My Perfect Stranger – K-drama Episode 1 Recap & Review

Chance Meeting

Episode 1 of My Perfect Stranger begins with a man driving in the middle of the rain. One thing after another goes wrong; the weather, a broken cell phone and the satnav going crazy, This is Yoon Hae-joon, and he suddenly slams on the brakes on the road.

Braving the rain, he comes across a tunnel ahead, with an abandoned car and some strange instructions inside for a time machine. As someone who has worked in press for the last 7 years, dealing only with facts, it seems way too fantastical for Hae-joon to handle. Only… there’s something he didn’t account for. Human curiosity.

So naturally, Hae-joon sets off in this strange car, which immediately whisks forward to the year 3085. Next, 2037 but this time, what he sees shakes him to his core, to the point that it turns his knuckles white from gripping the steering wheel so hard.

All of this is narrated by Hae-joon while outside a village. Two siblings believe he’s crazy but are polite enough to listen to him. We’re in Woojung-ri village, as it turns out. It’s not initially clear but we later learn that this is actually 1987.

Anyway, the residents of the village gather and celebrate 5 years of being crime-free. They’re delighted that they have such a great community, and the limelight soon passes to executive producer Yoon Byung-koo. He points out how well their kids are raised… until Hae-joon shows up.

Hae-joon knows that things are about to change. Six kids are due to be found in the mountains sniffing glue, and they happen to be related to all the residents here. Hae-joon heads up to the mountain to find them and change the future, saving a 19 year old girl who’s supposed to fall off the cliff up here.

The real culprit behind all of this is a troublemaker called Kim Hae-kyung, a girl who encouraged the others to sniff glue. Hae-joon also saves her before she tumbles off the cliff-face.

Hae-joon changes everything, with a newspaper headline changing from two dead, to the town celebrated for 5 years free of crime. As the reporter arrives as scheduled, he ends up with egg on his face, realizing the story he thought he had is wrong, Hae-joon is praised by the townsfolk, before he begins working at the local school teaching Korean. He movies into a rural area, in a little district that looks very much like that in Reply 1988.

Hae-joon lives this life for over a month, before jumping back in the car and zipping back to 2021. So why has he taken it this far? Well, apparently, there’s a serial murder case in 1987 and he needs to try and find the real killer. The guy incarcerated for this (Min-soo) is going to be released the following day, so he needs to stay alive until that time. As for Hae-joon, he’s going to solve this case.

In the middle of all this commotion, we shift across and follow Baek Yoon-kyung, a hard-working editor for the very ungrateful, mega-writer Ko Mi-sook. She has a short temper and Yoon-kyung is forced to bite her tongue, especially when she sees her mum being belittled. Yoon-kyung is ashamed and embarrassed by her mum and they unfortunately have a bad encounter together.

After initially fighting, Yoon-kyung spends the day eating rubbish and going to the cinema, turning off her phone in the process. When she eventually heads home, she receives the worst call of her life. It’s her mum. She’s been found dead down by Woojung-ri and there’s even a suicide note too. Unfortunately, things get worse. Yoon-kyung receives a message from her writer, telling her she’s fired, while her father is a drunken mess and she’s forced to pay for his damages. Things are not going well.

Back with Hae-joon for now though, he speaks to the man who’s released from prison. Apparently, a year from now Hae-joon is going to die and that explains what he saw when he jumped forward 16 years, which happens to be his retirement date. So with Hae-joon now aware of when he’s going to die, it would seem that this is intrinsically linked to 1987 and the serial murder. In fact, there’s even a blood spattered matchbox for Bong Bong Cafe, which is a big clue.

The letter Yoon-young’s mum has written is absolutely gut-wrenching when we shift back to Yoon-kyung, as she apologizes for their fight and wishes she could travel back through time to when she was innocent and the pair were close. It doesn’t help that her drunken father would cause arguments and this prompted Yoon-young to want to run away and live away from him. When he stumbles up to them, Yoon-kyung points out that if she could go back in time, she’d make it so Hee-seob was never her father and make her mum happy on her own so she lives a long life.

As tears begin freely falling from her cheeks, a strange matchbox floats by the shore. It’s the Bong Bong mark again, and inside happens to be a piece of paper with the words “danger” and “book”. As she walks away, belittling her drunken father as he stumbles up, she decides to symbolically wear the scarf she bought her mum all those years ago.

As she walks, Yoon-young ends up inside that familiar tunnel we’ve see Hae-joon drive through. Well, Hae-joon ends up the opposite direction and he prepares to travel back to 1987. As the car disappears and he heads back through time, Yoon-young gets caught up in this wave and as the car comes careering through the tunnel, the pair are whisked back through time. The car, however, is completely busted.

When Yoon-young heads into town, her head bleeding from the impact, she bumps into a guy called Baek Hee-seob. It’s her father! As she finally opens her eyes and looks around, Yoon-young notices all the 1987 signs. With her phone in hand, she realizes there’s no connection and she attempts to make sense of what’s happening.

Believing this could even be a filmset, as Yoon-young continues down one of the back alleys, she finds herself facing her mum, Lee Soon-ae. She happens to be one of the girls enticed into the glue incident that she almost got in trouble for that Hae-joon stopped.

Soon-ae is uncomfortable in her short skirt as she hurries to try and catch up with her “friends” as they get ready to go to the club. Yoon-young wants to follow but Hae-joon shows and pulls her aside. He promises to explain everything but points out that they are, unfortunately, stuck in 1987. The thing is, she’s actually happy about this, given it’s her dream to try and change the future, erasing herself in the process.

During the epilogue, Ko Mi-sook arrives home where she points out that she actually visited Woojung-ri village recently because she had something she needed to take care of. And on her desk happens to be a photo of the kids from that very village, back in 1987.

The Episode Review

My Perfect Stranger gets off to a really solid start, albeit one that’s a little confusing to understand at first as we jump all over the place. From 2021, to 1987 and back again, the editing is a bit haphazard but it soon settles down as the crux of the issue starts to take shape.

Hae-joon is looking for a serial killer and it appears that this could well be linked to Mi-sook and the school, if that ending is anything to go by. Yoon-young’s plan to erase herself from this timeline could go the route of Back to the Future, with Yoon-young forced into trying to get her parents together. Either way, her journey of self discovery is going to be fascinating to watch.

As for Hae-joon though, it’s still not initially clear why he’s so invested in stopping this murderer, beyond the possibility that he’s killed by this guy in the future. Only, the irony here is that it could well be that everything has always played out in the way that it has, but the time travel rules are not fully fleshed out just yet so we’ll have to wait and see.

Either way though, this looks like a solid drama and the first episode gets things off to a great start.

Next Episode

You can read our full season review for My Perfect Stranger here!


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