Crash Course in Romance (2023) Episodes 7 and 8
I find myself enjoying this show much more when the mean-spiritedness is kept to a minimum and in the periphery. I don’t mind the murder mystery especially because it does relate to the show’s subject matter. But witnessing the petty rivalries and catfights of this world has me empathizing with young Hui-jae and join him in his seclusion. These women are to my mind living on another realm of insanity and I want my get-out-of-jail card every time one of them is paraded in all her deranged glory.
Although I don’t really believe that Hui-jae is the Metal Ball Killer, his mother, Jang Seo-jin, thinking that he might be is what gives this whodunit a tad more dimension. The killer is definitely related to Chi-yeol but his identity at this point is really not that important here. What’s important is that Hui-jae is a byproduct of this absurd world of helicopter parenting and intense as-if-my-whole-life-depends-on-it competition to gain access to the top universities in the country. In the same way that Hui-jae has been exposed to the same cultural phenomenon. One becomes a hermit, the other a killer. For Jang Seo-jin, the fear of thinking that her son could be a serial killer is her comeuppance for her obsession for excellence at any price. The family dysfunction can be lain in part on her shoulders but also on the shoulders of her noticeably absent spouse who seems to have taken the convenient way out by washing his hands off any responsibility to curb his wife’s excesses. The Lee home is little more than a B & B at this point.
Things are not much better at Soo-a’s place. The man of the house is conducting an extramarital affair and her mother is pandering to her daughter’s deep-seated insecurities and paranoia. Soo-a is sick and the diagnosis is all wrong. Of late, Mum has taken to hiring a private detective to look into Chi-yeol’s outside-of-academy activities. Apparently he has violated some kind of law that prohibits him from doing private tutoring on the side and in a bid to protect her interests, Soo-hui is using whatever power she has to protect her daughter from having to deal with reality head on and with maturity. Neither Soo-hui or Soo-a really believe in actual healthy competition. So what if Hae-yi is getting tips from others? Not everyone who gets outside-of-school help can be No.1 in one month unless her foundations are already intact.
In contrast of course is the family that Chi-yeol and Haeng-seon are building. The person to thank for this development is her mother who used to own an eatery that Chi-yeol frequented while he was a penniless student studying to be a teacher. It’s not hard to see why Chi-yeol is grateful. Haeng-seon’s late mother was a generous soul to a hungry young man in his greatest hour of need. Chi-yeol finally makes the connection between the two gregarious kind women. But he does go overboard in showing his gratitude which arouses the suspicions of Haeng-seon. This also complicates things for Chi-yeol who finds himself attracted to Haeng-seon but labours under the belief that he’s having forbidden feelings for a married woman whose husband is away overseas working. That lie that came about was meant to protect Hae-yi but it’s certainly having all kinds of unintended consequences. Bestie Yeong-joo is right. Chi-yeol does like Haeng-seon (even Hae-yi notices) but things get complicated when he finds out whose daughter she is and also when he goes on a blind date with a concert pianist whose interest in him is piqued.
There’s an intriguing conversation about masks between Chi-yeol and the concert pianist (Hye-yeon) on their first blind date. She says that he’s surprisingly cold for a guy who exudes so much warmth and energy in his teaching videos. He says it’s an act or a mask for the students’ benefit, to keep them motivated. However, 8 episodes on it’s increasingly obvious that the aloof professional persona is the mask and the warm, caring teacher is much closer to who Choi Chi-yeol is. Maintaining the business-like celebrity teacher status has been stressful and exhausting for Chi-yeol. Lack of an appetite and insomnia were symptoms of that. He’s a lot happier and more fun to be around when he’s not desperately trying to maintain professional distance from everyone. On some level his loneliness is self-inflicted undoubtedly due to events of the past which has made him leery of trusting people. He is a sensitive soul otherwise he wouldn’t be so withdrawn as he has been until now. Of course we have the rest of the show to see him loosen up much more and gradually come out of his shell.
It is a credit to Jung Kyung-ho’s acting chops that Chi-yeol’s attraction to Haeng-seon is convincing. For the first time in the show I think I felt something “romantic” might be plausible between the leads indifferent to the violin background music. For instance the foot volley ball incident when he hurt his wrist was perfectly executed. It doesn’t hurt that he has a flair for well-timed comedic delivery but his befuddled expression as she was tending to his injury made my day. Like she says, he is joyfully allowing himself to be drawn into the chaos of the Nam family despite earlier protestations. Chicken Day showed how far Chi-yeol’s come in terms of “expanding” his social circle outside of his PA Mr Ji. It’s not just his attitude towards Haeng-seon that’s changed but how he’s being considerate of Jae-woo in little ways. No doubt the guy needs love and genuine friends but far more importantly needs to be part of something bigger than himself that models real affection in a family context.
For me at this point, Chi-yeol’s “romance” with Haeng-seon is about giving Chi-yeol a place to call home with people that he can trust and be himself with. Until now he hasn’t been able to which is why he hasn’t done more than see a therapist on a regular basis to unburden himself.