Secret Garden

Cast: Hyun Bin | Ha Ji Won |Yoon Sang Hyun | Kim Sa Rang

Kim Joo Won (Hyun Bin) is the CEO of LOEL Department store and lives a life in want of nothing. To him, everyone else is just that – nothing. His older cousin, Choi Woo Young, is a Hallyu star known as Oska. When Joo Won is asked to pick up an actress for fear of her making a scandal, he makes a mistake and picks up her stunt double Gil Ra Im (Ha Ji Won) instead. Ra Im is a hardcore Oska fan, but is unaware that he and Joo Won are related. Ra Im wins a romantic getaway with Oska in Jejudo, the location of the music video Oska’s old flame Yoon Seul (Kim Sa Rang) is directing. The cousins and Ra Im make a bet and have a bike race. Ra Im gets lost, and Joo Won goes looking for her. They stumble into a strange restaurant and are given medicinal alcohol that causes them to switch bodies!

ActingAwesome! It’s not hard for Ha Ji Won to act like a man, so the pressure was really put on whether or not Hyun Bin could convince the audience that he was actually a girl. And he did it! His performance added a lot of humour, and also won points from me. I was never big into Hyun Bin, but I’m willing to give him more chances, now.

Ha Ji Won was, of course, fantastic. She was able to be kickass and sassy while still retaining a bit of the melancholy that is her strong point. Yoon Sang Hyun and Kim Sa Rang had characters that rubbed me the wrong way – mostly because they felt like they didn’t belong in the series when they were angsting over each other. But the whole concept of “Oska the Hallyu star” was fascinating. I had to wonder how much of it was Yoon Sang Hyun actually singing. You can kinda tell that he can’t dance, but that’s not important. He’s not an idol, he just plays one on TV!

I think the entire show was really stolen by supporting characters. Most notable would be action school guys (especially Director Im and  sunbae), Secretary Kim, and Ah Young. And of course, Han Tae Sun! The addition of a character not defined by his sexuality was excellent! And while Oska seemed a bit taken aback by the blatant admission to being gay, he came to accept Ssun for who he was: a musical genius. I was very pleased with his addition.

Script: Body-switching is a fantastic plot device to get the characters closer together. And for the first time, I was confronted with an obnoxious rich male that I didn’t want to kill! What set Joo Won apart was his eccentricity, I think. Because the women in his family are rather dramatic (especially his psychotic mother), it makes sense that he’s a bit out of touch with reality.

He may have not developed well emotionally, there was a bit of childish innocence to Joo Won. His infatuation with the real version of The Little Mermaid showed that he wanted someone that he could give up everything for and vice versa, even at the cost of disappearing like bubbles. The addition of extreme claustrophobia made him seem even more realistic and endearing both because we share the same phobia, and because it was the first time for me to see that addressed in a character.

However, I found the Woo Young-Seul arc to be tiring and out of place. Their melodrama should have been its own series, and I felt like their love story didn’t have very much depth, anyway. Seul and Oska were supposed to pull heartstrings, but the drama wasted a lot of time with unnecessarily lengthy stares, or misty eyes while looking off into the distance. Interestingly enough, I felt that separately, the characters were fine.

I was pretty impressed that the drama didn’t play into the most expected love triangle. Ra Im clearly liked Oska as a star and a man, so it should have logically gone Joo Won ► Ra Im ►Oska ►Seul. But instead of Seul liking Joo Won and Oska liking Ra Im, they both shipped Team Amazing (Ra Im/Joo Won). Seul even chased off potential threats to Joo Won’s and Ra Im’s relationship! I was seriously shocked. And while I instantly fell in love with Philip Lee, I recognized that Director Im wanted somebody that he could protect. Ra Im could never be that type of woman, so I was resigned to the fact that my favorite character would be forever alone. But then Hee Won (Joo Won’s sister) showed up and is instantly smitten! I was also very pleased with the addition of her (as yet) one-sided crush.

Music: While certainly not as great as the music drama Mary Stayed Out All Night, the main titles were really catchy! I usually forbid myself from downloading drama OSTs unless I’m still humming the songs for weeks after the show has ended. I really liked 그여자 (That Woman) by Baek Ji Young, as it was the title song. It was lovely without being too over the top. And it fit the main couple’s relationship so well!

Interestingly enough, there are three versions of that song. The original is my favorite, but the “reply” song, 그 남자 (That Man) was a cute idea, even if the lyrics were the same. The most interesting of all was the addition of Hyun Bin’s version, with slightly tweaked lyrics. Since both of the other versions were sung by Baek Ji Young, I suppose they figured that the drama needed a male version of the song.

나타나 (Appear) by Kim Bum Soo was also a good ending song. It had build-up, so that viewers could tell when the episode was coming to an end. It kept with the generally upbeat feeling of the show, which was really good. I feel like the music director did a good job with not using any song too much, even if we knew that a song was going to play based on the dialogue or events. It’s really easy to get sick of a song in a drama simply because it’s overused.

Overall Rating:

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