Mary Stayed Out All Night (Marry Me, Mary! or M3) premiered this Monday on KBS2 with an 8.5% rating. It’s higher than its predecessor Sungkyunkwan Scandal’s first episode, about the same as You’re Beautiful’s first episode, yet probably lower than pundits had hoped for considering the power young couple of Jang Geun Seok plus Moon Geun Young.
Now that I’ve gotten the logistics out of the way, time for some subjective opinions. I started scribbling a recap of M3 while I was watching, partially out of residual Playful Kiss habit, and just in case the drama inspired me to recap it. After finishing the first episode, I’m rather torn. I enjoyed what I watched, but it wasn’t so gloriously gripping that I wanted to run around singing hymns and make a blood vow to recap this baby.
Recaps are long, can be tedious, and more work than reward. I’m always gratified that people like my recaps, but I know myself too well. Unless I’m absolutely loving the drama, any recap I produce will be perfunctory at best, and not worth either the recapper or the readers time. M3 puts me at the crossroads – based on episode 1 alone, I enjoy this drama and will keep watching, but I don’t love it (so far) enough to make a commitment to recap it.
Since I started recapping already, I decided to finish up this recap for episode 1 and see where it goes from here. If I decide not to continue with the recaps, I’ll let you guys know. Never fret, I’m about 110% sure that Javabeans and/or Girlfriday will be recapping M3. Now let’s get this show on the road!
M3 Episode 1 Recap:
There is an outdoor wedding in progress. A pair of flower-tossing children precede the couple, who walk down the aisle setting a new trend for wedding finery. The bride, our heroine Wi Mae Ri, is wearing a short white dress and going barefoot. Her groom has on a short tux jacket over tie-dyed jeans and suede boots. But she looks happy, so bonus points for exhibiting genuine joy at the prospect for marriage. His face is purposely obscured by the camera angle or the sunlight. I’ll take a guess that this is our hero Kang Mu Gyul, played by Jang Geun Seok.
Suddenly, her dad runs up and shouts out “no, this wedding is invalid”, and drags another guy up to the altar. He puts Mae Ri’s hands in his, so now she is holding hands with two guys. Ominous music starts, and suddenly, the new groom’s head goes all Exorcist on me. (Seriously, PD-nim, this scene freaked me out, me no likey – but at least now we know why there were Corpse Bride-esque wedding stills from this drama).
The scene switches to a graveyard where suddenly all the wedding guests have turned into ghouls. The bride screams, and tries to cling on to her pretty unresponsive original groom while shaking off the deathly grip of the new groom (with his head still turned backwards). She smiles a wan smile for the wedding photographer……and we cut to a normal scene outside an apartment complex.
A bunch of movers are at the apartment of our Mae Ri. She appears to be willingly helping them move. The movers leave, and Mae Ri turns and looks at a completely empty apartment. She sits down dejected, but counts to ten and embraces to the new-look apartment with renewed energy. She says it’s so spacious, and she can run in there now. She heads to her neighbor’s pad to retrieve a huge suitcase and some other objects she’s stashed there beforehand. Immediately, we can tell that Mae Ri is a practical, thoughtful, and cheerful young lady. I like her already. I hope she doesn’t have to marry a ghouly husband.
Mae Ri unpacks and watches TV, noting that a beautiful actress named Seo Jun is onscreen. She has pretty much only clothing left and some books, which makes her wish she can resume school soon. Mae Ri makes a bibimbap with all the leftovers, since without a refrigerator it’ll all go bad. [Even though I didn’t watch Cinderella Unni, I do know that the first scene in that drama is Moon Geun Young cooking a meal and scarfing it down because she doesn’t know where the next meal will come from, so this was likely an inadvertent wink wink].
The camera pans up to a picture hanging on the wall, and it’s a family portrait of the Wi family. It’s clear that Mae Ri looks just like her mom (with Moon Geun Young playing both roles). A man is sitting in a lavish Japanese tatami room, holding the picture of Mae Ri’s mom and sighing. He calls his son in to see him, and said son is Byung Jung In, played by Kim Jae Wook. Jung In is a television producer in Japan.
We see Jung In is a harsh critic, telling a not-so-talented budding Japanese singer that she doesn’t need to try hard in the future. For someone who doesn’t have any talent, trying hard is pointless. Jung In goes to see his father, and presents him with a proposal to film a K-drama. The father is to-the-point, a successful K-drama can bring in the rewards, and conversely a failure will mean nothing.
His father is willing to invest, but on the condition that Jung In gets married. This father is way old school, stating that only after becoming a husband can a man make a successful career for himself. Jung In doesn’t even blink or cringe, he simply agrees to his father’s request.
Mae Ri’s dad returns to the apartment, but more debt collectors come to look for him. They turn off the lights and pretend they are not home, but eventually Mae Ri has to misdirect them away. She tells them Wi Dae Han is not her birth father, her mother re-married him, and that he used to beat her. She tells them to contact her if they find him.
Mae Ri gets a call, and she tells her friends she can’t come out because she’s watching dramas (more likely she can’t afford to go meet with them). She hears that one friend is drunk, and agrees to go drive them home, for a fee. But since they are all together, and Mae Ri got paid, she agrees to spend the night out with her friends having some fun. They decide to go to Hong Dae, likely a trendy area.
A man carrying a guitar case on his back is walking through a crowded area, with headphones on listening to music and not paying attention to his environs. It’s Mu Gyul, of course. Mae Ri turns the car into a small street, looking for a club to go to, and accidentally runs into Mu Gyul. She gets out of the car to see if he’s alright, and they make eye-contact the K-drama way (with slo-mo and a crescendo of classical music, plus the car headlights illuminating them – this would be lame if it weren’t done so self-referentially tongue-in-cheek).
Mae Ri sees that Mu Gyul’s hand is bleeding and frantically asks again if he’s okay. Mu Gyul is completely unfazed and rather laconic – he licks his finger and says that he’s fine. Mu Gyul gets up and walks away. Mae Ri’s friends also exit the car, and one friend states that Mu Gyul turned around to look at her license plate. What if he’s planning to extort them for money later on for the accident? Mae Ri is especially worried when her friends say that she’ll be responsible for any settlement money since she was driving the car.
Mae Ri follows behind Mu Gyul. She loses him in an alleyway, but walks into a club in time to catch the performance of “Take Care, My Bus.” A girl is watching Mu Gyul in the crowd, we can see that its Seo Jun, our second female lead played by Kim Hyo Jin. Mae Ri is jumping around trying to catch Mu Gyul’s attention to ask if he’s alright, and she bumps into Seo Jun. Mae Ri recognizes Seo Jun, which leads to Seo Jun leaving the concert.
Mae Ri is awed by the performing-on-stage version of Mu Gyul – quite a turnaround from the dude she ran into with her car. She’s happy to report to her friends that he appears fine, but when she is about to leave, she worries that he may still decide later to press charges. Mae Ri takes out her cellphone and snaps a picture of him to prove he was hale and hearty after the accident.
After the performance, Mae Ri goes to wait for Mu Gyul, joining a gaggle of female fans. Mu Gyul comes out, and he’s both friendly and dispassionate, hugging everyone but not connecting with anyone. He sees Mae Ri and gives her one of his hugs, thinking she’s just another fan. Mae Ri continues to follow Mu Gyul, and sees a woman slap Mu Gyul (she calls him a Bad Guy and asks why he is treating her this way).
This leads Mae Ri to conclude that Mu Gyul MUST be a bad dude, and is clearly capable of extorting her for money later on. She follows him to a restaurant, where she sees him meeting with yet another woman. Unbeknownst to Mae Ri, the lady is trying to get Mu Gyul to ditch his bandmates so that he can become more famous, which Mu Gyul declines.
It turns out he’s already signed a contract with her, but Mu Gyul just nonchalantly rips it up. He gives her some money (which apparently came from Mu Gyul ending a lease), and he asks her to let him out of the contract. The lady agrees, conceding that Mu Gyul would never listen to her anyways, and it’s hard to get along with him. She leaves and Mu Gyul continues drinking.
Mae Ri approaches and manages to get him to sign a piece of paper by saying that she’s a fan and wants his autograph. Mu Gyul scrawls a huge signature on the middle of the page, and Mae Ri asks him to re-sign a smaller autograph on the lower right hand corner instead. Mu Gyul reaches over to give her a hug (It’s clearly instinctive for him at this point), but Mae Ri quickly declines the fan service and leaves.
Mae Ri uses his autograph and tries to write a statement of fact about the accident absolving Mae Ri of any responsibility. Mu Gyul comes out and tears it up. She follows him and they go for a drink. Mu Gyul confirms again that he is fine. When Mae Ri asks him to write a statement, he wonder whether she’s been cheated her whole life, i.e. why is she so distrustful of people.
Mae Ri confirms that she has been cheated her entire life, and she doesn’t trust anyone other than family. No, she corrects herself, she doesn’t trust anyone now. Mu Gyul nods his head and agrees that family shouldn’t be trusted. He offers her a drink, and she declines saying that she’s got no alcohol tolerance.
When Mu Gyul looks at her with an intent mild glower, she agrees to drink if he writes a statement about the accident. After she takes a sip, she asks Mu Gyul to write the statement now, but he says that he won’t be signing anything anymore. Mae Ri then throws his words back at him – has he been cheated his whole life? He nods a yes.
Mae Ri decides to keep drinking with Mu Gyul, if she can get him drunk she can wheedle a statement out of him. When Mu Gyul pours her a glass, she turns to pour the soju out and pretend the drink, but Mu Gyul totally sees through her ploy. He tells her not to dump out the soju – in fact, she has to drink an extra shot as her penalty for breaking the drinking rules. They proceed to get plastered.
They are wandering their way home. Mu Gyul is holding Mae Ri’s hand, and she jerks her hand away to grab a pen and paper and wave it in front of him to sign a statement again. He tells her she’s so annoying, but then pinches her cheeks, saying that’s she’s cute. Mae Ri tells her to stop it – she’s in a bad mood already. When asked why, she says her family, everything, she’s just had a rough day.
Mu Gyul feels bad that she’s had a rough day, and offers her a hug. Okay, Mu Gyul and his serial hugging have GOT to be a running gag that I’m sure is going to come back in 13 episodes to carry another meaning. Mae Ri pushes him off her, chiding him for being huggy when he’s drunk. She gags a little from all that alcohol consumption, and when she looks up again Mu Gyul appears to have disappeared. Mae Ri gives up and is about to go home.
Mu Gyul pops up again bearing a bouquet of kale(?), and notices that Mae Ri has a scar on her forehead which she uses her enormous hair to obscure. Mu Gyul brushes away her bangs to look at her forehead, and says that she’s really pretty. He then compares her scar to Harry Potter, and then leans in to kiss it. Normally I’d squee, but Mu Gyul looks like he’d kiss the neighborbood halmoni if he feels like it, so this is clearly not a biggie for him. For Mae Ri, it’s like she’s seeing stars in her eyes. She sighs and says that Mu Gyul is such a free spirit. Understatement of the century.
Mu Gyul collapses by the side of the street, dead drunk and sleeping. Mae Ri drops down next to him, sighing that she’s exhausted, today feels like 3 full days and 4 whole nights. The next morning, Mae Ri wakes up in her apartment. She’s astonished to see that she brought Mu Gyul’s guitar back with her. The case is already open, and Mae Ri sees a picture of a girl taped to the inside. She thinks it’s his girlfriend, and shakes her head at the number of girls this guy appears to have.
She’s late for her job cleaning an office, and runs off, leaving Mu Gyul curled into a ball sleeping in the apartment. She’s a hard worker, but unfortunately gets laid off when her boss reveals the company’s not doing so well and can’t afford to keep her. Mae Ri comes home dejected with her belongings in a box. She counts to ten again (clearly her self-cheering method), and tells herself the job had a low pay and made her do odd jobs all the time. She should use this opportunity to find a better job.
Mae Ri turns on the TV to watch a drama. She is inching her way to the bathroom when suddenly the door opens and a freshly washed Mu Gyul steps out. Mae Ri screeches in shock, but the darn music and slow-mo pops again, leaving her imaging Mu Gyul asking her in a halo of light for some conditioner (oh god, so meta). Mae Ri wonders how Mu Gyul found her, and is informed he brought her home last night.
Mae Ri tries to push Mu Gyul out, telling him that a guy with a girlfriend should be acting this way. He’s confused about the having a girlfriend part, and Mae Ri reveals that she saw the picture in the guitar. Mu Gyul reveals that it’s a picture of Seo Yeon. Mae Ri keeps shoving him towards the door and ends up hurting him where she ran into him yesterday with her car. Turns out Mu Gyul has a nasty bruise on his waist from the impact of the car. She allows him to stay and ministers to his bruises.
Mu Gyul lounges on the floor like a pasha, watching TV while Mae Ri puts ointment on his bruise. She asks if he needs to go to the hospital, and he declines. She’s all pretend cheery, but seething internally that Mu Gyul would be a total jerk if he asked to go to the hospital for such a minor injury. She thinks to herself that she really should have gotten that statement from him yesterday.
Injured pasha asks Mae Ri how old she is, and confirms that he’s the same age as her, twenty-four. Mae Ri is astonished, especially since she’s been using jeondaemal with him, and he tells her to use banmal from now on. He continues with the 21 questions, and asks her name. When she says Wi Mae Ri, he takes that name Mae Ri one step further and connects her with Merry Christmas.
Mae Ri’s face tightens, and reveals that was her hated nickname from junior high. He gets up to leave, but then falls right back down in agony. He thinks his hip bones are bruised. Mae Ri gets on the phone with her friends, and confesses that she’s being targeted by a swindler. Her friends won’t give her any money to help pay off Mu Gyul (who is really looking for a place to crash and not any cash).
Dejected, Mae Ri curls up to sleep, but Mu Gyul’s guitar-playing is keeping her from getting any shut eye. She sits up and resolves to go cut his guitar strings. Some random editing pops up – the next scene is of Mae Ri’s dad running from debt collectors, and then unsuccessfully trying to kill himself but lacking the courage to follow through.
The next morning, Mae Ri is going through want ads looking for a new job. She’s one semester shy of graduating from college when she had to take a leave of absence, but this puts her at a disadvantage. Mu Gyul finally gets up, and proceeds to cook Mae Ri’s last pack of ramyun noodles. Mu Gyul asks whether Mae Ri stopped attending school because she can’t pay her tuition. When she wonders how he knew, he states that he also took a leave from school. The two of them then proceed to adorably fight over the pot of ramyum. Not in a fake way, but in a genuine I’m-really-hungry way.
After the meal, Mae Ri is washing dishes while Mu Gyul strums his guitar and chomps on some gum. She calls him Mr. Grasshopper, and tells him that summer is over, shouldn’t he prepare for winter now? She gets fed up and shows him the picture she took during the concert which shows a hale Mu Gyul performing. He points to his hip, and she says that must be a birth mark or something.
When Mu Gyul raises his eye brows at her, Mae Ri just wilts and apologizes for doubting him. But he must be fine now, right? Mu Gyul stands up to leave, because he has a performance today. Mae Ri bows to him and thanks him profusely for leaving. She gets him to sign (finally) on the statement absolving her of any responsibility. He walks out with a Merry Christmas, and she wishes him a Happy New Year!
At the club, which has closed down, the band mates are pissed and take turns pawning a now homeless Mu Gyul on each other. All the while the homeless one sits around looking bored and playing with his hair. Jung In and his daddy arrive back in Korea. His dad goes to the cemetery, and runs into Mae Ri’s dad, who is getting beaten up by the debt collectors.
Jung In’s dad helps to scare off the debt collectors, and Mae Ri’s dad recognizes him and calls him hyung. Clearly these two guys have a longstanding friendship of sorts. Mae Ri’s job search isn’t going well, and she doesn’t even have money to take the bus. She walks all the way home to find notes plastered on her door about overdue bills and her landlady demanding money.
She counts to twelve this time, but she can’t keep her tears from coming. She cries and calls out to her deceased mother, telling her that she’s had such a difficult year. Today was the anniversary of her mother’s passing, and she wasn’t even able to go visit her grave. She wonders what’s going to happen to their life now.
Suddenly there is a knock at the door, which opens to reveal a happy and drunk Mu Gyul. He says Merry Christmas to her, and comes right on in. He asks to stay for a few days, and gives her some money. He says that her house is comfortable, and he feels like he has a sibling-esque relationship with her. He says he won’t stay for more than a week – after a week all the girls want to marry him and that’s just a bother.
Mae Ri tries to get Mu Gyul to leave when suddenly her dad comes home. She shoves Mu Gyul into the bathroom and opens the door for her dad. Her dad comes home elated, telling Mae Ri that he’s found a way out of their predicament – Mae Ri will be marrying a rich man and his debts will get paid off. He’s says that since Mae Ri doesn’t have a boyfriend, it’s perfect.
Suddenly there is a tinkling noise from the bathroom, and the toilet flushes. Dad opens the door to reveal Mu Gyul zipping up his pants. Mu Gyul turns to greet the intruders with a drunken grin.
Thoughts of Mine:
My impression of the first episode of M3 is this: I like the set-up, the execution is passable, but I LOVE the OTP. To an unhealthy degree – I absolutely adore, individually and together, the characters of Wi Mae Ri and Kang Mu Gyul. The pitch-perfect performances by the respective Geuns is simply icing on the cake.
It’s been awhile since I’ve fallen madly in adoration of lead characters right from the get go. This is different than liking someone because you find the actor/actress attractive. This is a pure character-driven love, stemming from how these two characters have been constructed on screen. I am immediately smitten – I find both of them whimsically charming – and now I care about their story.
Mae Ri is your run-of the-mill poor K-drama heroine, but her personality and attitude signals a refreshing change of pace for me. She’s realistically spunky and optimistic (nothing she does is over-the-top or ridiculous at all), without the added baggage of being crass or rough-and-tumble. I like that she’s very smart – you can tell both academically and street-wise – yet practical. She’s adorable with her coping mechanism at her plight in life, yet she has personality that is alive and kicking when confronted with obstacles she has to cross.
Mu Gyul is….let me take a minute here, but he’s freaking awesome. I think this might be my favorite Jang Geun Seok character ever. He’s this go-with-the-flow dude who is three steps away from becoming a flower child, yet he’s not so crazy that he becomes a caricature. He has depth (which we have yet to see but can glimpse) in the little ways he interacts with Mae Ri and everything around him. He appears to be someone who just doesn’t want to care too much or think too hard about anything, and likely this will all change with the entrance of Mae Ri into his life.
We’ve barely met our second leads, so I can’t say anything more than they both look great onscreen. Episode 1 was devoted about 95% to Mae Ri and Mu Gyul – and our OTP spend so much time together I don’t recall any drama starting off with the lead couple in such close and constant proximity to each other (not that I am complaining).
So what is the verdict about the Geun-Geun couple – #$^%&*^$##%^$%^ these two young actors have such amazingly fluid chemistry with each other. It’s not the sizzling “I want to rip your clothes off” carnal sensual chemistry (yet), but rather this humming below the surface awareness of each other. They make their eccentric characters feel alive on screen and believable, and they effortlessly make each interaction between them feel charming and quirky.
M3 feels like it has the chance to be the best of both worlds – an interesting story and characters that will keep our interest, plus a burgeoning palpable chemistry between the leads. Right off the bat, Jang Geun Seok and Moon Geun Young do such an incredible job at striking just the right balance when acting opposite each other in any scene – a mixture of curiosity and ambivalence that doesn’t feel like they are forcing a romance, but rather striking the first flames of a possibly quite magical pairing.
If I were to deduct any points – it would have to go to the pedestrian directing of this episode, and the ridiculous and cringe-worthy fantasy opening sequence. The whole Corpse Bride sequence, whether stand alone or as part of this drama, was awkward and heavy handed. Other than that, I enjoyed all the subsequent scenes.
Where will M3 go from here? I honestly don’t know. Tomorrow will be yet another set-up episode, and I don’t foresee this drama delving into the substantive storyline until next week, at the earliest. I find that the tone of M3 (other than the strange fashion choice to dress Mae Ri like a K-version of a cat lady and the graveyard wedding fantasy sequence) is rather down-to-earth and soothing. It puts me in the mood like Mu Gyul’s character – I just feel like chilling, strumming my imaginary guitar, and shooting the breeze.
[Credit: all screencaps from Baidu Mary Stayed Out All Night bar]