KBS2’s new comedy romance, ‘Sweet Stranger and Me‘ (우리집에 사는 남자) is 10 episodes in and the plot is slowly thickening. Three weeks ago I was on the hunt for a new drama to watch and happened to stumble upon this little gem starring two of my favorites; Kim Young Kwang and Lee Soo Hyuk. So let’s have a brief overview of the characters and what’s happened so far.
The Main characters:
Kim Young Kwang plays the lovable lead, Ko Nan Gil, the owner of a dumpling restaurant and a very large portion of land. He comes off as arrogant and aloof, and whose only mission in life seems to be kneading dough, but you soon come to realize there’s a lot more under that blank expression. He’s loyal to a fault and will do anything to keep his promises but he hides a dark past that he cannot escape from. His life only gets further complicated with the arrival of his step-daughter, to whom he needs to explain why her mother married a much younger man. He’s mostly a giant dork but he also has some scary fighting skills which makes him one of the most enjoyable characters to watch, especially when he switches between his two sides.
Soo Ae is this drama’s spunky female lead, Hong Na Ri. She’s a flight attendant with a perfect life and perfect fiancé, so of course, that’s a recipe for disaster. Her life takes a downward spiral after her mom tragically dies and her fiancé has an affair with her co-worker. Leaving Seoul, she heads home only to be met with a tall stranger living in her house. Hong Na Ri is one of my new favorite female characters and proves that even if your life is going down the metaphorical drain, it doesn’t mean you have to give in. And if you come across a lanky squatter, it’s best to hit first and ask questions later!
Lee Soo Hyuk is back as the second male lead, this time as Kwon Duk Bong– heir to to sizable fortune and director of his family’s company. He has a very complicated family dynamic which has soured his personality and he often comes across as rude and cold. His main goal is obtain the land Ko Nan Gil owns and he’s ready to use any means necessary. Amidst this, he also has to deal with his unstable little sister, insufferable parents, and undergo counselling with a psychologist who seems to think that he’s gay. Despite holding a law degree, he only uses it when he needs to benefit and refuses to help his family. At times, he’s shown to be moody and a little violent but he also has a caring side that seems to shine through, even for the briefest of moments.
Our second female lead is Do Yeo Joo, played by Jo Bo Ah. Her looks are basically all she has and she is successful in getting any man to fall for her- including Na Ri’s fiancé. Hiding her family’s poverty, she aims to marry rich and live a comfortable life and expected Na Ri’s fiancé to be her savior. However, things don’t go exactly as planned and instead she botches up the relationship just as she was about to receive a marriage proposal. At first, her only reason for sticking close to Na Ri is to keep her from reconciling with her ex-fiancé. After she misses her shot at marrying him, she sets her sights on Kwon Duk Bong and sticks around to get close to him. In my opinion, this character is one of the most difficult to watch on screen and it’s almost impossible to not want to skip directly over her scenes. But, when you love Lee Soo Hyuk and his character shares screen time with her, you just have to grit your teeth and get through it.
The Secondary Characters:
Kim Ji Hoon plays Jo Dong Jin, Na Ri’s fiancé and overall a sad excuse for a boyfriend. At first you expect him to be the doting other half, but he soon turns out to be a cheater who doesn’t know if he wants to be with his girlfriend of 10 years or her co-worker he’s having an affair with. Flopping between the two, you quickly tire of his squid-like character who only seems to come to his senses a bit too late.
Kim Ha Kyun is Shin Jung Nam, Na Ri’s cowardly uncle who would rather let loan sharks manipulate him than defend his family. He first sides with Ko Nan Gil in the plan to save his family’s land but soon switches sides and sues Nan Gil on orders from the seedy loan company. It’s hard to take his untrustworthy character seriously and if anything, is just there to add to the chaos in the fight over this piece of land.
Shin Se-Hwui plays Kwon Duk Shim, Duk Bong’s little sister who harbors a crush on Nan Gil. She’s a little emotionally unstable at times which causes her to screech at her brother or attack Na Ri- who she’s sees as her competition. Trying to escape her family, she frequently makes deals with her brother to stay with him rather than go back to Seoul.
Worthy Character Mention:
Ji Yoo Ho is hilarious as Lee Yong Kyoo, a worker at the dumpling restaurant. He provides a lot of comic relief with his side comments on various characters like Nan Gil’s apparent gangster background and Kwon Duk Shim suddenly working at the restaurant. Most of the time he’s ignored which makes his character all the more loveable and weird.
Jeon Se Hyun plays Na Ri’s best friend Kim Ran Sook. An ex-flight attendant and now married with kids, she’s loud and hard to miss but has her friend’s back whenever she’s needed. Her strong dislike for Nan Gil causes both comedy and tension.
A Quick Summary:
Episodes 1-8 saw a lot of revelations, both shocking and cliché. Na Ri heads home after discovering her fiancé’s affair and decides to take a break from life. First, she runs into a strange farmer trying his best to slink away before she notices him napping near her mother’s memorial tree. Later she comes face to face with the same guy in her house claiming it to be his and she drunkenly attacks him with a shovel in their front yard. The next morning he rushes her to hospital because she’s mixed alcohol with pills and reveals he’s actually her step-father- he married her mother who passed away soon after.
Suspecting him of being a con-artist, Na Ri goes on a mission to find out exactly who this stranger is. Egging her on is Duk Bong, who is desperate to obtain the land Na Gil now owns so his company can establish a resort. However, Nan Gil is stubborn and won’t sell so Duk Bong decides to use Na Ri to claim the land instead. Sometime during their multiple run-ins, he realizes he’s fallen for the headstrong air hostess who rejects his many advances.
Na Ri slowly uncovers Nan Gil’s past and puts together the pieces of his relationship with her mother. While she and her mother never really got along, Nan Gil adored the lady who volunteered at his orphanage. He grew up to see her as his own mother and slowly developed a one-sided love for Na Ri. He was unexpectedly adopted at one point and was trained to become a skilled fighter and work for his step-father’s loan company. Over time he became notorious for his work, until one day he was imprisoned and then decided to start afresh.
Returning home, he reunited with Na Ri’s mother, only to discover she was in trouble with the company he had worked for- DADA Finance. Quickly developing a plan, he married her and had all the land transferred to him so that the company would not be able to stake their claim, as repayment for the loan Na Ri’s father had long ago taken out. Unfortunately, Na Ri’s mother died in a car accident, leaving Nan Gil determined to fight DADA and keep the land at all costs. Also still in love with Na Ri, he waits for her return and vows to act as her father and protect her as he knows she’s already getting married to someone else.
Discovering that Nan Gil was the kid who followed her around during her school years, she wonders if he still feels the same way. She has also fallen for him over the period of time she’s lived with him but they ultimately decide to take it one step at a time since legally, he’s her step-father and keeping his promise to Na Ri’s mother comes first.
In the midst of this, there is Duk Bong doing his very best to get Na Ri to date him but tragically failing. We also get a deeper look into his family consisting of his father who’s interest lies more in money than his children, a mother who really doesn’t seem to do much, a sister who causes more problems than she solves and several other off-screen siblings. Adding to the comedy, are the counseling scenes where Duk Bong avoids all talk of his romantic interests and gets a little violent at the mention of his father wanting him to return to law. It becomes clear that despite his many luxuries, he cannot stand his own family and their self-serving attitudes.
With DADA Finance and their thugs putting pressure on Nan Gil and Na Ri, Duk Bong quickly puts his law degree to use and offers to represent them- of course he’s in it for himself to gain both the land and Na Ri’s affection. Meanwhile, his sister is causing chaos by attacking Na Ri and causing her to ride her bike off the side of a road and into a ditch. Seeing that this is not the way to Nan Gil’s heart, Duk Shim changes her tactics and convinces him to let her work at the restaurant. She also adopts an older way of dressing to portray herself as much more mature which only serves to be more comical than anything else.
Back in Seoul, Yeo Joo loses Dong Jin after he sees her true colors as someone who chases after rich guys and causes havoc. Realising he can’t have Na Ri and no longer wanting to marry Yeo Joo, he takes off and we don’t see him on since screen since. However, the plot gets complicated when its revealed that Yeo Joo’s father is sickly and his hospital bills are piling up higher than she can afford to pay for. Somehow, this plot device used to gain some sympathy for her character comes up rather short and cliché.
One of the more important reveals in the 8 episodes shown, is that of Nan Gil’s illness that causes him to become disoriented if he has to visit Seoul for any reason. This explains quite a bit why he refuses to leave his home town but he doesn’t provide any explanation into why he suffers from the illness. Once Na Ri finds out, after Dong Jin spills about seeing Nan Gil almost collapse, she rushes back home to find out what’s going on.
With all this drama going on and no visible solution to the land dispute, the viewers are left with an even bigger cliffhanger and the end of episode 8: the big revelation that Nan Gil killed Na Ri’s father during his work for the loan company.
Now, I won’t say that this is the best comedy drama I’ve ever watched but it’s definitely one of my top 3. At first the whole idea of the lead falling in love with her step-father seemed just plain weird. But the writers certainly worked that problem out in an acceptable way.
I also love that this female lead is such a contradiction. Na Ri likes to be in control and know what’s happening at all times but the minute something throws her off, she runs away immediately before thinking. This whole drama is happening in reverse and instead of building up to having everything, she was stripped of it all and now has to start anew. There’s a lot of self-discovery she has to got to do like finding out what her mother really thought of her and how exactly she can deal with this stranger who’s not only been in love with her forever, but also saw her mother as his own.
So far I haven’t found any of the reveals shocking but despite that, the drama is still enjoyable to watch all the same. It’s also pretty hilarious to see good friends like Kim Young Kwang and Lee Soo Hyuk play two characters that hate each other immensely. I’ve always had the habit of falling for the second male lead, and one would think as a Lee Soo Hyuk fan that I would choose his character once again. However I can’t help but lean towards Nan Gil who is the perfect blend of pure sunshine and dark knight.
With 6 episodes left, I can’t wait to see how this drama wraps up the many different story arcs. So, have you been keeping up with this drama and what do you think of it so far?
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Edited By: Acacia