Kdrama Review: Last Scandal
Because we all need a little romance in our life after marathoning two mystery/thriller Korean dramas! And since I really loved this romance, I decided to cover it before covering White Christmas and The Village Achiara’s Secret. Last Scandal is a Spring 2008 Korean drama which centered around a middle-aged cast. The cast members where fairly close to 40 as their characters were, which is nice. Given how good they whole cast looked, it was hard to believe they were already nearing middle age. This popular drama gave birth to a new term: joomarella! Why? Because our ahjumma got a Cinderella ending…well…I guess I get why they call it a Cinderella ending, but I wouldn’t quite say that myself, lol.
Our drama focuses on Hong Sun Hee (played by Choi Jin Shil who sadly committed suicide several months after this drama completed) who is 39-years-old. Her husband (Ahn Yoo Sik played by Kim Byung Se) quit a stable job to strike out on his own and he lands the family in serious debt and even gets thrown in jail. At this point in her life, Sun Hee crosses paths again with her first love from 20 years ago. Jang Dong Chul (Jung Joon Ho) is currently living a superstar life and covering up his true identity and his true age (he says he’s only 32 and not 39). Even though he is superstar Song Jae Bin and it has been 20 years, he still recalls his precious first love.
In a way, I was reminded of She Was Pretty. There you had a childhood puppy love where the girl was attractive but a harsh life made her less pretty with spots on her face and a frizzy fro. In this drama, you had a pretty young woman become a bug-eyed ahjumma with a messy fro. Choi Jin Shil is not a knockout, but she’s more understated pretty. Thus with her crazy hair and bug glasses it is quite a transformation when the glasses are gone and her hair is straightened.
15 years ago, Sun Hee married Ahn Yoo Sik. One year later they had a daughter (Ahn Ji Min played by Han Bo Bae). Not long after Sun Hee married or just before she married, her family went bankrupt and both her parents passed away. As you can imagine in such dramas, Sun Hee’s in-laws treat her like crap. Her mother-in-law constantly berates and belittles her—especially about money and of course the horribly selfish and flawed hubby can do no wrong in mommy’s eyes. Her sister-in-law is wealthy, but since her husband controls the purse strings, she never helps out Sun Hee’s family. Sun Hee is even her maid and babysitter! But no one has a kind word no matter how Sun Hee works herself to death to do what she can for everyone else. It’s no wonder her looks go by the wayside.
While Sun Hee has been struggling for the past 15 years, Jang Dong Chul has spent his past 15 years being made into a superstar by his hyung Jang Dong Hwa (Jung Woong In). This means no women and no friends to avoid scandals. I do often wonder just why Dong Hwa was so strict with his little brother, but it could be just because Dong Chul/Jae Bin is not the most responsible and mature person. There’s a lot left unanswered here in ways.
Ok. So to placate Jae Bin, his manager Won Tak (Ahn Il Kwon) find info on his first love. Won Tak mistakes Sun Hee’s beautiful in-law as Sun Hee. He gives Jae Bin Sun Hee’s number, and even knowing that Sun Hee is married, Jae Bin contacts her. At this time everything falls apart in Sun Hee’s life. Dong Chul keeps his identity a secret from Sun Hee and lies and says he’s in the lumber import business which means he would be very wealthy. Hating to do it, but having no place left to turn, Sun Hee grudgingly screws up her courage to ask Dong Chul for help. Only when they meet, they are both shocked. The two had a bad run in earlier when Sun Hee drop kicked her daughter for skipping school to attend Jae Bin’s CF shoot (he got stuck in the middle, lol). Nothing has gone right for the two since they’ve met several other times. So Jae Bin lies about being Dong Chul, but Sun Hee quickly discovers the lie. Jae Bin then does some serious acting to soothe her feelings and get her far away, but Sun Hee believes he’d buy her for a day and reluctantly agrees to sell herself to him to get the money to save her family.
Dong Hwa returns home during this exchange and Jae Bin quickly lies and says Sun Hee is there to be a maid. She is hired on the spot and she torments Jae Bin to try to get his blackmail tape of her stripping (he thought she was going to blackmail him, but got this surprise instead) back. In the end, Sun Hee can’t quit this new job as she’s just so desperate. Dong Hwa is even nice to have a vote to have her stay in the guest house when she and Ji Min are getting kicked out of their apartment.
Of course, the immature Jae Bin does his best to torture her into quitting, but his old feelings can’t be denied and he and Sun Hee first become friends once more and he does his best to protect her. When he’s with her, he’s always Jang Dong Chul and never really the star Song Jae Bin. Of course the reuniting of two old flames comes with lots of obstacles and setbacks. Dong Hwa falls for Sun Hee (and it’s hinted at that she is possibly his first love or crush as well….but I’m not 100% certain that was officially declared or not), actress Lee Na Yoon (Byun Jung Soo) returns to Korea to claim both Jae Bin and her son Jang Hoon (Lee In Sung), there is the fact that Sun Hee is married for half the drama, and of course Jae Bin discovers a huge birth secret that sends him reeling.
Overall the pacing and plot are done quite well. And situations in regards to feelings and reality are, I think, more realistic. As much as the 39yo Sun Hee wants to hold on to her love with Jang Dong Chul/Song Jae Bin, she also has to be realistic that they do live in two separate worlds now and she has to be strong and sacrifice for her family. Of course, if she’s honest with herself, she doesn’t want to give him up now that they are reunited again (this is, of course, post-divorce, not pre). I think the biggest plot problem comes with Na Yoon. She is against Sun Hee because Sun Hee has stolen Jae Bin’s attention and Na Yoon believes she deserves both her son and Song Jae Bin back after she abandoned them both 14 years ago to pursue her own career. She pleads for understanding, but Sun Hee can’t understand a woman so selfish and who only thinks of herself instead of Jae Bin’s and Hoon’s feelings. We then have in one or two episodes later where Sun Hee does feel badly for Na Yoon who gives the woman advice about being a star’s girlfriend and then asks Sun Hee to take care of her son until Na Yoon can fully be his mother. I think it was really too much of a stretch for Na Yoon to change tunes so fast.
And…I wasn’t happy with how much Ji Min got hit. Oh, she wasn’t beaten or abused horribly all the time, but every time Sun Hee lost her temper with her daughter it’s a hard slap to the head or slaps to the arms and back. I wasn’t happy with that part at all (and they didn’t look to soft either). Thankfully there was less of that as the drama progressed and the relationships smoothed out when more of the stress was gone.
Overall, I found this an endearing drama and I was happy that Sun Hee’s ex didn’t get redeemed like Na Yoon did. He leaves Sun Hee when one of the client’s he screwed over (or rather his friend conned people out of money and left him holding the bag) decides to invest in him if he’ll be her last romance. She’s in her 50s, he’s in his 40s. She was loaded and got him out of jail, paid off his debt, and even made him a manager of her wine bar. Yun Sik always got involved in Sun Hee’s business after the divorce and complained all the time about her relationship with the Jang brothers. He thought she was a cheat and demeaned her when it was always just him being the ass and unfaithful. Even though Jae Bin was her first love (and she had desperately agreed to trade her body for money), she was always worrying and faithful to her louse of a husband who only lied to her and even conned her into a divorce. I was happy at the end that his wine business failed and that his new girl was a bit on the silly side on doing only things she thought was romantic. It would have served him right, though, if the rich lady ending up dumping his sorry carcass.
I highly recommend checking this drama out! It’s a keeper.