Be careful of what you say! That’s what I thought to myself after watching Episodes 3-4 this past week. I used to — still do, actually — complain about the quality of Mainland/Taiwanese dramas and how they usually suck major poopoo. That was before this gem of a drama came along. You have no idea how many times I’ve pinched myself just to make sure that I’m actually watching a Chinese drama. I’m not trying to overgeneralize the entire entertainment industry in China or Taiwan, but I will say that this is the first non-Korean drama airing in 2010 that I’ll be finishing from beginning to end. And that’s saying something. The score is amazing, the execution is spot-on, and the acting makes me go *SQUEAAAAAL* like a dodo on crack. Heck, my neighbors might even think I’ve turned into a pig overnight, although that would be perfectly alright for me too. Hmm, I doubt it’s possible for a dodo to turn into a pig though. It would have to involve some crazy voodoo spells or laboratory tests, which I would politely decline participating in.
Technically, I’ve only seen two hours of the drama thus far but we’re already 1/3 done! Anyhow, sorry for this late recap. This has been one crazy week! Anyways, I do love this drama. It’s still a little early for me to declare that this is the best Chinese drama for 2010. Still, I’m betting my money on this one. It’s just that good. Let’s not even mention Joe Cheng in this episode because that man and his trademark smirks are making me turn loony!
Episode 3-4 Recap:
The next morning, Store Manager is worried. Where’s Xia Tian? He was expected to sign a lease contract this morning, but he has yet to show up. Yuan Yuan assures the boss that she’ll handle the situation, so no worries. She’s got what it takes to handle handsome men like Xia Tian. (Over my dead body, girl! Get in line first! Rawr!) Meanwhile, Ye Zi is reflecting back to yesterday’s events, particularly the part when Xia Tian hands her his handkerchief. She smiles shyly to herself as she remembers the entire scene. Yuan Yuan notes that Ye Zi is blushing and snatches the hanky out of Ye Zi’s hands. What results is a cute reach-and-grab exchange between the two girls. Too bad Yuan Yuan’s got the upper hand (literally).
Finally, the two girls stop this silly little tag as Yuan Yuan peruses Ye Zi’s face. She concludes that something must have happened between Ye Zi and Xia Tian. Ye Zi’s face betrays any potential excuse she could’ve come up with. Flustered, Ye Zi can’t come up with a good explanation to refute Yuan Yuan’s assumptions. Through a quick trip down memory lane, we see that somethingdid happen with Xia Tian — something called SKINSHIP!
AIEEEE! Apparently after Ye Zi dangerously jumped in front of Xia Tian’s car, the two headed back to Ministop to get a bottle of beer. As Ye Zi hands Xia Tian the bottle, their fingers tentatively brush against each other — and Ye Zi is definitely not the only one affected. A flicker of awareness pass through Xia Tian’s eyes, and he gently lifts a hand to her forehead. He asks whether if her cold has gotten better now, in which Ye Zi happily replies that she does feel a lot better. Wow, kudos to her. Hey, if Joe Cheng — no, Xia Tian — ever asked me if I was feeling better, I would’ve feigned sickness so that he could sit by my bedside and take care of me. Don’t judge! You know you would do the same!
The smile on Ye Zi’s face is so wide that her mouth looks even wider than when she tried using two chopsticks to perfect it. Like Xia Tian says, “A genuine smile comes from within!” Oh man, I am so gone. Anyway, Bao Qiang Ge (The “Ge” basically means Big Brother/Oppa) finds Ye Zi in her happy state but immediately thinks that she must be fevering. Seeing how flushed her red her face is, the poor guy doesn’t know that Ye Zi is just perfectly fine. He reaches out to touch her forehead but Ye Zi pulls back, grinning sheepishly. Yuan Yuan intercedes and reassures Bao Qiang that Ye Zi is just extremely tired from working overtime. Her health is fine so he doesn’t need to worry. Bao Qiang isn’t too perceptive so doesn’t read more into this. He reminds Ye Zi that since her mother is coming over the next day, he’s already made all the hotel reservations. He’ll also be in charge of dinner preparations. Never mind the costs as long as Mommy is happy!
Back in the apartment that he shares with Flora, Xia Tian looks over at their couple photos. One photo of Flora brings him back to the earlier days of dating. The two had only started off in their careers but it was then that they were the happiest. When they took the photo together, Flora had raised a hand to fix his hair. It’s interesting that Xia Tian fondly remembers that small gesture. Again, it’s a small, albeit nice symbol that is similar to Ye Zi’s earlier scene. These side by side comparisons of our OTP are seriously killing me.
Flora comes home to see Xia Tian packing his bags. His actions only add more fuel to the fire, as she can’t believe that he’s going to leave like this. Methinks the lady didn’t take him seriously when he said that they were breaking up for good. Flora thinks Xia Tian is acting like a child throwing a tantrum. The problem is that SHE’S the child, not Xia Tian.
She pleads with him before he leaves. Wasn’t this all a part of their dream? Xia Tian smiles sadly and tells her, “No, it was all your dreams, not mine.” Flora tries to refresh his memory with their past, saying how they suffered together just so they could reach this point in their lives. Now they they’ve attained fame and money, why would Xia Tian suddenly give up? If he has dreams, they’ll accomplish it together… in the future. In fact, she just signed another contract. Xia Tian doesn’t care about any of that stuff. Instead, he brings up something else.
Xia Tian: Flora, do you still love me?
Flora: If the contract with the company is broken, we’ll have to pay lots of money back to the company.
Xia Tian: So that’s why we can’t publicly announce that we’re actually in a relationship.
Flora: Just wait until this contract term is over, I’ll go anywhere with you. If you want to photograph the wild and natural scenery in Africa, Ge Bi, or whatever, I’ll do it! When that time comes…
Xia Tian: It’s again going to be “When the time comes.” When IS that time?
Sadly, Xia Tian still decides to leave. The future he sees isn’t a dream of them together, but one that fulfills Flora’s dream, not his own. Now he has to figure out what he really wants for himself. He drives off, with Flora looking down on at the parking lot. Her expression isn’t that of sorrow, but rather disappointment. At this point, I doubt the break-up has truly sunk in to her system. If she really understood what he meant, she would be ripping that contract apart and running after him. Oh well. Her loss, Ye Zi’s gain. This probably isn’t the first time Flora has signed a contract without consulting the terms with him or the first time he’s heard that this contract will be the last one.
Business has been slow at Ministop, so Ye Zi is on her laptop checking on a blog she frequents. In the previous episodes, Ye Zi had asked the anonymous blogger if a small leaf would be able to grow. The response is, “Even a small leaf, will try their best to photosynthesize.” Encouraged, Ye Zi promises to work hard to become a big plant despite living in a tough natural forest environment. (Remember, her name means “leaf” in Chinese!)
On her lunch break, Ye Zi ritually shares her bread with Xiao Lu, which I will add is the cutest little dog ever! Somebody get me one for Christmas, okay? I swear I’ve been good all year.
Ye Zi talks to Xiao Lu since there’s no one else to listen to her thoughts. She admits that there’s always this feeling of wanting to be around a certain individual. *cough* Xia Tian *cough* She knows that her mother wants to set her up with Bao Qiang, but believes it’s unfair for her to marry someone she doesn’t even like. She would like that freedom to choose whom to marry. Of course, Xiao Lu doesn’t really care as he munches on the pieces of bread in Ye Zi’s hands. Xia Tian pulls up in the parking lot but escapes Ye Zi’s notice. He listens to Ye Zi declaring that she’s envious of Xiao Lu, who doesn’t have a care in the world as long as he’s fed. He also happens to overhear that she’s never dated before, but will have to marry Bao Qiang Ge.
Finally, he can’t help but sneak up behind Ye zi to say, “Oh, are you two companions? Since you are, how about splitting this hot dog in two?” LOL! He nonchalantly adds that since humans are like dogs, they also need to have a balanced diet. With that, he gets back into this car and drives off, leaving Ye Zi unsure of how to interpret what just happened.
Xia Tian does sign the leasing contract for the house, so Store Manager is in charge of gathering workers to move his things in. Anything that involves Xia Tian piques Ye Zi’s interest, so she watches as the movers bring boxes of personal items into the house. A worker accidentally drops a photo that catches Ye Zi’s attention. It’s a photograph of a bird that’s spreading it’s wings wide just before it takes off. (Symbolism!)
During the night, Xia Tian’s drinking a glass of wine when he gets a call from a wildlife magazine company. It’s the magazine’s ten-year anniversary, and even though they know Xia Tian no longer photographs wildlife, they still want to invite him to participate in their special edition for next month. Turns out, Xia Tian’s booked for the next three months, so he can’t take up this special project. With that, he declines the offer, although it’s apparent he would rather screw his current workload instead.
Refusing the opportunity to do what he loves depresses Xia Tian. Oh, the cursed contract! The next thing we see is Xia Tian staggering towards the convenience store. He’s definitely had more than a couple shots before he enters Ministop. He expects Ye Zi to be working the night shift, and even smiles drunkenly while calling out her name. Yet the girl that turns around is actually Yuan Yuan, not Yet Zi. He has no other excuse to be there, so he buys another bottle of beer and heads outside.
Since Ye Zi bought a radar to detect whenever Xia Tian is within close proximity, she spies him heading out of Ministop as he’s leaving. Just kidding. Ye Zi just happened to see him as she was on her way back to the shopt to pick up her purse. She storms into the convenience store, grabs her forgotten bag, and quickly runs out. On a small bridge overlooking the entire city, Ye Zi quickly catches up to Xia Tian. (Omg, the view!) It’s like he senses another presence, because he starts venting about his past relationship with Flora. Even though Ye Zi doesn’t know what he’s talking about, she listens quietly.
Xia Tian: Two people share a bowl of ramen together, riding the train for days and nights. Then they took a car and rode to shoot the Gobi Desert while carrying really heavy equipments. It was so tiring and difficult. But at the same time, why were both of us so happy? So happy. Say, when two people are together, no matter how hard life is, they need to support each other. Yet why is it that once fame is attained, none of this matters anymore? Because of fame, the two individuals drift further and further apart.
With that said, Xia Tian suddenly cries, “I want freedom! I want to live my own life! I want to live my own life!” He says it repeatedly that it becomes like a cathartic mantra. Ye Zi eventually joins him, and the two scream their hearts out across the river. This, my friends, is phenomenal acting. Ahh! My favorite scene in the entire episode! More on that later.
Eventually Ye Zi asks Xia Tian whether she should take him home or not. An incoherent Xia Tian turns towards her, reaches out a hand like he’s going to run his fingers through her hair, but instead plants a kiss on her cheek. He stumbles to the floor and throws up while Ye Zi puts a hand on her face to where he lips were. Haha! She totally forgets that he’s on the floor for a minute. I lalso ove how the sweet, melodious music in the background stops immediately when Xia Tian kisses her. It’s a nice wake-up call, particularly for Ye Zi.
Mom calls Ye Zi early in the morning to tell her that she’s already on her way there. She reminds Ye Zi that the they’ll be having dinner with Bao Qiang tonight too. Then Mommy also asks whether Ye Zi has excused herself from work yet.
At Ministop, Yuan Yuan is surprised to find Ye Zi showing up for work. Store Manager was notified about the Big Dinner tonight, so that’s why Yuan Yuan is covering her shift! Before she leaves, Ye Zi can’t help but ask if Xia Tian stopped by the store today. He hasn’t, of course, but Yuan Yuan again (correctly) assumes that there must be a reason why Ye Zi’s asking. It’s more like a statement, rather than a question when she asks, “You like him, right?” Especially since Ye Zi is holding a bottle of tonic for hangovers. Very suspicious, you know? Because it’s a no-brainer to everyone else that Ye Zi does like Xia Tian.
She stops by Xia Tian’s house even though she has to get ready for dinner. Luckily, he’s home but he doesn’t seem to remember what exactly happened last night. Before she can hand him the tonic, Xia Tian drives off and leaves for work. Ye Zi watches him depart, and takes out the bottle of tonic that she was hiding behind her back. She places it near the door and leaves for her own appointment.
Dinner is pretty awkward for Ye Zi. Mom and Bao Qiang enthusiastically discuss her future without including her in their conversation. Mom tells Bao Qiang that she trusts him to take care of both Ye Zi and her brother, who is still studying in school. Bao Qiang reassures Mom that he’ll take care of Ye Zi, so leave all the monetary matters to him! In fact, Mom thinks that the two should register for marriage immediately. The two should return back to their hometown and get married as soon as possible. Mom is about to launch into a harangue about wedding preparations, when Ye Zi can no longer stand staying silent.
Her ire piqued with all this wedding talk, Ye Zi stands up in the middle of the restaurant and loudly proclaims that she doesn’t want to marry Bao Qiang Ge. She continues to speak as she remembers the old married couple that habitually visits the store. She wants that kind of marriage — one that lasts until the last years of adulthood with the person that she loves. Even though Bao Qiang’s a nice guy, she doesn’t want to get married when she hasn’t even experienced true love yet. Thinking back to what was said on the bridge last night, Ye Zi basically reiterates Xia Tian’s words.
I have the choice to choose love. I have the choice to choose marriage. I have the choice to choose how live my life.
And with that said, Ye Zi runs out of the restaurant. Mom is embarrassed but gurantees that there will definitely be a wedding. Bao Qiang isn’t entirely convinced and runs after Ye Zi. Now who should Ye Zi bump into besides our curly-haired hottie? The two don’t have time to chitchat because Bao Qiang is close behind. Xia Tian instinctively grabs Ye Zi with him and pulls her behind a pillar. Since they’re hidden from view, Bao Qiang continues running ahead, looking for Ye Zi. Poor boy.
*Badump, badump* Oh, did you hear that? That would be the sound of my heart, err Ye Zi’s heart. Nonetheless, I’d love to be in Ye Zi’s shoes right now! Ahhh! *clears throat*
Now that the two are alone, Xia Tian is curious about who that guy was. Ye Zi summarizes and Xia Tian interprets her actions as someone hiding in order to avoid their problems. He tells her that hiding doesn’t solve the real problem at hand. Then he asks Ye Zi,
Do you believe in love? I think no one knows what love really is. But I believe in it. As long as you believe, you won’t have to hide anymore. As long as you believe in love, happiness will eventually come.
Ye Zi tucks those words into the corners of her heart, which should come in handy because Mom is waiting for her back at home. Mom believes that Ye Zi doesn’t really know what she’s asking. If she marries Wang Bao Qiang, she’ll be set for life! She won’t have to worry about money since she’ll have a reliable husband to support her. Mom then pulls the caring card. If Ye Zi truly cared about their family, she would marry Bao Qiang immediately. By refusing to do so would prove her selfishness. Ye Zi can’t believe her ears. She’s selfish? She’s practically lived for her family for the past two years! If they must talk of selfishness, then her mom is the one who is truly selfish!
In the heat of the moment, Ye Zi’s mom slaps her across the face. It’s unexpected, not to mention a little shocking, but after a couple moments of silence, Ye Zi continues to reason with her mother. Didn’t Mom also marry for love? Despite her mother’s beauty and the fact that she had many suitors, her mother chose a man who wasn’t necessarily the best of the lot. Yet her mother married their father for love, and that’s what mattered most. How could her mother expect her to be happy if she’s forced to marry someone she doesn’t love?
Her eyes brimming with tears, Mom replies that love won’t put food on the table. A good marriage is even better than a good career for a girl. Can’t Ye Zi just to her. Even though knowing that her mom means well, Ye Zi asks just one question, “Mom, if you could start over again and you could foresee all the struggles you two would face, would you still have married Dad?” Understanding now the underlying message her daughter presents, Ye Zi’s mother smiles and pats her cheek.
Later that night, Ye Zi checks the anonymous blogger’s website. The blogger has just posted, “Start believing from this moment, and happiness will be gained.” This leads Ye Zi to remember all that has happened in the past week or so, especially every interaction with Xia Tian. This compels her to impulsively run to Xia Tian’s house.
She rings the doorbell and a very sleepy Xia Tian opens the door. As if she’s afraid she’ll wimp out, Ye Zi blurts out, “I…I…I like…”
Okay, was that a cliffhanger or what?!? Nah, I doubt that she will actually confess though. There’s always some sort of unexpected shenanigans that makes a drama, well, dramatic. Wow! This drama is getting pretty good that it’s making me eat my words from months ago. (I claimed that 2010 Chinese/Taiwanese dramas were sucking big time that I doubt anything better would come along.) I’m a total skeptic when it comes to Taiwanese and Chinese dramas. I like the historical wu-xias but rarely do I ever like a regular drama. It’s even rarer if I come to love one. It’s interesting because to be honest, this drama’s story is simple and it’s been told a thousand times before. I mean, asian dramas with a romance genre can get old very quickly since there’s really only so many ways one can tell a love story. That’s why it’s surprising to find a drama that’s endearing, even though it may resort to past cliches. However, TLC is original because of its execution. It’s the execution that I like. Not much really happens in this drama — it’s lacking the traditional angst found in K-dramas yet it’s still entertaining. There are many wonderful symbolic signals and metaphors to satisfy me, little details that could easily go unnoticed. Therefore this drama is turning out to be more than I ever expected. And for that, I’m forever grateful.
It’s still too early for me to declare that this is possibly the best Chinese drama I’ve watched in 2010. I’ve got to wait until possibly the final episodes before deciding. I’m glad —no, relieved — there’s only twelve episodes. It works for a plotline like this, which makes the pacing of the drama comfortable. It’s not too rushed nor is it too draggy.
My absolute favorite scene was the one on the bridge. I loved it! It could have turned out to be just lame screaming by the river, but it brought our two leads closer. With each breath, Xia Tian was releasing his pent-up frustrations with himself, Flora, and his current social standing. Ye Zi was yelling for pretty much the same reasons. Man, oh MAN! Joe Cheng sure knows how to push the right buttons. He’s currently pushed the “Fall in love with Joe Cheng” button that I never even knew it existed!
Seriously, isn’t this drama so very pretty? I know I’m starting to sound like a broken record but the cinematography is stunning. I had trouble screencapping this week because I basically wanted to screencap every little scene! The lighting and the directing also improves with each episode, not that it was bad in the first place. Well bring on The Pretty, camera! I can’t wait to see what else is in store for us.
At this point, I kind of pity Bao Qiang but it’s not the kind of pity that will make me want to join his fan club or anything. I can sympathize with the poor guy, yet I wouldn’t want him to marry Ye Zi. Since Bao Qiang apparently moved from the country to the city to take care of Ye Zi, it does seem unfair if he doesn’t end up with the girl. On the other hand, I don’t think Bao Qiang has ever challenged the idea of marrying Ye Zi. The two were set up for marriage when they were young, so I don’t think he’s really had much of a say either. Bao Qiang Ge may have gradually liked Ye Zi because she was his only option; perhaps he’s grown up with the idea of marrying Ye Zi so he just naturally came to like her. I do wish we could see more of him! We don’t get many Bao Qiang-Ye Zi scenes, nor do we get any of Bao Qiang by himself. It’s too bad that we know so little about him since he’s not turning out to be much of a threat as a second lead. Despite getting so few lines, Sun Jian is turning out to be a decent Wang Bao Qiang. I love his expression in the above screencap, especially his eyes.
As for Flora, she’s an interesting second female lead. I don’t like her but at the same time, I doubt I’ll end up hating her. She does have a 7-year past as Xia Tian’s girlfriend which means she could be tough competition for Ye Zi. What intrigues me is how she couldn’t tell Xia Tian that she loved him back in the apartment. In fact, I wonder if she even loves him anymore. Maybe she’s similar to Bao Qiang in this sense — they’re both living within their comfort zones and unable to step out of it. I wouldn’t say that she and Bao Qiang are on the same emotional level though. Bao Qiang is constantly looking out for Ye Zi’s interest whereas Flora seems to be pursuing her own goals. From my perspective, I think she just doesn’t want to admit that her current dream has changed from many years ago. I truly wonder if she genuinely wants Xia Tian back as a lover or if she just wants him back, period. Ex-girlfriends who still want the guy can be quite possessive in dramaland.
One more thing before I end. I call first dibs to hang out with the sleeping person below! There’s a sign-up sheet below and sorries, I’ve already written my name. Start lining up! Heehee.