restaurant, Soo Jin gratefully prepares food for him then bangs her head against the table to apologize for her harsh words about his webtoon.
The next day, a hungover Soo Jin arrives at the office to find one of Myeong Soo’s ex-girlfriends waiting. Eun Hye identifies her as the cat in the webtoon. It turns out that with Soo Jin’s prompting the night before, Myeong Soo had drunkenly contacted three of his ex-girlfriends. The sexy one depicted by a fox and the violent one represented by a lion arrive soon after. Chaos descends as Myeong Soo is faced with four of his ex-girlfriends in one enclosed space.
Given how humiliating the premise is, “Ex-Girlfriend Club” has two things in its favour. First. a female lead that I can get behind. Despite the standard need to make her relatable via the gauntlet of humiliation, Soo Jin is neither ridiculous nor pathetic. Song Ji Hyo infuses Soo Jin with a believable mix of lingering feelings towards her ex, Myeong Soo, and resentment from breaking up due to unresolved issues. When Soo Jin first meets Myeong Soo, I loved how easily you could feel her instant attraction to him, and how understated the entire scene is.
The second best thing about the show is Byun Yo Han as ladies man, Myeong Soo. The character is a cocky player, and yet, Byun Yo Han is able to back the smug confidence with a charm that makes you understand why Soo Jin would still be drawn to him despite the obvious pitfalls of being in a relationship with him. I just hope Myeong Soo’s three ex-girlfriends don’t play out as predictable, over-the-top caricatures, as their first appearance would indicate. If they do, I hope the chemistry of the lead couple can make up for the crazy.