Ri Hwan (Lee Dong Wook) swallows his pride to beg his rival, Suk Joon (Lee Jong Hyuk) to leave Haeng Ah (Jung Ryeo Won) alone. Suk Joon coldly challenges the idea that Haeng Ah really wanted to break up with him, but his self-assurance turns out to be an illusion. Suk Joon returns to his own apartment without having delivered the cake to Haeng Ah, and reminisces about the time Haeng Ah forced him to feed her in public by taping her fingers together.
Meanwhile, the taiyaki that Ri Hwan bought for Haeng Ah goes flying onto the floor of his car. Ri Hwan parks on the side of the road and thinks back to when Haeng Ah first got her job as a night show producer. She seems exhausted and pays little attention to Ri Hwan. Instead, Haeng Ah excitedly texts someone on her phone then giddily runs off as Ri Hwan watches with a hangdog expression on his face. In retrospect, Ri Hwan realizes that it was probably the beginning of her relationship with Suk Joon.
The next morning, Ri Hwan addresses his colleague/flatmate, Ji Hoon’s (Lee Seung Joon) alcohol addiction. Ji Hoon refuses to acknowledge any problem, but he does not object to Ri Hwan’s interference, because he knows that it comes out of genuine concern.
Haeng Ah repeatedly attempts and fails to enter a hospital, then lies to Ri Hwan’s mother, Sun Young (Bae Jong Ok) about her whereabouts. However, Sun Young correctly guesses that Haeng Ah is outside, paralyzed by her phobia of hospitals, which was compounded by the unexpected deaths of both her parents after they were admitted into a hospital. As Haeng Ah approaches her 33rd birthday, Sun Young worries about how she can get Haeng Ah medically tested for the stomach cancer that both her parents succumbed to before the age of 40.
Ri Hwan receives an elderly female patient who feels too guilty towards her daughter to be honest with her. This encounter prompts Ri Hwan to attempt to reach Haeng Ah, but she misses his call, and he, in turn, misses her call back.
Downtrodden dentist, Yi Seul (Park Hee Von) arrives at lunch with her older brother, but is appalled to find that her glamourous mother (Park Joon Geum) has joined them, and can’t stop being terrible towards Yi Seul. When she advises her daughter to play hard to get with Ri Hwan, Yi Seul calls Ri Hwan right away, and bluntly tells him that she wants to meet up. Ri Hwan accepts the proposal, but based on Yi Seul’s intensity, comes to the fearful conclusion that she intends to sue him for her injury.
Haeng Ah manages to get a flu shot at the hospital after obtaining liquid courage via a straw in a can of beer. She answers a call to visit her aunt and uncle’s restaurant, but it turns out to be a trick to get her and Ri Hwan to make up after their fight the day before. Ri Hwan slyly digs into whether Haeng Ah ate cake with Suk Joon, but he is surprised to discover that Suk Joon never showed up.
Yi Seul arrives at the aunt and uncle’s restaurant to meet up with Ri Hwan, and Haeng Ah is amused to recognize her as the dentist who kicked her out for having a dog in her arms. Yi Seul is flustered at being recognized then feels like a third wheel in the face of the overly familiar relationship between Ri Hwan and Haeng Ah. Their shared history is exhibited in photographs on the wall of the restaurant, which cause Yi Seul further consternation. Later, while reviewing security video, the aunt, uncle and cousin discover Yi Seul’s creepy fixation on a photo of Haeng Ah.
Ri Hwan goes for a walk with Yi Seul, but their date is repeatedly hindered by her preoccupation with her appearance. Ri Hwan teases her about the height of her new shoes, and after Yi Seul falls over again, he convinces her to change into a pair of ice fishing boots that makes them both more comfortable.
Radio station manager, Dong Il (Park Won Sang) is worried about labour union troubles, but Suk Joon is preoccupied with Haeng Ah. Dong Il tells him not to bother Haeng Ah, because she will be out to dinner with her co-workers.
Haeng Ah is in a planning meeting with divaesque DJ, Se Young (Kim Jung Nan), co-producer, Tae Hee (Kim Ri Na), and their eager junior, the sole male team member. They are debating who to interview on the show when outlandish rumours about Suk Joon come up. An awkward Haeng Ah decides to stay late at work while Tae Hee can only stand by in frustration as her friend suffers angst and doubt about her relationship with Suk Joon.
That evening, Yi Seul goes to Ri Hwan’s clinic to get her ankle treated. She learns that Ri Hwan has never been to a foreign country though he has done all the research in anticipation of taking a spontaneous trip. Ji Hoon interrupts the session with a drunken phone call, and tricks Ri Hwan into joining him.
Haeng Ah eventually joins her colleagues at the restaurant and finds everyone there including Ji Hoon, Dong Il, Ri Hwan, and Yi Seul. Haeng Ah finds amusement in watching Yi Seul gets grilled by a drunk Se Young. However, Tae Hee is vigilant about preventing Haeng Ah from drowning her sorrows in drink.
Yi Seul tries to keep Haeng Ah away from Ri Hwan by offering a ride to him and Ji Hoon, but not Haeng Ah. A concerned Ri Hwan leaves Haeng Ah behind after she appears to be in the process of catching a cab. Instead, Haeng Ah returns to the restaurant and spends the next two hours drinking by herself.
After wandering the streets, Haeng Ah drunk calls Yi Seul to complain about the drink she bought from Yi Seul’s family chain of coffee shops. Yi Seul feels obliged to go collect her, and Ri Hwan shows up shortly thereafter after being called by Yi Seul. Upon seeing Ri Hwan, Haeng Ah runs into a convenience store in a panic, only to be saved by Ri Hwan from an angry man she has insulted. Haeng Ah repays Yi Seul for her trouble with a slimy sea creature in her expensive designer purse, leaving Ri Hwan horrified, but still concerned enough to note the license plate of the cab that whisks Haeng Ah away.
Haeng Ah returns to the office, ostensibly to do more editing. Suk Joon finds her passed out at the controls of the studio. He answers Haeng Ah’s phone when he sees Ri Hwan calling, and purposely provokes Ri Hwan by stating that Haeng Ah is sleeping beside him before disconnecting the phone. Ri Hwan assumes the worst and frantically gets past the security guard, only to be locked out of the soundproof studio by Suk Joon. Desperate and furious, Ri Hwan sets off the fire alarm. Suk Joon has no choice but to open the studio door. Ri Hwan marches right past a shocked Haeng Ah to deliver a punch to Suk Joon’s face.
In a flashback to their childhood, Ri Hwan and Haeng Ah obnoxiously tease the elderly goldfish salesman about his bald head before Haeng Ah’s father intervenes. The children each get a goldfish to take care of, and pretty soon, they are bickering like parents at odds about their child rearing responsibilities. Haeng Ah’s father once again intervenes to knowingly tell them to wait four weeks.
What is becoming apparent is that one of the strengths of “Bubblegum” is their strong cast of supporting characters and the great moments they have with the leads. Ri Hwan’s buddy, Ji Hoon is a lush, but admittedly, an entertaining one and sympathetic, because he acknowledges Ri Hwan’s concern for him. Haeng Ah’s co-producer, Tae Hee is antisocial and hostile, but she is unwavering in her support of Haeng Ah, no matter how frustrating her decisions are. Even Yi Seul’s typical evil chaebol mother fails to be aggravating, because the crap pouring out of her mouth is so ridiculous, and Yi Seul and her brother are an understated comedic tag team in their response to their mother.
In regards to the leads, I worry that their modus operandi will quickly become tedious. Ri Hwan appears to do nothing but support the people around him: he is Ji Hoon’s reliable ride home from the bar, he worries constantly about Haeng Ah, and he valiantly props up Yi Seul’s weak self-confidence. Meanwhile, Haeng Ah displays a childlike disposition that makes me wonder if she is suffering from a disorder. How else to explain her attempt to get Suk Joon to feed her by taping up her hands in a public restaurant, or her infantile mannerisms while sipping on beer and peering at the sun? I think it is enough of a challenge to have a female lead who refuses to acknowledge the problems in her life, and resorts to alcohol to ease the pain, without having to make her puerile as well.
However, let’s focus on one of the many magical moments between Ri Hwan and Ji Hoon in which Ji Hoon attempts to virtually dip into Ri Hwan’s good fortune from dating a chaebol heiress before pinning every virtual won back onto Ri Hwan’s face when the threat of a lawsuit looms.
For the supporting cast I like Tae-hee and Yi-seul’s brother the best, the rest I’m not sure if I find them funny or corny, but I’m leaning towards the latter.
Interesting that you found Haeng-ah puerile. I read it as a forced flippancy. Like you said, she’s trying to ignore her problems, even to herself she pretends she’s okay. Maybe it’s my like of JRW, but she doesn’t do the usual aeygo baby acting a lot of female leads do, so I didn’t catch it. What do you think?
I like Jung Ryeo Won, too, so I’m surprised that this is the approach that she has taken in her depiction of Haeng Ah. What adult, no matter how flippant, wraps their hands in tape in a public place to force her boyfriend to feed her? And, when she was grinning and reaching out for the sun outside the hospital, I wondered whether the beer had already done its job, because she had the mannerisms of a toddler.
If the writers were aiming for immature, I would even have settled for arrested development since adolescence, but Jung Ryeo Won is channeling a prepubescent child. Come to think of it, Gu Hye Sun did the same thing in “Boys Over Flowers” as did Jung So Min in “Can We Get Married?” so maybe this is a K-drama depiction of immaturity.
I thought about it and yes, the restaurant scene was embarrassingly childish. I’ll chalk it up to the weird things people do in love? Maybe they are going for arrested development, since we’ve seen them morph back into their younger selves a few times. She “adults” well enough during the rooftop convos, so maybe its writing inconsistency? Though Ri Hwan’s not winning any grown-up awards either imo. At least they’re on the same level?
I had forgotten about the repeat regression to their childhood selves. You could be right about the arrested development. So, the redemption narrative may be them maturing together.
Hah. About that peeking-through-fingers-at-the-sun, I was thinking that RH found some kinda resemblance to HA and the elderly lady’s dog…
I LOL hard at Ji Hoon picking virtual millions won from Ri Hawn face too. RH expression is priceless too hahaha
Can I be honest?
In most kdramas, the heroine tends to be childish in order for us (the viewers) to find them cute and adorable. Sometimes it works and sometimes I feel like scraping through the screen.
Then sometimes the hero a.k.a male lead act like a Class A jerk being immature and acting like an ass. The heroine tends to look past those traits and fall in love and the hero tends to look past the child, the heroine is, and fall in love.
Best thing is, everyone loves to watch these dramas, sadly me too.
So I have to say, to me, this drama is amazing. Because although HA is so immature at least she’s trying to get past her ex and move on. She’s being an adult there.
And RH is adorable, that’s it.
I’m back to commenting on your site after being MIA for so long! Hi!!! ????
Welcome back! 👋