Cruel Romance Episodes 1-20
I don’t watch as much Chinese dramas as I do Korean and Japanese. I’m not quite sure why that is. It probably does have to deal with the fact that it’s easier to find Japanese and Korean dramas with subs than Chinese at times. All of a sudde,. I’m going on a Chinese drama binge which started with Lady & Liar and moved onto Good Morning, Shanghai, and now Cruel Romance.
Some of the ways that Cruel Romance is presented does have a bit of Lady & Liar flair to it, but it is an awesome drama…despite its problems, and, yes, there are actually quite a few problems, but none that (right now) keep me from enjoying the series. I like romance. This drama does have it. I like bad boys who at heart aren’t really bad at all. This drama has it. I like action sequences. Oooo. Huang Xiao Ming and Yang Le have some pretty cool moves that they show off. Ri Qi mainly showcases swordplay and I like swordplay, but so far his action scenes to date pale in comparison to our “robot” and loveable introvert.
The story revolves around Rong Jin Xiu (Chen Qiao En/Joe Chen), the daughter of a renowned doctor, as she navigates the tricky waters of Shanghai in order to find her family’s killers. One night during a festival, she comes across her new teacher who has been shot. She takes him to her house where her father treats the bullet wound. The teacher then sends Jin Xiu back to where she found him to retrieve a very important watch. While Jin Xiu is away men in black come into the Rong household. Jin Xiu’s father has already sent the teacher away to save him and refuses to tell the men where the teacher has gone. To make him talk, Jin Xiu’s mother is shot and killed. The faithful servant opens up his mouth, but the men in black slaughter everyone in the house and go after the teacher.
Enter Jin Xiu, She has retrieved the special pocket watch and comes home to find bodies littering the ground. Her father tells her to run and he blocks a man from shooting his daughter as she makes her escape. She reunites with the teacher in the woods outside her home and he tells her to go to Shanghai and deliver the watch to a church for him before the Lunar New Year. He then pushes her to safety while he is shot to death.
Jin Xiu returns home to find it burning. Afterward she goes to Shanghai to fulfill her teacher’s wish and find out just who the men in black are. On the boat to Shanghai she comes across Zuo Zhen (Huang Xiao Ming), a triad leader. He is being attacked and she offers to save him. He doesn’t trust her intentions and belittles her and even steals a kiss! When her pocket watch goes overboard during the struggle, she goes in after it and Zuo Zhen, despite his earlier colder words about not caring if she lives or dies, jumps in to save her.
Of course Jin Xiu must always fight with Zuo Zhen. I don’t know why, but he seemed obsessed with her watch which she revised to give up, for obvious reasons. Thus once they land in Shang Hai, Zuo Zhen’s lackey Tang Hai steals it for his master. Jin Xiu looks for the church unaware that her watch has been purloined and meets scammers. When one tries to take advantage of her, the necklace that Zuo Zhen gave her for helping him falls to the ground and the would-be assailants quake with fear making Jin Xiu realize that Zuo Zhen wasn’t just acting great—he really is an important man. She then realizes her watch is missing and orders the men to take her to Zuo Zhen.
Zuo Zhen has returned to his boss minus the medicine that was supposed to help cure his illness. Zuo Zhen goes to stab himself in retribution, but is stopped. Of course his competition Long Si is not happy to have his scheme destroyed. Zuo Zhen then dresses up for a party to welcome back Xiang Ying Dong (Qiao Ren Liang) from France. This young man is the younger brother of the head of the chamber of commerce, Xiang Han Chuan (Tse Kwan Ho) that Zuo Zhen works closely with. Of course Ying Dong is late to his own party. He meets Jin Xiu trying to get into the club and tries to get her in with him, but the bouncer’s don’t even recognize the party boy. Thus the two are left to find another way in.
Ying Dong finds a ladder he used to use to get into the club and climbs up through a window followed by Jin Xiu. He changes his clothes and throws a pretty cape over her plain attire. The two then go down to the party where Jin Xiu starts hounding an unsuspecting Zuo Zhen (she even accidentally fondles the poor man’s chest—which actually ends up happening, by accident, quite often, lol). Of course her thoughts of the watch are thrown into a tailspin when singer and former dance hostess Yin Ming Zhu (Lv Jia Rong) steps on stage. Jin Xiu immediately recognizes her older sister who went missing 14 years earlier.
Ok. Brief story on the sisters. Mr. Rong married Ming Zhu’s mother first and Ming Zhu was then born. Then he ended up marrying his first wife’s sister (from what I gather from flashbacks) and has Jin Xiu. The girls are close and love each other very much, but it looks like there might have been a discrepancy in how he treated his two wives and daughters. So Ming Zhu’s mother tried to poison her sister, thus the first wife and daughter left the house and Mr. and Mrs. Rong looked for them every since with no luck.
And to add onto Ming Zhu’s story. She is the mistress of Xiang Han Chuan. It also happens that before she became his lover, she was with Ying Dong. Ultimately she chose Han Chuan over Ying Dong due to Han Chuan’s status and power (Ying Dong being the youngest has to rely solely on his ge ge for support and doesn’t have any power to call his own).
Ok, back to the present. While Zuo Zhen is insisting he doesn’t have Jin Xiu’s watch a man starts acting up and a huge fight breaks out. Zuo Zhen instinctively protects Jin Xiu while Ying Dong ushers Ming Zhu from the melee. Jin Xiu ends up hitting her head, yet again (I’m shocked there’s been no amnesia for as much as she hits her head in this drama). Zuo Zhen sends her to a hotel which he actually owns, but gifts to Ying Dong as his coming home present. He then charges Ying Dong to take care of Jin Xiu, but not let her know its on his orders. We all know this will lead to trouble, don’t we?
So Ying Dong takes care of Jin Xiu and she becomes grateful to him and I think develops a bit of a crush. Thanks to him she learns more about Ming Zhu and is able to go to her sister’s house. Ming Zhu is cold and rejects acknowledging Jin Xiu. She does eventually break down and tell Jin Xiu that she is the eldest Rong daughter, however, she has severed her ties with the family that chased her out and left her and her mother to rot on the streets living a painful existence getting beaten and starved. Oh, and her mother died.
We do learn later that her mother actually killed herself. She gave Ming Zhu a pair of scissors and then took Ming Zhu’s hands in her own and stabbed. We don’t get enough flashbacks to see any sort of bad treatment on Mr. Rong’s part, so I can really only hazard that it was really jealousy that had Ming Zhu’s mother try to poison her sister. It also looked like he truly loved his second wife, so that could have made him show a bit more favoritism for his second wife and youngest daughter, but again, we don’t see that, so I don’t really buy this whole crazy mom saying everything is Mrs. Rong and Jin Xiu’s fault. Ming Zhu is poisoned by this thinking and decides to make Jin Xiu’s life in Shanghai as miserable as hers was until she clawed her way to a position of power.
Jin Xiu is kicked out of the house after sobbing out that the Rong parents were murdered and Ming Zhu only offers money to get rid of her pest of a younger sister. Although, Ming Zhu does decide to check out the situation in her hometown. She leaves and learns of the mysterious incident. She bawls and wails that they died before she could show them how she’s climbed to the top. She then finds a bullet in the ashes. She won’t actively investigate, but you know she’s curious.
Oh, and she does constantly hound Zuo Zhen down for her pocket watch which he always insists he doesn’t have. He then learns Tang Hai took it. Tang Hai was going to return it once to Jin Xiu, but that doesn’t end up happening as before he can, she rushes off after Zou Zhen and even forces herself into his car. Which is then rammed by Long Si. The two are then hunted by assassins. A female assassin notices that Zou Zhen is treating Jin Xiu differently than other women (he’s frankly a well-oiled robot who shows no emotions often…beyond a smirk). So Long Si kidnaps Jin Xiu. So what will Zuo Zhen do? Ultimately he rides to her rescue. When he tells Long Si that he doesn’t care if Jin Xiu lives or dies, the girl bites her captors arm and starts running. Long Si takes aim, but Zuo Zhen saves her from getting shot in the back. Enter the police to breakup the fight.
Zou Zhen and his people leave. When they send for a doctor, they learn that all doctors who can treat bullet wounds have been kidnapped or killed. Jin Xiu was taken home but comes back to Zuo Zhen’s place with medicine. When she learns that there is no doctor, she offers her services as she is the daughter of a doctor. Zou Zhen surprises everyone by declaring he trusts her. Jin Xiu kicks out Tang Hai and Shi Hao (Yang Le) and shakily starts to perform the surgery. When she’s too chicken to put the hot knife into his bullet wound, Zou Zhen does it for her and passes out. She does successfully get the bullet out and Zuo Zhen does live. He just needs a bit of R & R to fully recuperate.
As a thanks for saving him, Zou Zhen gives her the watch back. Jin Xiu immediately goes to the the church. Ying Dong does as well. His friend has charged him with the task of getting the watch for him since he’s being pursued by the same men that killed Jin Xiu’s family (they are Japanese by the way). Ying Dong hides in the confessional and Jin Xiu enters when she sees the confessional door’s design matches the design on the watch. Jin Xiu pleads with Ying Dong (she doesn’t know its him behind the veil) to tell her the truth behind the watch, but he knows nothing. Enter the evil Japanese men in black. Shin Dong rushes out of the confessional to distract them. The men give chase and Jin Xiu rushes out when the cost is clear and is seen by the leader (dressed in civilian clothes instead of the black uniform) Maeda Ryuichi (Qi Ji). He is immediately thrown by his brief glimpse of Jin Xiu as she is the exact replica of woman he loved who was shot and killed when trying to save his life.
Ying Dong escapes the churchyard with his life, but sans watch as he dropped it and could not retrieve it. Thus Ryuichi’s always angry looking right hand gets the watch. Jin Xiu also meets the evil men as she tries to run away, but Shi Hao (he was ordered to watch over her by Zou Zhen) rides in to save the day and he kills quite a few of the Japanese henchmen. Ryuichi then orders sourpuss to find the woman whose picture is in the ring he always wears. He then deciphers the clues in the watch and settles murdering all the people mentioned who I guess are like underground freedom fighters going against the Japanese. He’s then appointed as the head of Shanghai as his master leaves for a different area of China to oversee the operations (and upcoming invasion).
Jin Xiu starts working at the hotel much to Ying Dong’s horror. He’s afraid of what Zuo Zhen will do, but Zuo Zhen gives his permission to let her do what she wants. Of course she immediately earns enemies and with Ming Zhu wanting her out, she gets bullied (of course that doesn’t happen until Ying Dong is kidnapped and later put under house arrest once he’s set free—he ticked off the head policeman’s son by hitting on the head policeman’s wife at a club when he was drunk to forget evil Ming Zhu who keeps shattering his heart).
Jin Xiu is framed as a thief and kicked out. She tries to make it on her own and refuses any help Zou Zhen can offer (she ends up losing all of her money and possessions and even gets scammed into being a dance hostess…but she ends up being a piano player there instead when the other piano player is chased by thugs he owes a debt to). So he does everything on the sly to save her and eventually helps introduce her to a job at Mei Hua, a cosmetics company. Of course she earns enemies there and Ming Zhu’s favorite assistant goes in to make trouble by bribing workers to oust the young woman. With Zou Zhen’s advice, Jin Xiu manages to hang in there and even climb up from a mere warehouse worker to the head of an R & D department. The bullying at the office does not stop and Zou Zhen even secretly buys a house just for her.
Oh…why is he doing all of this stuff? He’s fallen for the girl who is so different from all the other women in Shanghai. She’s pure, innocent, has scruples and principles and won’t use or hurt people to get to the top. He confesses that she’s his woman and forces another kiss on her, but she’s having none of it. She tells him she does not like him at all. He says she only has one chance, but as Jin Xiu notes later, he keeps giving her many chances to change her mind and just accept his offer to be his woman.
Around this time a lot of things happen and Jin Xiu tends to Zou Zhen’s wounds quite often. He goes to her now instead of a regular doctor, and he’s also saved her on numerous occasions, publically and privately. They do build up a friendship and she even refers to him as a beloved “older brother”—which he of course hates, but Tang Hai says that is a step in the right direction towards love. Shi Hao tells the other man to keep his yap shut, but it does give Zou Zhen hope. Anywho, with everything going on an their friendship deepening, Zou Zhen makes a gift of his mother’s precious jade bracelet to Jin Xiu. Of course no one bothers telling her the story of the bracelet so she takes it lightly thinking he is trying to buy her with an expensive bauble. She gives the bracelet away Ming Zhu’s evil assistant. Zou Zhen takes it back and drunkenly goes to her house. How can she treat trashy flowers (from Ying Dong who took her out to a movie and who keeps confusing his feelings for Ming Zhu with his feelings for her little sister) better than his precious bracelet. After that Jin Xiu shatters the bracelet in front of Zou Zhen.
Even after all of that, Zou Zhen cares for her in secret. It’s several episodes later before the truth is revealed and any whiplash hits her, which is surprising. I think that should have come right away, because it just didn’t make sense for all that he kept doing for her when she did that. Of course once she knows, Jin Xiu is very regretful. She has Shi Hao steal the bracelet back and uses up all of her money to repair it as much as it can be and Zou Zhen gifts it back to her to watch over it until he wants it back (which he silently vows will be never). He’s very conflicted. He does not want Jin Xiu tainted by his world or put in harms way over and over again, but he also can’t let her leave. She must always be in his world, never far from him.
While their relationship is developing, we learn that Ming Zhu was taken in by Ryuichi’s teacher after her mother died. She was then tasked with becoming Han Chuan’s woman. After years with no contact, she thought she was safe, but no, Ryuichi tells her its time to do what she was put there to do and she must gather info on Mei Hua (believed to have dealings with the underground organization) and point her lover into doing business that will benefit the Japanese. Ming Zhu tries to resist, but gets pulled in when she is nearly killed by a maniac stalker who was egged on by Ryuichi.
During these episodes, Jin Xiu is quick to jump to her sister’s defense even when Ming Zhu is cruel and cold. She even saves Ming Zhu when the stalker is after her and when a crazy housewife tries to kill Ming Zhu when she loses a beauty competition. Ming Zhu does have conflicted feelings. I guess all that sisterly affection of the yesteryears isn’t completely dead, but I just can’t bring myself to like Ming Zhu or pity her situation. It’s not Mrs. Rong or Jin Xiu’s fault. It’s more like Ming Zhu’s mother’s craziness that is really the problem, but Ming Zhu always goes back to putting all blame on Jin Xiu. She even has poison added to Jin Xiu’s herbal cosmetics to oust both her sister and the head of Mei Hua, to know luck. Her favorite assistant ends up taking the rightful blame and lands in jail.
Thanks to Ming Zhu, Ryuichi finally gets to meet Jin Xiu. To her surprise, the man doesn’t kill her little sister. In fact he is so happy and overjoyed to see Jin Xiu. He keeps expecting Jin Xiu to say she recognizes him from the past, but surely he knows there is no way she is his lover who promised to find him again? Oh…and he and Zou Zhen just don’t get along. With good reason, really, but it’s so funny to see Ryuichi use his charm and everything to try to get on Zou Zhen’s good side to no avail.
We end this series of episodes with Ryuichi’s angry teacher returning to have him kill Jin Xiu since she was making him weak. Eyeroll.
Ok. That’s essentially a lot of the events in a nutshell. I did skip over Ying Dong’s wooing an enemy’s only daughter and other little events. Let’s just say that he might be feeling some genuine affection for Jin Xiu, but it’s really hard to tell as Ming Zhu is always present in fantasies with Jin Xiu. Oh, and Ms. Lin (Mei Hua’s director) has a little brother returned from Europe who takes a fancy to Jin Xiu. Everyone likes Jin Xiu.
My thoughts are definitely that I enjoy this drama. The best part of it is really Zou Zhen and his two men Shi Hao and Tang Hai. Chen Qiao En always plays similar characters and this heroine isn’t as weak and stupid as some, but isn’t really high up there in the ranks of great female characters. All the hell she puts Zou Zhen through is ridiculous. I don’t 100% blame her for the bracelet incident since she wasn’t told, but his drunken anger should have clued her in to the fact that there was a special meaning. Plus it seems like she deliberately misunderstands him at times. Oh…and as for her principles. I understand where she’s coming from, but she also has to get with the program. Her ideals and principles are fine and dandy, but she needs to learn and adapt and not keep staying the same through every thing since she really does need to grow and mature as a person. No, she doesn’t need to turn into a Ming Zhu or another type of girl of that ilk, but she does need to change and she is stubbornly refusing to do so.
Ying Dong isn’t bad, but his hang ups with Ming Zhu and his brother get kind of old fast. We just get to see him brooding or putting up a charming façade. Ming Zhu. I already said I don’t like her and I just don’t know what to think of her lover. But Zou Zhen. He’s awesome. Sure he’s like rough and cold on the outside, but he’s very loyal and warm on the inside. His expressions and his own character’s evolution is what really makes the show.
Something that I really hate are the bajillion constant flashbacks showing the same things over and over and over and over again. WAY overused people. Oh, and then there’s the montages. We get lots of montages of Zou Zhen in his house while Jin Xiu gets bullied or works hard. As much as I love getting to see all that Zou Zhen screen time, it just makes for bad pacing. And as I said with the bracelet incident, things start getting disjointed in places with how they choose to carry out editing and the plot. Another thing is just how convenient things happen. Sure some of Jin Xiu’s things happen all thanks to Zuo Zhen using his clout unbeknownst to her, but then we have that girl at the hotel who stands by her side and does everything for her and who even goes to Ying Dong and Zou Zhen to help when she disappears. Then we have Anna who takes her under her wing and desperately fights to protect her during her dance hostess stint. And then we have Lin Mei Hua who only agreed to allow her to try out for the company, but comes to really respect her. How does she get people on her side to help her out so easily? Yes, she still suffers and is still bullied, but how interesting is that? But…despite these annoyances, I find myself totally loving this show. I get to yell at Jin Xiu, sympathize with Zou Zhen and his two main buddies. I’ve marathoned 20 episodes from Saturday to Monday. That like never happens! It took me an entire week to marathon 30 or so episodes of Can You Hear My Heart? but only three days to get a hole half of this drama done? I think that says something, don’t you?
Oh, Qi Ji has some good acting chops as our evil Japanese antagonist. Most of his scenes are just montages of him killing or watching his men kill. I like how he’s not like Mr. Sourpuss who always looks ticked off. He shows a nice range and he’s a completely different undiabolical person when he officially meets Jin Xiu. It almost makes you want to like him. Almost.
One thing that I do like as this drama has some great things to say without preaching too much. With all that Zou Zhen does to help the girl he is hopelessly in love with, he won’t let her get away with giving up. Sure, he wants her to trust him and lean on him, but at the same time, he wants her to grow up and fight for herself. He struggled in Shanghai and clawed his way to wear he is by not letting people use him or bully him. Even though I do find Jin Xiu very annoying at times, I do admire her sticking to her principles (the non-idiotic ones) and wanting to become independent and self reliant. I think she fails quite miserably in a lot of ways, but it’s nice that she just doesn’t want to depend on some one to get her through life in Shanghai…even if she is constantly seeking aid from Zou Zhen and Ying Dong.
I would like Ying Dong as a character even more if he wasn’t hung up on Ming Zhu who seems determined to have her cake (respectable Shanghai Bund leader) and eat it, too (keeping his little brother as her toy…well it’s really not quite that devious, but she gets very jealous of any girl really capturing his attention – she wants him all to herself which is unfair given she belongs to his brother). I would also like it if he could mature a bit more. He needs to wake up. He is slowly realizing things, but then he doesn’t really seem to go about fixing himself. What does he do when he screws up royally by eloping with an innocent girl in order to get his brother’s rent rates dropped back to normal? He loathes himself even more and gets drunk. Yes, that’s the perfect solution to all your problems – moping, drinking, and wallowing in self loathing.