Harvest Villa: 1-2
It looks like I’ve been ignoring the poll, but I’ve just been contemplating which one to recap. Not surprisingly, Harvest Villa and Conspiracy in the Court received the most votes, along with “just go post some more stuff.” (haha) So, I’ve decided to take on Harvest Villa, since I’m working on the subbing project over at WITH S2. I think this will end up being one of the best dramas of 2010, so it’s only appropriate that it receives some love while it’s still in broadcast. (I am current with the drama but will do my best to erase the future episodes from my memory while doing the recaps.)
Good comedies are hard to pull off. They often have forced (sometimes downright bad) scripts, bad delivery (even with a good script), or lazy direction. But when things come together, it has the ability to pierce the heart in a way that dramas can’t. A good comedy will not only make you laugh but will shed insight into life, whether that’s through satire, violence, hyperbole, macabre, or downright absurdity. Harvest Villa is one of those comedies. Through the sometimes mundane, sometimes absurd, and sometimes daring lives of the residents of the villa, it not only makes us laugh but speaks of the human spirit with all its shades of gray. With that said, shall we venture into the villa together?
On a cold and raining evening, we are first introduced to the residents of the worn down Harvest Villa: two elderly men – one eating fruit in the lightening filled sky and the second spending a quiet evening with the tube, a Korean ringer for Kathy Bates of Misery, a pair of meatheads, a couple washing off blood-stained clothing, and a girl showing off her Bruce Lee moves.
One of the elderly man receives some mysterious visitors, who lure him onto the roof, questioning him about the whereabouts of the gold. The man gets into a tug of war match with the stranger, before he falls to his demise as the three visitors watch from top. As he plunges to his death, he shouts, “No! Not my son, Oh Bok Gyu!!!”
We now turn to the main attraction – the son of the recently murdered resident of Harvest Villa – Oh Bok Gyu. He’s also in a bit of a predicament, with his head stuck in between window security bars. How did he get there you ask?
When a new neighbor bangs in some nails next door, Bok Gyu (Shin Ha Kyun) storms into the apartment, demanding to see who’s causing the ruckus. Meeting the new neighbor infuses new life into our protagonists as he is introduced to a vision of glory in an angelic figure (Lee Bo Young). She’s dressed in white and glowing with the light beaming in from the window behind her. Seriously, she’s jaw-dropping pretty. Bok Gyu is fully smitten and stutters his way out of the apartment, worried that he made such a poor first impression.
When she reaches out with a plate of deokbokki, he decides to take advantage of the opportunity by happily rolling up some kimbap for the plate return. He tries to deliver the food but the Michelangelo painting is nowhere to be found. She may be a thing of beauty, but her safety instincts seem to be low as the door is ajar, giving him a peek into her living space.
He takes a gander around the studio and foolishly looks out the window, instinctively sticking his head through the bar, when he sees a child in the same position across the street. Unfortunately, Bok Gyu’s head is a bit too big to come back out of the space and he’s forced to remain in between bars, until someone calls the police for a pick up. (That little kitty by the window is super cute. Love how the kitty gets startled when Bok Gyu whines.)
At the police station, the beauty’s entry turns heads everywhere and Bok Gyu is clearly nervous to see the woman of his dreams approaching him with a look of disdain. When the officer comments that a man has fantasies about seeing a pretty woman’s apartment, she lashes out: “Can you just walk into a woman’s house just because she’s pretty? Can you just treat someone anyway you want because they’re pretty? Is being pretty a sin?” The people around her are surprised by her outburst which makes her slowly retract her seemingly pompous words, “I’m… I’m not saying that I’m that pretty… or that I understand a pretty woman’s heart… Anyways…” (Hehe) She’s visibly annoyed at the breaking and entering, but she agrees not to press charges.
He may have spent some time in between bars, but all is not lost, as he learns her name (Yoon Seo Rin), occupation (fashion designer), and hobby (tennis). He finds her tennis club and infiltrates, hoping for some more face time. However, she’s miles ahead as the female ace tennis player of the club and already partnered up with the male ace player. It also doesn’t help that Bok Gyu is not a good tennis player, hitting bombs out of the court when he gets a chance to partner up with his neighbor.
Poor tennis playing isn’t the only hurdle that Bok Gyu faces. A competitive Seo Rin comes up with a plan to score a single point against their opponents, highlighted by a Bok Gyu smash. It doesn’t exactly turn out as expected as he ends up throwing his racket straight into Seo Rin’s nose, which quickly turns him into the goat of the club.
(Lee Bo Young looks like a anime character in the screencap above. So awesome.)
Back at the apartment, he sees Seo Rin being dropped off by her tennis partner, a Korean-American dentist. He stands outside her window, thinking about what could have been, when she suddenly opens the window to find Bok Gyu standing outside. Before she can shut down any conversation, he asks her for his tray, prompting Seo Rin to reach out of the window and stick her head through the new window bars.
Unfortunately, the bars are not any wider than the previous and even her small head gets stuck. Bok Gyu succeeds in pushing her head back in, enabling the two to finally share a laugh together.
The next day, Bok Gyu receives a mysterious phone call from an attorney. He finds out that his long lost father has passed away, leaving him an unusual will. The first will reading offers him an apartment and a savings account, but only if he agrees to move into the apartment. Acceptance of the terms will lead to the reading of a second will when he turns 30 in a few months.
Bok Gyu is stunned after hearing the news about his father, who left him at a young age when his mother died. He’s not sure what to make of the situation and somehow ends up at Seo Rin’s tennis club. He finds her practicing and starts helping her pick up the tennis balls, prompting Seo Rin to reply, “Don’t touch my balls.” (Tee hee)
He apparently has no friends or feels such a strong connection to Seo Rin, that he spills the beans about his father. She’s surprisingly receptive and comforting to the man who broke into her apartment and gave her a huge bump on her nose. She tells him to accept what his father has given him as a way to forgive himself for not reaching out to his father earlier. She encourages him to believe that this was his father’s final sign of love. She also compares his father to the Russian dog that was sent out to space to test the effect of space travel on living things.
Seo Rin: How lonely must that dog have been? Your dad must have felt like that also. Leaving his family behind and traveling the universe on his own. Missing his family so much that he calls out to his son as he dies.
Bok Gyu: What’s [the] name?
Seo Rin: Yoon Seo Rin.
Bok Gyu: No. That dog.
Seo Rin: Laika.
Bok Gyu: Did he come back safely?
Seo Rin: They say he died after 7 hours in space.
That makes Bok Gyu break down all over Seo Rin’s lap.
Either way, the talk with Seo Rin must have had some effect as we find Bok Gyu standing in front of Harvest Villa.
On move in day, the residents of the villa are cleaning up the roof and all are surprised to find someone moving into the dead man’s house. They look him over with a watchful eye, but Kathy Bates (Building president) invites him to a meeting with the residents that evening.
The topic of discussion at the meeting is building reconstruction. (And looking at the state of the building, it’s probably not a bad idea.) They discuss the pros and cons of the process before turning to Bok Gyu for his thoughts. When it’s his turn to speak, he confesses that he really needs to go to the bathroom and runs away from the table.
He pushes his way into the locked bathroom, only to find a disturbing scene: A menacing man waterboarding someone. Bok Gyu does all he can to avert his eyes, but runs out and starts to yell: “In the bathroom… a scary looking man… bathroom…”
Before he can string together enough words to explain what he saw, the scary man appears out of the hallway with a glaring look towards Bok Gyu. He’s unable to continue talking as the man is introduced as his neighbor and the skewer restaurant ahjumma’s husband.
When everyone is seated, the residents learn that Bok Gyu is actually Mr. Oh’s son and the conversation turns to Mr. Oh’s death.
- Tae Chon: Do you know that there are weird rumors about your father’s death?
Bok Gyu: Weird rumors?
Tae Chon: That your father was murdered.
Bok Gyu: That’s not what I heard.
Tae Chon: What if it wasn’t an accident and someone pushed him off.
Bok Gyu: What makes you say something like that?
Tae Chon: Someone saw it. There’s someone named Choi Sung Shik from #301. And he said he saw it. He was drinking alone on the rooftop and said he saw it. He saw some people having a serious argument with your father and eventually they pushed him off.
Bok Gyu: If there was a witness, why did the police call it a suicide?
Tae Chon: Because he’s an alcoholic.
Thus, the mystery begins. And to make that perfectly clear, all the residents look like they are suspects in a game of Clue. (haha)
As Bok Gyu starts the “investigation” of his father’s death (by looking at the chalk mark outside the apartment), the drama gives me its first WTF moment as the angel Seo Rin watches from afar with a maleficent smirk on her face. *shudder*
Meanwhile, the building president, who had declared of her ignorance about Choi Sung Sik’s whereabouts, visits the very man at the rehab center with her usual Kathy Bates glare. [Play scary music here.]
The moment of connection with Seo Rin has Bok Gyu at the tennis club again. This time, she’s warmed up to him quite a bit and looks happy to see him practicing, even complimenting him on his improvement. The dentist is less than thrilled at his presence and at her reaction.
When the conversation turns to Bok Gyu’s profession, he ends up saying that he’s a drama PD, unable to admit that he’s actually an extra on set. This gets everyone in the club excited, believing that he knows a slew of stars. When asked about the problems in the entertainment industry today, Bok Gyu answers the question honestly based on his experiences: “The treatment of extras on set is just horrible.” The people look on with a bit of confusion but all shake their heads with agreement. It is the opinions of an expert after all.
We finally meet Bruce Lee girl (Song Yi) again, sneaking her way into the teacher’s computer to change her report card. Her father, Tae Chon, is elated when he sees that she’s placed third in her class.
Bruce Lee girl is played by Kang Byul, from Creating Destiny – one of the worst dramas I’ve ever seen. But she was one of the few highlights as I loved her spunky character and it looks like she’s playing another such role in the drama. Love it.
When Bok Gyu returns home in the evening, he parks a little too close to the next car and breaks the side view mirror as he opens the door. Seeing the name of the car owner (Park Tae Chon) turns him into a nervous mess as he remembers the events in the bathroom. Bok Gyu eventually pulls out the mirror and drives away.
The next morning, Tae Chon comes down to the car, only to find that the side view mirror has been ripped out. He’s infuriated and his inner hulk comes out with a cry of vengeance. (The man has signs of some anger management issues.)
And Tae Chon’s woes continue. After finding out that it’ll cost over $200 to fix the damage, he comes home to find his daughter’s real report card. She didn’t place 3rd in her class but 344th out of 350. (She probably does need to use her brain cells a bit more because she hides her real grades with the bathroom reading material!!) When confronted by her parents, she jumps out of the window and has to roam the street, shoeless. She runs into Bok Gyu on the street and borrows his phone to call her friend.
Song Yi: Come out and bring some money. You can’t? Why? Studying for exams? We’re taking exams these days?
Haha. It’s no surprise that she’s 344th. It looks like the Bruce Lee-love not only keeps her from studying, but also makes her desirable to the schoolgirl gang. They chase her around the neighborhood, trying to get her to sign a pledge to the group.
Bok Gyu finds his way into the mess as he tries to get his phone back from Song Yi. The girl thugs know a weakling when they see one and beat up Bok Gyu. He is only saved when the two meatheads (Sang Geun and Ha Geun) come sauntering by.
It’s pretty clear that Ha Geun has a bit of a crush on Song Yi as he jumps in to protect her. And it’s not only Chuno (or the current crop of trendy dramas) whoring off their men. We get some ab action from Ha Geun as he gratuitously removes his shirt to show off his bod. Song Yi, however, is not impressed by his chest nor his decision to refer to her as “my Song Yi.”
Feeling guilty about his lie, Bok Gyu heads over to see Seo Rin to tell her the truth about his job. He continues to make a fool of himself, this time grabbing onto her mannequin’s boobs in an effort to help her carry the item. (He’s truly a cutie.)
As he stands outside, practicing what to say to Seo Rin, he hears a loud shriek from her apartment. When he runs inside, she jumps on him, yelling bloody murder about a cockroach. Bok Gyu eventually steps on the roach but is now flustered over the hug and the senseless killing that he decides to leave instead of spilling the beans.
After sheepishly telling Bok Gyu that roaches scare her more than anything else in the world, her true colors show up when she’s alone. She has no problems mercilessly smacking that cockroach without even a second thought. I wouldn’t have been surprised if she picked it up and ate it.
Still feeling guilt over the side view mirror, Bok Gyu pays special attention to Tae Chon’s car and gets caught peering in. Tae Chon takes the opportunity to thank Bok Gyu for helping out Song Yi by buying drinks (from what looks to be mid afternoon.)
During their afternoon out, Bok Gyu talks of his visit to Choi Sung Sik’s rehab center. Mr. Choi’s condition doesn’t seem to be getting much better, but he is able to utter a few words to Bok Gyu: “That day… they came to look for the gold. It was a woman.”
Hours of drinking bring the two men closer together and Bok Gyu tells his new hyung-nim about his angel, Seo Rin. Tae Chon convinces him to call her out so that he can take a look at her for him. Bok Gyu gives Seo Rin a call to drink a cold glass of beer, touting its beauty benefits. She obliges their wishes and comes in, looking like an angel.
But her true colors come out when she heads to the bathroom and comes across the schoolgirl thugs. Her ethereal demeanor gets downright nefarious as she kicks some schoolgirl ass, Kill Bill style.
To keep the story moving, I kept out some of the seemingly random scenes of the villa residents as their stage is set in the early episodes.
-Kim Choo Ja aka [Building] President ahjumma aka Kathy Bates (Go Soo Hee)
She be scary. It’s pretty clear that she knows more about the murder than what she’s letting on, as her visit to Choi Sung Sik clearly shows. She also was doing some shady during the night of the murder.
-Yuk Sang Geun and Ha Geun aka Meatheat brothers (Jung Kyung Ho not that one, Park Hyo Joon)
They are owners of a used car lot and like to wear loud, bright colored shirts (and studded dog collars. Cracks me up.) Sang Geun looks fishy about something even though I have no idea what it is. But Ha Geun actually seems like a meathead with puppy eyes for Song Yi, even though she doesn’t give him the time of day.
-Park Tae Chon aka Terrorist aka The Professional (Baek Yoon Shik)
He’s basically a hitman who doesn’t actually kill, but maims. He offers a whole slew of services, including paralysis of different parts of the body. And by the count of the tape on the bathroom door, he’s quite accomplished at his work and takes pride in what he does for a living.
-No Mae Ja aka Skewer ahjumma (Moon Hee Kyung)
Mrs. Terrorist is stuck living a lonely life with a cold husband and a rebellious daughter. When she gets acute stomach pains and the doctor suspects intestinal cancer, she heads to an eyeglass store, instead of turning to her family. As she purchases a pair of sunglasses, she sends longing glances towards the store owner and ends up heading home, hiding her tears behind her new sunglasses.
-Park Song Yi aka Bruce Lee girl (Kang Byul)
Our Bruce Lee girl is quite the independent high school kid, without a care in the world. She’s straight forward and doesn’t hide her feelings – even if she’s in the wrong. I like her.
Right from the get-go Harvest Villa reminded me of Evasive Inquiry Agency – some of it because of the hidden gold and some of it because of the mystery solving. And just like EIA, HV got me hooked right away. It’s a fun watch and rewatching it for the 2nd time is actually even more amusing. From early on, the drama does a great job of setting up interesting character – each with their own homage to a stereotype.
I am also totally loving the two leads: Shin Ha Kyun and Lee Bo Young. This is only the 2nd drama for Shin Ha Kyun, as he has only done movies for the past 7 years. He’s sweet, cute, and totally goofy. I’ve never been a huge fan of Lee Bo Young, but she’s winning me over with her femme fatale role. And all the soft lighting isn’t hurting her already perfect features. The two have great chemistry and I’m enjoying the physical comedy between the two of them also.
Some of you may be wondering how Lee Bo Young is pulling off doing two dramas at once (Birth of the Rich.) It’s because she isn’t! Harvest Villa was shot towards the end of last year and is all pre-produced, quite a rarity for a Korean drama. The drama was filmed during the latter half of 2009 but had some issues with securing airtime. In the end, it worked out perfectly because the drama has a tight script, thoughtful editing, and the plot unfolds perfectly. (I say this having already watched through episode 14.)
Lastly, one of the things I really enjoy about Harvest Villa is the lack of dialogue. It does a great job of telling the story and setting the mood though the direction and the actors. It’s a nice change of pace from dramas where characters speak 1000 words per minute. And on top of that, it makes my job as a translator super easy. Bravo, Harvest Villa, bravo!