Review. Discovery of Romance is a 16 episode 2014 Korea Drama about a past love impacting a present day love.
Synposis. A woman is caught between two loves – her past love who has unexpectedly resurfaced and her current love. Who will she choose?
1. Discovery of Love was a good series. The strength of the series were the first two thirds (episodes 1 – 11). The writing was sharp and the characters crisp as a past relationship was explored in present day.
2. Eric, lead actor, was charismatic. I watched this show for Eric. He delivered. His character started strong but was stymied in the latter third of the series spending his acting talents having to emote nonverbally.
1. The writer, Jung Hyun Jung, did not provide a story substantial enough for the series. The latter third of the series (episodes 12 – 15) dragged as the couple that needed to breakup dithered about getting this done.
2. If you wanted to see the primary couple happy and in love, the extensive flashbacks to their past relationship was the only way you could. The present day relationship solidified in the last 2 minutes of the final episode. Finally this couple could unleash the magic they had.
* Eric (Kang Tae Ha), male lead, makes this show worth the price of admission. He was the heart and soul of this show. Eric portrayed Tae Ha as character that grew and evolved from a selfish man to a self-sacrificing man. It was refreshing and delightful to see him smile or grin and get the girl! Their banter in the final scene was fantastic. Finally we got to see a happy interaction between Tae Ha and Yeo Reum. I watched this series for Eric. I believe he did everything he could but his character’s hands were tied behind his back for many episodes effectively downgrading this compelling character to faithful, patiently waiting, loving man. Que Sera Sera was the first and only drama I had seen Eric in before this role. He and Yu Mi were a compelling couple in that show and their acting together again was the second reason I watched this series. In the end, Que Sera Sera provided Eric the better role. I hope to see him more, this series proved to me his acting ability was real. I appreciated his fine portrayal of Tae Ha. I adored watching Eric on screen.
* Jung Yi Mi (Yeo Reum), female lead, delivered the mercurial Yeo Reum with a committed performance. Yeol Mae was a difficult character to love, even like. She had her own way. Control in a relationship was important to her. She and her current boyfriend, Ha Jin, played control games with each other. Their relationship was never a great love. It needed to end but Yeo Reum wanted to save the relationship. Her reticient to reenter a relationship with Ta Ha was understanding in the beginning. As the show progressed it was obvious that Ta Ha was not the same man. Yeo Reum let fear of failing again with Ta Ha and duty to give her current relationship block her path to happiness for 99.9% of the show. Yi Mi’s acting partnership with Eric worked again. They were dynamite in Que Sera Sera and when given opportunities they delivered for Discovery of Romance. For Yi Mi, Discovery of Romance was the better bigger role. Yi Mi also was the leading lady in I Need Romance 2012 (see review) also written by Hyun Jung.
* Kim Seul Gi (Yoon Sol), female friend, was a scene stealer with a comedic flair and heartfelt performance. She was a supportive friend to Yeo Reum. But her story was great in it’s own right. I loved it when she had 3 men vying for her afffection. Her frankness about her past support of Ta Ha was refreshing. It was her friendship with Joon Ho that transitioned to romance that was a highlight of the series. Seul Gi was a standout in Flower Boy Next Door and she was a highlight in Discovery of Romance. I’d love to see her in a bigger role. She delivered a believable character with a wry humor.
* Yoon Hyun Min (Joon Ho), male friend, was a scene stealer with terrific facial expressions and performance that pushed the envelope but not go overboard on the comedy. He ended the series strong forcing Yeo Reum to see that she wanted Ta Ha and needed to go after him. His realization that he liked Yoon Sol and his often hilarous attempts to move them out of the friend zone was one of the highlights of the series. In addition, Joon Ho was a terrific friend to Yeo Reume and Ha Jin.
What I disliked about Discover of Romance:
* Sung Joon (Ha Jin) portrayed a character that impeded the love choice I wanted for so long, I wanted to jettison this character off the planet. Unfortunately Sung Joon’s performance was not endearing or able to make the character work for me. Don’t get me started how he hid his identity from his long-lost orphanage friend, A Rim, or how he lied to Yeo Reum about this friendship.
* The writer, Jung Hyun Jung, did not have a strong enough story for 16 episodes and denied viewers the star crossed pairing until the last 2 minutes of the show. Both of these points irritate me greatly. Hyun Jung has a pattern of a) prickly women leads, Yeo Reum qualified; b) unrealistic and kind guys, Ta Ha qualified; c) vital close friends, Joon Ho and Yoon Sol qualified; and d) past loves trumping new or current loves, Ta ha and Yeo Reum were past loves to each other. Plot point fail – It was silly that Tae Ha and Yeo Reum dated in the past was a big secret everyone kept from Ha Jin. I’m fine with Hyun Jung’s self-references in the story, most writers do not insert self promotion in their stories. She took the opportunity to do so by referencing a book titled “Discovery of Romance” with the reveal that the writer character Jang wrote the book and performed the interviews woven into each episode. That was smart.
Highlights of Discovery of Romance (I love series with published episode titles):
Episode #1: “How Did We End Up Sleeping in One Bed Together?” Tae Ha and Yeo Reum meet after a 3 year gap as she spies on her boyfriend Ha Jin on a blind date (set up by his mother). They accidently switch cell phones. The meta moment when he pokes a drunk Yeo Reum’s forehead just like their characters in Que Sera Sera was slick. When he takes her to his house I saw the sizzle between these two. The next morning they both wake in the same bed. She is horrified. He is pleased. Love this picture of Eric…the man is hot!
Episode #2: “Will You Break Up with Him and Come Back to Me?” We start to get the back story on Tae Ha’s and Yeo Reum’s relationship. Interviews were used each episode and were a clever device the writer used throughout the series. In this episode, when Tae Ha and Yeo Reum are interviewed, she gets irritated by his responses and enters his frame to smack him on the head. An artful and funny moment.
Episode #3: “Can’t Help it if You Think it’s Jealousy” This episode had two swoon moments for me. First, Tae Ha tells Yeo Reum “I have never forgotten anything about you from the beginning to the end”. Wow, that is a ego boost to be told you are unforgettable. Second, Tae Ha asks Yeo Reum “Stay with me for one more day” on their first island visit. My answer would have the same as hers – yes.
Episode #4: “You like Han Yeol Mae?” Tae Ha and Ha Jin have 2 games of pool where they are really battling about their mutual interest in Yeo Reum. After the first game of pool that he loses, Tae Ha recognizes he is at a disadvantage. To even the playing field, he hires a professional pool player to tutor him. I never tire of two men wrangling over a woman. At this point I do not dislike Ha Jin.
Episode #5: “Confession You Will Regret Tomorrow” With a raw, heart on the sleeve confession, Tae Ha admits he likes Yeo Reum. He describes his feelings as intense, painful and desperate. He notes the person that likes other person more, has more pain. Yeo Reum later takes great pleasure in rubbing her current relationship in Tae Ha’s face to hurt him. I strongly disliked Yeo Reum for that spiteful choice.
Episode #6: “Unless the sky falls, I will never go back to you” At a karakoe bar, a very drunk Tae Ha and Ha Jin sing a song together. They don sequin jackets. Ha Jin wears a silly wig. Ha Jin puts a horse head on Tae Ha. Much to the amazement of Yeo Reum, they declare themselves brothers. I have seen many karaoke scenes but I had to stop watching for a moment as I laughed myself silly.
Episode #7: “It is your first crush” Yeo Reum catches Ha Jin and A Rim together outside his office. The scene was staged well. There was a sense of suspense if Ha Jin and A Rim would be caught. It was the first chink the armor for Ha Jin as Yeo Reum realizes that he has been hiding his relationship with A Rim. Tae Ha relished the moment and I did too!
Episode #8: “It’s not romance, it’s war” Yeo Reum and Ha Jin have a battle of wills to see who will reach out first as they go through a period of not speaking with each other because of his relationship with A Rim. The fact that Yeo Reum caves when the fault was Ha Jin’s, bothers me. It obvious this couple’s idea of love involves power and control before tenderness. I reject this and want them to break up.
Episode #9: “I said ‘I Love You’ a Hundred Times” Jung Mok and Joon Ho both date Yoon Sol who is still getting over former friend Eun Gyu. At the coffee shop, Yoon Sol sips her latte, and foam remains on her lip. The song “That Man” from Secret Garden swells (recall Secret Garden has the iconic foam on the lip scene). Too funny! Both men stare at her transfixed. Perfect insertion of a kdrama cliche scene, just perfect!
Episode #10: “Let’s Break Up”: Tae Ha shows the evolution of his character when he sacrifices his wishes for what he thinks is best for her. Tae Ha tells tells Yeo Reum “Let’s break up” (show’s title). He admits he never knew why they broke up so he never got over her.That has changed now. He wishes her well. Tears brim in her eyes. She cries as he walks away. He does too. Beautifully scene by Eric.
Episode #11: “Staring out of the window several times a day”: A game to guess the song, album, and track takes Yeo Reum and Tae Ha back to their shared memories. Yeo Reum stares at Tae Ha willing him to look at her. He slowly lifts his eyes to her. It is riveting the intensity of their locked gaze – wow! Yeo Reum gets 2 more questions correctly remembering their past. As Yeo Reum walks away she thinks “I want to tell him at least once that I have not forgotten the good memories.” The situation moves me. I feel for Tae Ha with the emotional punches he is taking. I feel for Yeo Reum as she is pulled back to him but unable to break away from Ha Jin at this moment. It is poignant.
Episode #12: “The day that love comes into my heart” : Tae Ha and Yoon Sol drink to work out their differences. They remember how he used to carry her home when she got drunk. Yoon Sol tells Tae Ha that he is their past’s dark secret. Yoon Sol admits she wanted he and Yeo Reum to work out. But he shattered her dream of finding a realistic love. She claims no matter how drunk she gets he will NOT carry her home. Cut to Tae Ha giving Yoon Sol a piggyback. LOL!
Episode #13: “Should I act drunk and just kiss you?”: Finally Ha Jin finds out that Tae Ha and Yeo Reum dated in the past. In her bedroom, Ha Jin spies the memory box under the bed. He pulls it out and opens it up. He find the photographs of Yeo Reum’s past relationship with Tae Ha. Yes, it took 13 of 16 episodes to reach this point. The stretch of this plot point was tough to take as the series progressed.
Episode #14: “Did You Just Call Me a Bitch?”: Yeo Reum asks what Tae Ha’s birthday wish is. He wishes that he could be her so he could know what was going on in her heart. Why does she cry around him? Why does she have pictures of him on her camera? Yeo Reum asks what he would do if he found out what was in her heart.
Tae Ha: If my guess is correct, (he takes a step towards her), I have to hold your hand and go as far as I can go, as far as we can go. I like you. I want you. I do not want to send you to any one else. Stay with me tonight. Just take one step towards me. Swoon alert!
Episode #15: “Will They Love Again?”: Yoon Sol has all three suitors visit her at the studio. Joon Ho thinks “all three men that like Yoon Sol are gathered. What an unfortunate fate.” LOL! Yoon Sol tells them that she will tell them her decisions. Choi Eun Gyu learns that Yoon Sol appreciates his friendship and at one point she liked him and now he likes her. Their timing is off. LOL on the heart monitor flat line sound! Jung Mok learns that he is a kind man but Yoon Sol will not build a relationship when her heart is not fluttering. LOL on the heart monitor flat line sound!
Episode #16: “There is no love that does not end”: FINALLY…our couple gets together! The writer toyed with the viewers throughout this episode until the last 2 minutes when our couple said the words and shared the kiss that made this series sweet enough. Their reunion was dangled just of out the viewer’s reach as we slowly and slowly got closer throughout the episode. No, no, I was not bitter that I only got 2 minutes of the couple.
The Discovery of Romance OST was first released as a 10 part OST with 11 songs. The OST compilation has 11 songs. Drama Wiki has all the details.
My Favorite Songs from the OST:
1. “Like a Child” Shin Hye Sung of Shinhwa
2. “That One Person” by Lee Seung Hwan
Playlist which contains the 11 songs from the OST is available via this link or embedded below: