Side dish: If you depend on dinner from a convenience store to keep your friends, you are bound for heartache. Make something quick like Easy Smoked Sausage Skillet so that they won’t have time to think twice about being your friend.
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We are introduced to the Cinderella-like heroine, Eun Ha Won (Park So Dam), a high school senior living with an evil stepmother and stepsister. She works a multitude of part-time jobs to fulfill her late mother’s dream to have her attend college and become a teacher. Eun Ha is on the verge of paying off the initial tuition fees when her absent father leaves her with the bill for her mother’s ashes. Coincidentally, the amount owing is equal to what she has saved up for college, thus leaving her with a choice between saving her mother’s ashes or fulfilling her mother’s wishes.
Fortunately for Ha Won, financial opportunity presents itself in the form of womanizing chabeol, Kang Hyun Min (Ahn Jae Hyun). His grandfather, the Chairman is getting married for the fifth time, and a desire to disrupt the nuptials prompts Hyun Min to find an inappropriate date for the wedding. Ha Won presents herself as a prime candidate in spectacular fashion after dealing with an unruly customer during a pizza delivery. Hyun Min hires Ha Won to play the part of his fiancée under false pretenses, and a desperate Ha Won accepts the role.
Since this is a small Kdrama world, Ha Won also becomes acquainted with Hyun Min’s cousin, Kang Ji Woon (Jung Il Woo). She watches him take down a gang of thugs to return a stolen purse, gets seemingly cheated by him out of payment for food at her convenience store job, then Ji Woon witnesses Ha Won beg the cemetery director to reinstate her mother’s ashes.
Superficially, Ji Woon is another chaebol grandson, but the truth is that he is illegitimate and was only recently brought into the family by the Chairman. He struggles with his newfound wealth, and finds himself alienated from the mechanics he used to work with. On the night he stiffs Ha Won on the food bill, a devastated Ji Woon realized that he is no longer accepted by his former colleagues.
Now, Ji Woon constantly butts heads with Hyun Min who feels his inheritance being threatened by Ji Woon’s sudden appearance. A third cousin, also a recent addition to the family, Kang Seo Woo (Lee Jung Shin) is less of a threat, because he appears preoccupied with his burgeoning music career.
Since one love triangle is not enough, we are introduced to Hyun Min’s childhood friend and ex-girlfriend, Park Hye Ji (Son Na Eun). She continues to hold a flame for Hyun Min, despite the fact he openly dates other women, including Hye Ji’s friends. Ji Woon feels compelled to protect Hye Ji from being humiliated by Hyun Min. So, though he initially has no intention of attending his grandfather’s wedding, Ji Woon finds himself going for Hye Ji’s sake.
When Hyun Min appears at his grandfather’s wedding with Ha Won, he introduces her as his fiancée in the middle of the wedding procession. A horrified Ha Won manhandles Hyun Min into apologizing, and the Chairman and his right hand man, Lee Yoon Sung (Choi Min) appear suitably impressed.
Even after this public humiliation, Hyun Min appears determined to maintain the charade, and Ha Won goes along with it. When Hye Ji swallows her pride to introduce herself to Hyun Min’s new fiancée, Ji Woon steps in. He targets Ha Won, and after asking if she really needed money that badly, throws a wad of cash at her feet. The episode ends with everyone looking suitably tense and teary.
“Cinderella and Four Knights” is off to a quick start. In rapid succession, we are introduced to the heroine, two prospective suitors, a second female lead, and other sources of drama. I like Park So Dam’s depiction of Ha Won in this introduction: her plucky heroine is neither cartoonish nor saccharine. The same goes for the second female lead, Hye Ji, whose only fault at this point appears to be an attraction towards Hyun Min. Played by Son Na Eun, I hope this role will have more depth than her bitchy yet boring girlfriend in “Twenty Again”.
The two male leads are more soapy, but in a good way. Jung Il Woo plays his rich misfit as a man seemingly always on the verge of tears. He just does intense really well, so it can only get better when he inevitably falls for the female lead.
Ahn Jae Hyun is amusing as the ridiculously caddish Hyun Min. He was great in his understated portrayal of the weird brother in “My Love From the Stars” so I am glad to see him in a role that might return him to comedy. His character seems determined to generate drama and suck everyone around him into his vortex, which can only be good for viewers.
The plot has been predictable, seemingly checking off the usual Kdrama points: poor girl forced into an agreement with a chaebol due to desperate financial circumstance, and oddly drawn to the damaged misfit. However, the pacing has been so brisk, and the execution so charming that I don’t mind the tropes. There is the promise of something new and fresh just around the corner. Can’t wait to see the next episode!