Welcome to Samdal-ri – K-drama Episode 1 Recap & Review

Tears of the Dragon

Episode 1 of Welcome to Samdal-ri begins with us over at Jeju Island for a show called Korea Sings. This popular show is being broadcast all over the country, and among those in the audience happen to be Cho Sam-dal and Cho Yong-pil. They’re both 9 years old and we’re in the year 1994. They’re nervous about their turn to perform.

They are the proclaimed “Pride of Jeju” but Sam-dal gets some serious stage fright as she heads up onto the stage. She does brighten a little though and likens herself to a dragon, determined to rise up and become fearless. She wants to leave Jeju Island and do better things with her life.

As for Yong-pil, he’s the exact opposite and doesn’t have much in the way of ambition. In fact, he wants to hang about on Jeju Island for his entire life. Of course, life sees the pair on very different trajectories for the future. For now though, we stick to the absolute beauty of Jeju Island.

Unfortunately, this beauty doesn’t translate to both Cho Sam-dal and Cho Yong-pil, who turn away from one another and go on very different paths in life. After getting super close and romantic, they go their separate ways. Sam-dal shows up at X Magazine over in Seoul, and she wastes little time dumping a whole load of water kimchi over her scumbag boyfriend’s head who was cheating on her.

We then cut back 15 hours and see Sam-dal show up at the office. She saw her boyfriend with another woman, making out and kissing right by the glass. Angered, she ends up dumbfounded and promised to make him pay. And that’s how this ends up being a big deal in the middle of X Magazine while he’s at work.

Sam-dal heads into her car and decides to try and forget what’s happened, She switches on the radio and lo and behold, it’s Yong-pil’s song that plays. Sam-dal immediately shuts off the radio…while her companion turns his radio up over in Jeju Island as we cut over to him in his van. He’s living the dream on Jeju Island and some slick split screens helps to show the difference in colour and style.

So what of Cha Yong-pil? Well, he works at the meteorological agency as a weather forecaster. He’s locked out the main room by his fellow workers, but for good reason. It turns out he’s incredibly eccentric and gets super enthusiastic about his job. One time, he screamed across to the main center in Seoul that snow was coming.

He’s super passionate about his job and tends to rant and rave a lot. They refuse to let him in and tell Yong-pil if he’s that enthused about the weather, he should head over to Seoul and tell them personally. But Yong-pil won’t do that – and Sam-dal seems to be the reason why. After his relationship with Sam-dal went sideways, he’s been trying to avoid her. Will fate draw them together?

So what of Sam-dal? Obviously we’ve seen her boyfriend mess up and cheat on her but how’s her life? Well, she’s a famous photographer working under the alias of Jo Eun-hye in Seoul. Sam-dal’s career hangs in the balance She’s stitched up by her assistant, Bang Eun-ju, who decides a scarf is a good idea for their model. She rocks up on set wearing it too. The trouble is, it doesn’t go with Sam-dal’s concept and the pair clash.

In fact, that night she’s the only one who doesn’t join in the celebrations for Sam-dal. In fact, she walks out halfway through after glaring at her the whole time. After eating, Sam-dal is shocked when she realizes that her assistant was the one who was embroiled in an affair with her boyfriend.

She smirks at Sam-dal from across the plaza, and it’s even worse when she sends her a picture of them together, hugging. She did all of this because Sam-dal wouldn’t give her a chance. And as a result, she decides to drown her sorrows in alcohol. For some reason though, she decides to record herself in a drunken state too.

Over in Jeju Island, Yong-pil catches up with his two friends who happen to be drowning their sorrows in alcohol as well. Only, it turns out that the reason is far more trivial. It’s because his friend’s second child said his first word… and it was mum not dad. Yong-pil is shocked that he’s been called over for such a reason but he does join them for a drink.

Sam-dal is naturally hungover in the morning but her niece gets her a drink to make her feel better. It turns out she actually showed up the night before making a complete mess of herself in front of her whole family, crying and pleading for alcohol. In fact, this eventually turned to her sobbing and wailing to the heavens about how awful her life is. That is, until Sam-dal wakes up in the morning.

Sam-dal is shocked when she hears reports on the news that her assistant, Eun-joo, attempted to commit suicide the previous night. Thankfully, the police showed up and saved her from doing something stupid. She’s in a stable condition but there’s calls for workplace bullying and Sam-dal is in the spotlight. This big scandal causes the advertising agency to pull out, while Magazine X is also on their case too.

Everything is crumbling around Sam-dal and they’re on-track for their exhibition to be cancelled completely too. Although they know that she’s innocent, they need to pull out right now because Sam-dal’s image is really bad. And this starts off a chain reaction for a number of other stars she’s worked with over the past 15 years all messaging and texting to tell her not to use their pictures.

In a symbolic act, all the lights in the exhibition shut off and she drops to her knees, sobbing. In fact, the scandal is so bad that all four girls – the ones that have left Samdal-ri to begin with – return with their suitcases ready to move back in again. Their parents are shocked to see them.

During the epilogue, we cut back to Yong-pil and Sam-dal when they’re 17. Sam-dal promise to be one of the people who flies off and leaves Jeju Island, promising to succeed and not return. To quieten her, Yong-pil gives her an earphone and the pair listen in.

Fast forward to the present, and Yong-pil has the magazine in his hands from Sam-dal’s latest shoot. Within this, she tells the interviewer that she’s worked hard so she never has to return to Jeju Island again. And lo and behold, she just so happens to be flying back in the plane overhead!

The Episode Review

This show seems like it’s going to be channelling major Hometown Cha Cha Cha vibes here, with the returning “big city” girl returning to her hometown and settling back in with the locals. Specifically, the big romance between Yong-pil and Sam-dal will probably resurface and there’s lots of opportunity for this one to really blossom out and showcase everything we’ve missed over time.

The scandal at work is heart-breaking to see for Sam-dal but it’s also a reminder of how fickle this line of work can be and how easily everything can be taken away from you in the showbusiness world. It’s an eye-opening examination of how one scandal – no matter how misconstrued – can just up and destroy your life just like that.

However, the first episode gets things off to a good start with a light touch of comedy, lots of drama and a great introduction to both Sam-dal and Yong-pil. If this is a sign of things to come, the rest of the drama should be quite the enjoyable ride!


Next Episode

Expect A Full Season Write-Up When This Season Concludes!


  • Episode Rating

Leave a comment