My Dearest – K-drama Episode 1 Recap & Review

The Uncouthed Lee Jang-Hyun & The Sly Fox of Neunggun-ri

My Dearest episode 1 takes up back to the Spring of 1659 (the 10th year of Hyojong’s reign). A man walks into a room and finds an older man diligently reading some documents. We learn the younger man is Head Inspector Shin Yi-rib and the older man is Heon-yeong. 

Heon-yeong is troubled by the documents found after the former Crown Prince So-hyun passed away. The document in question is a Sacho draft, (a historical record written by a historical recorder). What troubles Heon-yeong is the fact that this particular draft is full of words of disloyalty for the late Crown Prince. 

He argues it shouldn’t exist in the first place but orders Yi-rib to carry out an investigation based on the draft’s content. He also wants Yi-rib to verify the authenticity of the document. He wants Yi-rib to secretly look into a man frequently mentioned in the draft. The man’s name is blamed for failing in his duties and deluding the Crown Prince with false information.

There is also mention of a second man who ultimately went crazy. The king sentenced him to a place where he can never see the light again. 

Yi-rib sets out to Haeminseo (the government office that treated poor Joseon citizens for free). There, he meets with the head doctor and asks to speak to the madman. The head doctor doubts Yi-rib can have a sensible conversation with the man. He reveals that the man only mumbles something about a man coming for him when it is time. 

The head doctor is also curious as to why someone with a high rank from the palace ordered him to take good care of the man. He takes Yi-rib to the man who is sequestered away in what looks like a dimly lit cave.  Yi-rib starts by introducing himself to the man before asking him if the man he is waiting to come and get him is Lee Jang-hyun. The man in the cell looks old and weary, he doesn’t even turn to look at Yi-rib. 

Yi-rib tells him about the story he read in the documents about Lee Jang-hyun. According to the story, Jang-hyun had some questionable accomplishments. The old man moves and Yi-rib realizes the man understood everything he said. He asks the man if he is truly crazy but gets no answer. The old man stands up and looks at the small opening in his room that allows some sunlight. 

It looks like he is remembering an old memory of a man standing by the sea, holding a bloody sword. The man looks like he has been through hell, with blood all over his clothes. He is surrounded by a legion of armed men and they slowly start to approach him. The man nostalgically stares at the sunset as if listening to a secret only he can hear.

He then closes his eyes and opens them slowly saying he can hear the sound of flowers. He sheds a few tears. The memory ends with the man fearlessly turning to face the army.

Through a flashback, we travel back in time to the spring of 1636 (the 14th year of Injo’s reign). This was a peaceful time in the kingdom, there was plenty of food and noble kids attended school. This is when we meet our female protagonist, Yoo Gil-chae. She lives in a village called Neunggun-ri. She comes off as someone who is into herself and rarely listens to her teachers. It is, therefore, no surprise that her teacher Madam Sam-bong doesn’t like her and she is kicked out of her classes several times. 

Gil-chae’s servant, Jong Jong worries that if she keeps up with her demeanour, she won’t find a good husband. However, this seems like a needless worry as Chil-gae has the most desirable bachelors in the village under her spell and plays them like a fiddle. Sadly, she is yet to win the attention of the man she truly dreams of. The man, Nam Yeon-Joon, seems taken with Eun-ae. 

Eun-ae comes off as an intelligent, well-mannered and friendly young lady. Everyone at school wants to be her friend. Chil-gae is jealous when the girls in her class ask Eun-ae for help ahead of the flower festival.  Chil-gae gets petty and swears she won’t attend the festival. She claims it is boring and outdated. She is caught by her teacher bad-mouthing a flower festival that everyone was excited about. Once again, she ends up being kicked out of class which adds to Jong jong’s stress.

Chil-gae returns home dreaming of the day she will meet the man of her dreams. She constantly dreams of meeting a handsome man by the sea but she is unable to see his face. They are about to kiss when Jong Jong wakes her and informs her that the bath water is ready. Chil-gae is frustrated as she was just getting to the best part of her dream. Her sister adds to her plight when she teases her about being able to see Nam Yeon-joon is in love with Eun-ae. 

Jong jong mentions to Chil-gae that there are rumours Nam Yeon-joon will attend the festival. Upon hearing this, Chil-gae changes her mind and starts preparing to attend the festival. She meets Eun-ae on her way and pretends she had forgotten about the festival until Eun-ae brought it up. She acts like she is escorting Eun-ae and they walk together as their servants quarrel. 

The girls are joined by their classmates, they sing and dance on their way as they pick flowers. They are caught by two female elders, Hyeon-kyeom and Ae-bok, who sit them down and explain the dangers of behaving recklessly at a flower festival. 

Chil-gae gets bored and wonders why the women are talking as if they are on the brink of war.  She tells Jong Jong that she will be a different woman- one who gets what she wants. After the lecture, the young ladies attend the flower festival with their chaperones.

Meanwhile, word arrives at the palace that the envoys sent to Great Jin are back. However, the King of Great Jin Hong Taiji appointed himself the emperor and held an ancestral rite. He then asked the Joseon envoys to pay respects to him but they refused. An emergency meeting is called and the government officials argue if what the envoys did was wrong.

In reality, they are scared of the Great Jin but still want to avoid an invasion. They worry that forming an allegiance with the King of Great Jin will be betraying their loyal friends from the Ming dynasty. The country is between a rock and a hard place, they will have to go to war either way. 

Back at the flower festival, Chil-gae grabs the attention of every man except Yeon-joon. This makes the other ladies jealous of her. Yeon-joon arrives later with his dad and Chil-gae starts thinking he is there to ask for her hand. She sure is delusional! 

Turns out, Yeon-joon came with his dad to make a special announcement about the kingdom. He tells the scholars what happened to the envoys sent to Great Jin. The scholars take offence at the words of the King of Great Jin. Yeon-joon asks the scholars to join him and write a letter appealing to their King to help the people of the Ming dynasty.

As the scholars agree to teach the King of Great Jin a lesson, Jang-hyun poses an important question. He wants to know why they are so sure that the Ming dynasty will win against the Great Jin. The scholars argue he is making no sense but Jang-hyun remains adamant that there is a chance the Great Jin will win. They argue back and forth about the history of the three empires involved but Jang-hyun makes a point and wins the debate. The rest of the scholars are frustrated that he may be right and condemn him. 

Jang-hyun leaves and rumours about who he is start to fly. It is said that he is a businessman who dropped into town to buy soft persimmons. He has been around for about a month and is considered an uncouth fellow. The scene cuts to Jang0hyun arriving a month ago and Goo-jam narrating to him about Neunggun-ri village.

According to Goo-jam,  the village is known for its soft persimmons and bamboo wine. The village has kind people and lax norms on courtship. He, however, warns Jang-hyun about a sly, nine-tailed fox.

When Jang-hyun first arrived he asked to join the Neunggun-ri village school. The school elders decide to allow him to take a test but he failed. He then tried to bribe them but the school elders didn’t budge. Jang-hyun decided to change tactics and approached the village elders and got on their good side.

Even the temperamental Song-chu acts like a sleeping lion in front of Jang-hyun.  After getting on the village elders’ good side, they campaigned for him to join the school and scolded the school elders.

The rumours didn’t end there, it is said that Jang-hyun bribed his way to get a noble title and openly interacts with foreign intruders. He is believed to be a misogamist (one who doesn’t want to get married) and a serial heartbreaker. Apparently,  he has lovers in almost every town in Joseon and tricks young ladies to think they are in a relationship.

The young ladies at the flower festival, eagerly soak up the rumours about Jang-hyun. Chil-gae wonders if he is impotent and thinks it is the reason why he is against marriage. Yeon-joon can’t help but smile after hearing her say this.  Everyone agrees that Jang-hyun is a terrible man and shouldn’t be considered a gentleman. 

On the other hand, Jang-hyun remains unbothered and leaves to enjoy a warm meal at Song-chu’s house.  Goo-jam is the only one who feels frustrated because most of the rumours are true.  

After the flower festival, the ladies head home and are still talking about Jang-hyun. Chil-gae finds the conversation boring since all she can think about is Yeon-joon smiling at her.  She decides to take a different route and go swinging. She plans to seduce Yeon-joon who can still see her from the festival grounds. 

She scandalously lowers her socks and asks Jong Jong to push her on the swing. The men notice her from where they are standing. Jang-hyun also sees her flying high on the swing while he is at Song-chu’s house. He asks Goo-jam about her and he tells him that she is the nine-tailed fox he warned him about. Jang-hyun’s curiosity gets the best of him and he decides to go meet her.

In the meantime, Chil-gae falls from the swing and the men from the village quickly run to her rescue. However, Yeon-joon remains behind to talk to Eun-chae. Chil-gae is disappointed and refuses to give up. The men fix the swing and she gets back on. She plans to slip again and get Yeon-joon to come to her rescue. 

Jang-hyun is on his way and stops to marvel at Chil-gae’s beauty as he gets close. He tells Goo-jam that he can hear the sound of flowers. As Chil-gae swings back and forth, she narrates in hindsight what she was thinking that day. She thought the man of her dreams would approach her that day. It seems she is addressing Jang-hyun in her narration, remembering the first time they met. 

The episode ends with Chil-gae slipping and Jang-hyun holding her before she lands face-first on the ground.


The Episode Review

This is the first episode but we are already invested and want to know more about Jang-hyun and Chil-gae.  It seems we are seeing the events from the old man’s memory. Is he Jang-hyun or Goo-jam? We have just started to unfold the mystery and judging by this episode we are in for a tear-jerking story.  

We have to admit that this show has great colours. From the outfits to the folklore songs and dances, everything merges beautifully to create the perfect cinematography. The story visually flows and even though we go through different time jumps, we can piece it all together. Let us hope they will keep up the good job throughout the series. 

We also must talk about Namkoong Min. Once again, he has proven to be a versatile actor that can deliver on any character. We can’t wait to see what more he has to offer through this series. 

 

Next Episode

You can look forward to a full season review when this show ends!

  • Episode Rating
    (4)
4

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