Maybe it’s me overcompensating with my Wednesday and Thursday freeing up now that Suspicious Partner is over (*mourns forever*) but I can’t help it, both new shows in the Wed-Thu line-up interested me enough to garner checking them out. I posted a recap and my thoughts on the premiere of Reunited Worlds (linked) earlier and now I’m doing the same for Man Who Dies to Live. I already picked up a new show in Reunited Worlds. Will Man Who Dies to Live make the cut? Read on.
Reasons for Watching:
1. The teaser got me laughing and inevitably, curious. Also, a kdrama with Middle Eastern references/touches? Definitely intrigued. Couple that with the show being only 12-episodes (24 30-minute episodes) long and this girl just grinned from ear to ear. A short drama, yay!
2. I just finished Bad Guys and liked Kang Ye-won enough so might as well see her in her other dramas.
3. SHIN SUNG ROK. I’ve liked him for a decade now or so and I’m gonna watch anything with him. He’s just so good in anything! And I miss his charm and how he does comedy so well. So of course, I just had to at least try with this one.
We set the tone immediately for the drama as our protagonist, Jan Dal-goo / Count Saeed Fahd Ali (played by Choi Min-soo), while doing an ice sculpture with actual penguins by his side, talks to us and breaks the fourth wall. I like it already. We get to see his enormous mansion and how rich he is. He has attendants left and right and these said attendants inform him that the king wants to see him. He huffs out, irritated, and tries to escape with his sports car, to no avail.
Taken to the king, he’s being betrothed to the princess, to which he refuses. He reasons out that he just learned that he has a daughter. The king’s council does not believe him and the king gives him a month to find his daughter and to bring her in, but he would still need to marry the king’s daughter. We learn Dal-goo’s backstory as he was once a soldier who saved the king’s life and his fortune was granted by the king out of gratefulness. The king also threatens to take away all his possessions if he doesn’t marry into the royal family.
Irritated, Dal-goo lashes out on his secretary Abdallah (played by Cho Tae-kwan) and tasks him to find his daughter. Apparently, the Ashram Post Office was recently renovated and this letter, dated 35 years ago, surfaced. The letter tells Dal-goo that he has a newborn daughter. Dal-goo and Abdallah go to Korea (where Cho Tae-kwan casually uses his English skills) to find Ji-young, Dal-goo’s daughter.
Meanwhile, in Korea, we have Kang Ho-rim (played by Shin Sung-rok), a bank teller, selling life insurance to his friend who’s a detective. He’s cheeky and tries to convince his friend to buy one because “when you’re getting stabbed while out on a chase, you’ll regret not buying life insurance for your family”. Hahaha! Failing at sales, he takes a break, which is when his boss calls him, named Pig-Nosed Manager on his phone. He doesn’t answer it first not until his boss jumps up on him from behind him and he runs away.
In the office, he gets reprimanded for being the last in the company employee ranking. Ho-rim decides to resign but ultimately loses his nerve. His boss gets called by his father-in-law, a congressman, to which the guys in the bank muse that their boss has lucked out of and is leeching off on his father-in-law. Ho-rim casually lectures them to consider their in-laws before getting married; otherwise, they’ll regret like him.
Ho-rim, along with his wife, our first Lee Ji-young (played by Kang Ye-won; let’s call her Lee Ji-young A), are at the airport for a trip to Cebu (Philippine namedrop!) with Eun-bi, their daughter. Unfortunately, the flight was cancelled and Ji-young, ever the ahjumma (but refuses to be called one), complains and gets angry at the tour guide. Ho-rim is level-headed, saying that it’s not the tour guide’s fault that there’s a typhoon, but Ji-young has her hackles way up high and even stages a protest in the airport.
Ho-rim gets a phone call from Manager Lee and this is Lee Ji-young B (played by Lee So-yeon). She asks him where he is and he tells her that he’s in an airport, to which she says that she is in one too! We sense that he’s trying to avoid her but why? Lee Ji-young A sees Ho-rim and he tries to get away from his family, stat.
Meanwhile, Dal-goo arrives at the airport and when he’s greeted by hordes of fangirls at the escalator, he tells his secretary what a great job he’s done of concealing his arrival; only to realize that the fangirls were there for Astro, a boy group who was behind him on the escalator. HAHAHA
Ho-rim and Lee Ji-young B talk on the phone again and they’re flirty and it seems that Ho-rim is having an affair with her. Dal-goo is sitting on the opposite side of the bench as Ho-rim and tells him having an affair is tough, to which Ho-rim denies having an affair. Dal-goo says that if he found a woman who comforts his soul then that’s good. Dal-goo then leaves just as Ji-young A and Eun-bi spot Ho-rim.
Inside a restaurant, Dal-goo is so eccentric I’m laughing so much! He’s drinking banana milk as if it’s wine, even smelling it! Hahaha! He’s eating dinner with his secretary and ends up dancing with a cute little girl. His secretary doesn’t mind him and continues with his work, hiring chefs for Dal-goo, until he sees the little girl Dal-goo was dancing with outside. He then turns to see Dal-goo swaying sultrily with a woman, the girl’s niece. He’s the eternal playboy!
Unable to go on a vacation, Ho-rim and his family go home, only to be seen by his mother and sister. They catch Ji-young A on her lies of only going to Gangwon-do when she packed swimwear and their passports and Ho-rim wisely leaves the scene to let the girls dish it out. And an asshole of him too to leave his wife fending for herself. He did tell her to not lie to them in the first place about where they’re going so I guess Ji-young A had it coming too.
Inside the house, Ho-rim and Ji-young A argue. Ho-rim doesn’t understand what’s so important with the trip but Ji-young A has been wanting a vacation for seven years now. They never got to go on their honeymoon because she was pregnant. She’s so gungho on taking a trip as a family and being close as a family because she doesn’t have a family.
We learn that Ji-young A is a writer as she looks longingly on her workstation at home. Ji-young A refuses to read fairytales to her daughter because they’re all about meeting Prince Charming, when the Prince Charmings of the world are usually assholes. Eun-bi then asks her about her dad and Ji-young A reminisces that she acted first to get her dad to like her mom. What a cute mother-daughter relationship.
Ji-young A works at an oriental medicine clinic as an all-around worker. We even get a flashy sequence of how she’s so quick at work. Haha! I thought only the Dal-goo parts are ridiculous but it looks like it’s the whole show!
Ho-rim learns that his boss was caught having an affair by his mother-in-law so the mother-in-law attacked his boss at the office, where they saw that he was wearing a wig. Ho-rim is so beside himself laughing while his friends warn him to be careful if he’s having an affair. They accuse him of having an affair, to which he denies. Only to basically get caught because he’s too happy that he got a message from Ji-young B.
Abdallah goes to a detective agency to get the results of a DNA test he ordered. Aside from the DNA test, the PI gives him evidence that Dal-goo’s daughter’s husband is having an affair. Abdallah doesn’t take the evidence and leaves since he didn’t order that information.
In the clinic, Ji-young A sees her mother-in-law and her MIL talks shit about her after she leaves, which she hears. Meanwhile, Abdallah tells Dal-goo his findings, and that the test was positive, she is his daughter. Abdallah then shows a picture of Ho-rim, saying that he’s his daughter’s husband, only to show a picture of Ji-young B as his daughter. WHAT?!
Ji-young A and Ji-young B are both outside the clinic and Ho-rim comes out with flowers to meet Ji-young B, only to retreat because his wife is there too. Here comes Dal-goo in a car, ready to meet his daughter, when Abdallah stops him, telling him that it’s been 35 years and it’d be too shocking to have someone suddenly introduce himself as her father. Dal-goo counters that he’s rich, she’d be happy to see him even if she hated him. They approach Ji-young B, while Abdallah desperately tries to convince him to stop. His secretary suggests approaching someone close to her first and Dal-goo agrees. Oh, I think I know where this is leading. Haha!
Ho-rim, still hiding and already five minutes late, watches Ji-young B leave. Ho-rim vows to break up with Ji-young B after meeting her for just three more times. He follows her and they go to a restaurant and to the mall. He panics about how expensive everything is so he tries to dissuade her from buying anything that’s not cheap. Hahaha!
Did Cho Tae-kwan really had to show off that he’s extremely talented? He’s now singing? Anyway, Ji-young A waits dejectedly inside their house for Ho-rim. It’s past midnight but he’s nowhere. She even prepared a candlelit dinner! In the morning, Ho-rim is late at a work meeting, while Ji-young A is a bit distracted after dreaming of someone she hates, her dad. In her dream, she didn’t see his face but just his side profile, and it’s Dal-goo. She hates him so much that she wants to kill him if she meets him, after abandoning her and her mom.
Dal-goo, in his hotel suite, is being dressed by attendants. He visits the bank Ho-rim works at and SURPRISE! I’m your father-in-law!
It’s so ridiculous that it makes me laugh, especially anything with Choi Min-soo and the Middle East location at the start. I like the tone of the show, which isn’t afraid to be ridiculous and I’ve always loved low-brow comedy too. (EDIT: I am not v familiar with Muslim and/or Middle Eastern culture but I do know that you don’t wear a bikini with a hijab. I found that bit uncomfortable and weird so I could only imagine the outrage it would elicit from someone from the same culture. I’m so sorry about the show doing that. I’m adding this one in so people would know because I forgot to mention it. In the end, I tried not to focus on that bit and see the show for the story so any cultural appropriation and disrespect from that point on, I might not have caught.)
Shin Sung-rok’s character Ho-rim is a bit of an ass but I do see how his character’s growth arc will pan out so I don’t hate him. Ji-young B is a snooze so far since she doesn’t have anything to do. Kang Ye-won nailed being a pitiful ahjumma though, in my opinion. And while I don’t love her character (yet), I’m rooting for her. So different from her role in Bad Guys but she’s effective either way!
Sadly, while funny, I found myself bored at some scenes. Even though I was doing the recap, I was fast-forwarding the show just to get to the gist of the dialogues and whatnot, especially with the second episode.
VERDICT: I’m still interested in Man Who Dies to Live but not enough to watch it. Since it’s going to be recapped at Dramabeans, I’ll just rely on those to sate my need to know the story. But if I end up hearing great reviews for this one, I might come back to it and watch it fully. We’ll see. But for now, I’m dropping watching this show but will be reading recaps.
EDIT: Dramabeans dropped recapping this one so no dice.