Spanking New Drama
Mask had a shiny, lushly inviting appeal well before it started airing, and I’m glad the pilot episode doesn’t disappoint. The drama is all about people hiding behind masks, never revealing who and what they truly are.
There’s a hair-raising opening scene that sees a woman in a car tumbling down a cliff. Beside her, the only other passenger is knocked unconscious. Only a few steel wires keep the car from crashing down the side of the mountain to the stormy water below.
Way to get our attention and make us intrigued! What’s the backstory and why did someone obviously orchestrate this woman’s death?
We are soon introduced to a young, handsome successor to a huge department store corporation, who seems to have an acute fear of germs.
Somehow a tiny spill of coffee on the table seems to spread to oil slick proportions right before his warped vision. The fact that someone just sneezed sending even more “deadly” germs into the atmosphere helps to distract our chaebol heir from making his presentation in front of his father and other key board members. Meet our leading male, Min-Woo (played by Ju Ji-Hoon).
He’ll soon be getting married! Okay, maybe not in the romantic sense, but in a cold-blooded, arranged marriage of convenience. His influential fiancee calmly reminds him of the business-like terms of their marriage contract. And how she fully intends to keep the boyfriend whom she loves even after she gets married.
In the huge department store owned by the chaebol family there’s a lowly sales girl who’s a look alike of Min Woo’s fiancee.
I’m glad to see she’s the fun bubbly type, and gives us an insight into the comedy angle of the drama. While she’s being harrassed by a superior for her poor output, she’s busy daydreaming of classical music playing in her head.
Later with two of her friends in the cafeteria she’s told by one of them, “I just saw a woman who looks exactly like you. Your same round eyes, round face and even your rounded butt. She looked rich and elegant. Do you perhaps have a twin?”
Ji Sook deadpans that sure, she’s actually a daughter of a chaebol family and took this job just to find out how the other half lives and build her world experience. They laugh goofily at the prospect. At this point we know our lead female is Ji-Sook (played by Soo-Ae) and the woman she so closely resembles is Eun-Ha who is from a renowned family and is engaged to Min Woo.
As chirpy as Ji-Sook seems, life is definitely not all giggles for her. We are taken to a back storeroom where she’s threatened by mafia type loan sharks who tell her she has two days to come up with the owed 3 million won.
The guy smashes his fist in the wall and wipes the blood off her sleeve.
It’s interesting to note how the employees have no idea what the big shots in their company look like and brush by them everyday without realizing it. On her return from the restroom after washing off the worst of the stains, Ji Sook collides with a suited figure by mistake.
He notices the blood stains on her clothes which had brushed against him. He looks like he’s about to have a fit, and dashes to his office where he hurriedly changes into a clean white shirt and another suit. Pheww. That was close. Now he feels like he can breathe. Thank goodness his closet (which is more like a showroom) is lined with the exact same pristine white shirts and suits just for such eventuality.
Meanwhile our would be heroine is attending a school reunion. She must be popular because everyone is looking at her like they know her. But noone wants to acknowledge her and we hear snarky comments from three mean females seated at a table. They take bets as to why she’s really here. I bet one million she’s here to borrow money. I bet three million she’s here to flirt with the guys.
Finally one of them approach her with a fake smile. “Ah, you’re the one who always fought with the boys.” Then they bet her three big ones if she could finish a whole jar of wine in one gulp.
Three what!! She thinks they mean three million won and thinks her prayers are answered. Her look of glee is almost painful to watch as everyone else observes the scene unfolding.
“Why not?” she finally answers. “Sounds like fun.”
Oh no. I can’t look. She’s actually doing it, drinking down what looks like two liters of red wine from a weird, wide-bottomed bottle.
When she’s done, mean girl hands her three coins…three hundred won. What?
Everyone is laughing as she looks devastated.
Out of the blue emerges incredible hunk. He shoulders his way through and grabs her wrists. Come with me, Byun Ji Sook.
Aww. He’d been watching from earlier, with hidden disgust and dismay. Disgust at the mean girls playing such a horrid prank, and dismay at Ji Sook for demeaning herself this way for money.
Little could anyone guess what difficulty she’s going through, all thanks to her father taking out a personal loan from those nasty looking guys.
Her ‘savior’ happens to be Jung Tae who she possibly might have maybe dated when they were in school. But since she was a pretty girl from a poor neighborhood he could never really be open about their connection. As he drives her off in his shiny red convertible, Jung Tae asks why she has to be so pretty and put him in trouble.
“Let’s go in and talk,” he says, trying to drag her into a hotel.
She shoves him to the ground and tells him they never dated. He goes into the car and tosses a bundle of money on the ground in front of her. She bends to take it, shaking all over with shame. “I’ll pay you back,” she vows.
Whatever, he says with a cocky grin and drives off while she stands there with tears in her eyes.
Handsome heir Min Woo is being driven home and he remembers the mocking words of his fiancee. “You don’t have anyone you love. I pity you.”
He spots his fiancee stumbling drunkenly on the sidewalk and he comes down to confront her, not realizing it’s her lookalike instead, Ji Sook.
He just wants to leave her there but he pictures what people will say about him. You’re going to be hit by lightning, he imagines one scornful woman saying. He starts to hyperventilate thinking about the scandal coming out in the papers.
He takes her to a hotel with him. He’s actually wearing white gloves as he takes her into the suite where she proceeds to vomit all over him. He runs screaming to the bathroom. I need to get clean, he seems to be saying as he scrubs off beneath scalding hot water.
Ji Sook goes into the same bathroom to puke into the toilet. As he reaches for a bathtowel they end up entangled on the floor.
Later he rushes off home where he picks out a change of clothes. Considering he shows up there in just a bathrobe it’s no surprise the house staff give him shocked looks. He wonders why the hell his fiancee acted and was dressed like that. Since she wasn’t her usual expensively clad self.
His real fiancee is busy collecting her resized engagement ring at the same department store the next morning. How can he not know the ring size of his fiancee she bickers to herself. Earlier she’d been reading a magazine with a strange article.
Later she’s walking down the escalator, trying on the ring. Oh now it’s too tight. These people can’t do anything right she fumes. The ring gets dropped and rolls right to where a flustered Ji Sook is kneeling. She was late for work and bumped into a client whose jewelry got scattered on the floor. As Eun Ha’s engagement ring hits Ji Sook’s knee Eun Ha comes face to face with her look-alike for the first time.
Ji Sook goes to hospital where her father is lying unconscious with her worried mother at his side. He tried to commit suicide with pills. The doctors had to pump his stomach and he’ll be fine. Ji Sook asks for Ji Hyuk, who’s her brother and the mother tells her he was gone after being there all night.
Ji Hyuk is busy trying to rob a bank.
Oh wait, he only imagined robbing the bank. Luckily, just then his sister calls and asks what he’s up to. He doesn’t have the nerve to do it and leaves the bank.
Ji Sook thinks back to the rich woman she met earlier and sadly asks her mother if she had a twin adopted at birth. She must be thinking what it must be like to live in luxury and not have to worry about money. Seeing that beautiful, elegant and rich woman looking just like her, must have made Ji Sook feel suddenly sad about her lot in life.
Min Woo is dining with his family. His father brings up Seo Eun-ha, Min Woo’s fiancee. Min ho assures his father that the marriage will go as planned and will establish if Min Woo will be the on top or not.
Two domestic workers discuss about a bundle of money the maid found in Min Woo’s bathrobe.
Min Woo’s sister wonders about certain rumors that she wants to take the company from her brother. Her husband tells her not to worry since her brother isn’t normal anyway. She muses aloud how she got to marry a man who’s so boring and works all the time.
Her husband notes he too, married a woman with deplorable habits. A bad temper, a drinking habit and who’s emotionally unstable. She asks him if he has any regrets and he says yes, he only wished he’d met and married a woman like her sooner.
I guess now we’ve established that this is one big dysfunctional family.
We discover just how dysfunctional when Min Woo has a meeting with his doctor who asks about his hallucinations. Min Woo denies everything, and says he’s fine now. He’s diligently taking his pills, he tells the doctor firmly. The doctor wants to see the pills. Min Woo finally brings them out and says he found out they had side effects and could cause heart attacks. The doctor seems skeptical since one of Min Woo’s fears is he’ll die of a heart attack.
Suddenly Min Woo has a meltdown.
It’s shocking how he unexpectedly snaps, because so far we’ve seen a guy acting so cool and collected like he has it all together. Obviously he hasn’t, and there just might be some fact in his father’s worry that Min Woo is unfit to lead the company.
Ji Sook is berating her brother for even thinking of robbing a bank. Ji Hyuk (played by Hoya from INFINITE) worries what else he can do since the insurance won’t even cover the stomach pump and they need to pay hospital bills. Ji Sook tries to reassure him she at least has enough to pay off the interest, when she realizes the money is missing.
Min Woo can’t sleep and starts playing loud rock music. Then he imagines he sees a woman drowned in the swimming pool.
But when he gets outside there’s nobody in the water.
Min Woo is spending some alone time with his fiancee surrounded by live orchestra. He asks if she doesn’t remember last night and she’s like What?
He comes closer intending to remind her about the details. When he suddenly noticed she doesn’t have that scratch on her knee from last night. He wonders if she was wearing nude stockings and reaches out to check but she smacks his hand away.
His sister Mi Yeon appears, telling Eun Ha she won’t be welcomed into the family so she should forget about the marriage.
Eun Ha wonders aloud who has more to lose if the marriage doesn’t hold. Her father would have to find another sponsor for his political ambitions, while Min Woo’s father had so much more to worry about with his company issues. From resignation and embezzlement to a slush fund lawsuit, he may have to serve time in prison.
There’s something strange about the whole interaction and the way Eun ha stares bleakly after Min Woo’s sister’s husband.
Eun Ha then turns back to Min Woo and they discuss fixing a wedding date. Eun Ha then snidely notes that both of them were children born from ‘kept women’. She asks if Min Woo’s mother will be at the wedding, as hers won’t make it since her mother abandoned her long ago. Min Woo looks murderously at her at the mention of his mother.
Meanwhile Mi Yeon’s husband is inside with his wife. He tells her not to be upset about what Eun ha said, since Mi Yeon had started it. Mi Yeon suddenly loses it, and warns him never to support anyone else to her face. You must always be on my side. Correct?
Just then there’s a loud scream and a crashing sound. They rush out to find Eun Ha floating in the pool while a dazed Min Woo is sprawled on the floor.
At that very moment, Ji Sook is making a call to Min Woo’s phone to ask about the missing money.
So many questions. How did Eun Ha get into the pool and why is Min Woo looking so out of it? Just how will the look alike Ji Sook get wrapped up in the world of this whacky family?
A Look behind Mask
Mask is a story revolving around a somewhat jaded heir to a fortune. As he spends time with his ‘fake’ fiancee he begins to realize just what’s been missing in his life. Though he knows she’s not all she seems to be he can’t help but be drawn to her. From what I see the chemistry is going to be off the chain.
Ju Ji Hoon who plays the lead male, was awesome in the films Antique Bakery and I am King, so this is my third look at him. This is however my first drama with him in the lead, and I’m sure it won’t be my last as he’s such a versatile and charismatic actor. At director’s spot is Boo Sung Chul who helmed such dramas as “My Girlfriend is a Gumiho” and “Jang Ok Jung” so this might be a surprising hit of the new season of dramas.
Mask carries itself quite well and has a lot of redeeming qualities. One of which is that it doesn’t take itself too seriously. If so then it’s following a positive trend in most new dramas that have proven popular. When a show is more tongue in cheek it tends to attract more interest than when it’s just trying too hard.
The Mask drama looks beautifully conceived, and gives us just enough background to be curious about what next. We feel a connection already with the lead characters. Neither of them are perfect or even that much likable. She’s pretty much a pushover and something of a dork. Which isn’t bad, but then you can feel compassion for a person who’s down on her luck, but not for someone who’s just plain imprudent. She needs to work up a thick skin and not be a people pleaser all the time.
While the male lead needs to lighten up. He’s far too uptight, and obviously there must be something from his past or childhood that makes him have such an aversion for anything remotely connected to dirt or germs. He also seems closed off from emotion or true affection, again possibly an offshoot of a painful unloved past.
Yes, our main leads are flawed indeed, which means we’re going to love trying to ‘fix’ them. You’ll get a familiar vibe from Mask that you may have seen in past dramas of similar themes. Dramas like Secret Garden and Master’s Sun had young, handsome heirs with painful pasts and ice-cold hearts just waiting to be melted by the one.
Since this drama looks right up my street I’m more than interested. I like a story with high stakes, where everyone has so much to lose. With such a promising set of lead characters, it’s a safe bet to say that this might just be the drama to keep an eye on.