Episode 2 of Lost Romance sees us return to the hospital entranceway where Tianxing is being taken to a waiting ambulance for transfer to another hospital. As an unconscious Tianxing grabs Xiao’En’s arm, she recognizes him but Mingli breaks the moment. Mingli questions the doctor, who confirms he’s still unconscious. They move Tianxing into the ambulance as Xiao’En stands watching.
She enters the hospital but the scene suddenly goes dark. The only light in the room is over the bedridden Tianxing, who again grabs Xiao’En’s arm asking why she didn’t save him. It’s a dream. Xiao’En drags herself out of bed to call Chuntian but passes out before she can speak to her. The screen flickers.
When Xiao’En wakes, she’s back in her bed and unfortunately late for work. She gets moving but when she arrives at her office, finds the building different. She’s confused about how she got there. Chuntian runs past her, calling out that they’re late. Xiao’En walks in dazedly.
Xiao’En begins asking questions but Chuntian thinks she’s playing around. She checks her friend’s company badge to see her name is Qiutian (Autumn, as opposed to Chuntian – Spring). Then finds her own badge in her handbag. Other familiar faces fill the office, including Tianxing’s assistant who is now Xiao’En’s boss Susan.
Chuchu is another colleague who appears to be pretty and overly nice but getting it wrong, spilling coffee on her boss in the first few moments of the day. Xiao’En continues to examine her new circumstance, trying to figure out how to wake up. She bumps into Tianxing, so happy to see he’s up and around that she touches his face.
But they don’t actually know each other in either world. He checks her badge, preparing to intimidate. And here it comes – the wall slap – king of Asian romance attention-grabbing moves. Xiao’En reacts awkwardly, which feels pretty reasonable, still calling him He Tianxing. His associate breaks the tension.
Xiao’En runs to tell Qiutian that she’s seen He Tianxing, but Qiutian doesn’t know what she’s talking about. That convinces Xiao’En that something is certainly wrong. To confirm, she shows Qiutian a magazine cover featuring his photo, but is told that the image is of Situ Aoran, their CEO.
Loitering in the hallway, Xiao’En sees Situ Aoran enter the building and the cheetah description repeats in her head. He catches her staring but keeps on walking. Xiao’En realizes she’s in the story that she had been editing in the first episode, CEO, You’re So Naughty.
In the real world, Xiao’En is in the hospital attended by Chuntian. She’s had a high fever and not yet woken. Chuntian decides that as Xiao’En is her best friend and has no family, she will take on the responsibility of looking after her. She convinces herself that Xiao’En will be fine.
Settled into his new hospital room, the doctor says Tianxing is already past the critical stage and reassures that he will recover. The doctor exits and Mingli looks like she’d like to pull the plug. As she takes action, emergency bells blare. Tianjian just happens to enter, claiming he tripped and accidentally disconnected the ventilator. A nurse puts things right.
Tianjian and Mingli argue about Tianxing. She implies that as perhaps they had a hand in killing Tianxing’s mother, one day he will turn around and kill their whole family. Tianjian astutely notes that if Tianxing dies now, they would both instantly be implicated.
Mingli has exaggerated news released saying Tianxing’s injuries are severe. Separately we see Uncle He making aggressive chess moves that indicate a bit of malice. Who is he really supporting? Perhaps only himself.
Xiao’En thinks through her situation and what she’d need to do to get back to the real world. She decides that maybe her life sucked before and she’s better off in the novel. Particularly as she has the opportunity to be in the realm of He Tianxing (as she still thinks of him).
At the end of the workday, Chuchu clocks off on time and her manager is insulted, giving us a look into Taiwanese corporate culture. Cleverly following etiquette, Qiutian encourages manager Susan to go home and rest after that insult (so they can all leave too).
Meanwhile, Xiao’En plans to achieve her first romance heroine move, falling out of a tree and into the hero’s arms. She seeks out the most suitable tree. But just as she’s made her selection and done a warm-up, Chuchu tumbles out of a nearby (previously rejected) tree into Situ Aoran’s embrace.
Xiao’En suddenly realizes that she’s dropped into the novel world, only to be part of the audience. In heroine style, she shouts a long loud ‘Nooooo’ in Korean – the land of unexpected drama.
In Tianxing’s hospital room he’s crashing again. Tianjian gets medical staff in to help but as he’s exiting, catches Chuchu sniffling outside. Tianjian believes he’s snagged some hot office gossip, but Chuchu says they hadn’t even had their first date. Then she cries prettily. So, the angelic Chuchu scoops up the hotties in both worlds.
In Xiao’En’s hospital room Chuntian learns that Xiao’En isn’t unconscious but appears to be asleep without cause. The doctor says they’ve run many tests but can’t detect an illness, so they’ll continue to observe and wait. It seems that Xiao’En has chosen to stay in the romance world. As Chuntian tries to shake her awake, Xiao’En in the novel world is suddenly feeling a bit queasy.
At the office, Aoran enters the building to cheers from the female employees. Chuchu approaches to thank him for catching her, offering a gift. Xiao’En swoops in and takes the cookie, biting it. Aoran is not impressed. She plays it off like a mistake and Chuchu is gracious, of course.
As Xiao’En finishes the stolen treat at her desk, she ponders Chuchu’s perfect heroine credentials. She wonders again about her purpose in being placed within the novel. And decides that in her own dream, she can be the heroine. Game on.
As Chuchu heads for the ladies’ room, Qiutian and Susan drag Xiao’En along to try some bullying classics, like dumping water on Chuchu over the stall wall. Qiutian does the deed, but Xiao’En isn’t quick enough and gets caught just as Chuchu runs straight into Aoran, soaking wet.
Aoran scolds the whole team, as Susan hasn’t managed the office intimidation. Playing the manager (rather than the plotter), Susan fake-scolds Xiao’En, who throws out random excuses for the accident. Aoran isn’t buying any of it, believing Xiao’En is targeting Chuchu.
After Chuchu leaves, the rest of the team carries on about how annoyingly sweet she is. Xiao’En suggests they try to get along but the others are adamant. She suddenly realizes that if Chuchu is the heroine, they must all be the ‘Cinderella’s Stepsister’ characters – not even the audience but the baddies.
Heading to the bookstore, Xiao-En looks for CEO, You’re So Naughty to fact-check, but it doesn’t seem to exist in the novel world. She realizes that she doesn’t need the book itself, but can work from her vast knowledge of romance plots. Instead, she buys a stack of other stories to cross-reference, eventually concluding that romance books in the novel world follow the same old patterns as the real world.
With this in mind, she works out a plan based on an ‘Arrogant Jerk x White Lotus’ scenario. If the leads get closer each time there’s an incident, she’ll have to find ways to insert herself into each romantic set-up – and potentially block it. You’ve gotta love this line of thinking! She pats herself on the back.
In the real world, Mingli continues to search for her father’s will. While Shanna, Tianxing’s assistant (and Susan in the novel world), searches for evidence that Tianxing was pushed off the roof. Both are coming up empty-handed.
On the news, Mingli’s Hospitality business is saved by a partnership with the parent company, authorized by Uncle He. Shanna believes it will ruin Tianxing’s sister company, Tianliang Construction.
At the romance world office, Xiao’En tries to make peace with Chuchu as part of her ‘White Lotus’ strategy. Ever gracious, Chuchu is willing. Qiutian misunderstands and Xiao’En explains they need to be seen to be making friends to satisfy/fool CEO Aoran. Ahhh.
The whole team is preparing for the CEO’s investor banquet. Xiao’En uses it as an opportunity to test her theory that Aoran will appear whenever Chuchu is in trouble. Seems to be spot on.
She checks for items that may put Chuchu in danger and prevents her from coming into contact with any of them, minimizing opportunities for Chuchu to be saved by Aoran.
In the midst of this, Qingfeng appears, introducing himself. Xiao’En snickers at his ‘romance’ style name that means spring breeze. He tells her she’s strange (without knowing the half of it). As she runs around diverting Chuchu from forks, knives or ladders, she manages to fall and achieves a bloody nose.
In the real world, Chuntian visits Xiao’En in the hospital and finds her still sleeping but with a freshly bloodied nose.
The Episode Review
Keeping up? Even though most of the characters are playing dual roles, I’m never uncertain about whether we’re watching the real world or the romance novel world. They do a great job of situationally making it clear what’s happening where – without resorting to dramatic hairstyle changes a la the sweet Taiwanese romance Fall in Love with Me or funny Korean time-travel drama Hit the Top (both on Netflix).
The first episode may have been a little heavy, leading with the corporate battle among the He children but chapter 2 focuses on Xiao’En’s experience in the novel world and building out the romance characters.
It typically takes about 3-4 instalments of anything to confirm whether I like a series or not, but already the plot, characters and comedy are completely fun and engaging, particularly the cleverness in taking on a whole genre.
Meanwhile, have you noticed the random pauses and ad breaks? I imagine Viki is streaming the cut used on Taiwanese channel SET TV, ready for ad insertion. I’m not yet certain whether I’m bothered about how those few seconds before the break are replayed just afterwards. It’s typically at a poignant moment, so gives us another crack at catching on, sometimes with extra detail. So far, I’m in. The break sequences themselves are cute too.
Overall, chapter 2 provides insight into the novel world and subtlety poses the idea that Xiao’En may have a purpose there, rather than simply fulfilling her fantasy of having Tianxing as her overbearing CEO. That flicker early in the episode is telling us something. But who is this master-of-destiny author?
If you’ve been captivated by romance drama previously – or if you fell in love with overbearing CEO Lee Young-Joon (Park Seo-Joon) in What’s Wrong with Secretary Kim (on Hulu), you may be in trouble here. Or at least I’m hoping so. We’re off to a dynamic start, with 18 more episodes in our future, and I am so ready to see where they take this concept next.