I’ve been treading carefully when it comes to Birdie Buddy, having decided to keep watching after the first two episodes but not knowing what category the drama would end up fitting into: guilty pleasures – dramas that you somehow got hooked to and like elements of, but that overall make you want to bang your head against the wall with their absurdity, bad writing or stupid characters – they make you cringe but you somehow can’t look away, or the true loves, the shows you love for the good and for the bad that somehow have the ability to make your heart feel warm and fuzzy even when it’s cloudy and cold outside. So after watching episodes 5 and 6, I have decided to stop beating around the bush and just follow my heart and admit to myself that I can’t resist how true and human these characters and interactions feel, even underneath the cheesy crust the drama sometimes piles on top. So I am taking the plunge and confessing my affections. Now don’t go breaking my heart, you hear me, show?
Before last episode ended, Mi Soo had asked John Lee if he kept following her around because he liked her, and he, in turn, had asked her why she didn’t like him. She more than willingly begins to list his shortcomings, from his smirk (aw, I kind of like that about him), to his persistence in calling her Steamed Bun(I do kind of see the resemblance), and, of course, his hair(that’s true, it has to go). She concludes that before he wants to fix her posture, he better work on his own because it’s not so great. Haha, I love the antagonism. And the fact that he genuinely wants to help her game, regardless of whatever other interest he might be harboring, but she’s having a hard time seeing that because of her own feelings for him. And also because he’s an arrogant ass who always teases her and smirks, but that’s beside the point.
Later that night, as he is practicing, John Lee thinks about what Mi Soo’s mother had told him and about Mi Soo’s situation. The next morning, the dreads are gone (And the crowd goes WIIILD! Oh wait, that’s just me.) Obviously, he cut his hair because he wanted to look teacherly to his student and not because Mi Soo the girl had told him she didn’t like it. The new hair isn’t perfect but, you know, baby steps.
Later that day, John Lee goes up to the mountains to meet his old master. We flash back to 1992, when a strange man had come to the orphanage where Jung Woo (John Lee’s Korean name) and his friend were staying. The priest who ran the orphanage had asked the man, called Fabian, to teach golf to the children. At first Fabian, refuses, but eventually he decides to give the kids a test of endurance. The only ones who make it through are Jung Woo and his friend. They accompany Fabian to the mountains, where he has them do a number of chores, like wood chopping or carrying buckets of water up the steep mountain, all of which are setting the base for their golf training. They rebel because of the harshness of the training, but eventually stick it out. It’s all very Karate Kid, really, only with golf.
Back in present days, the master pretends not to know anyone by the name of Jung Woo, but then, after a threat to his gingseng, the master suddenly regains his memory, calls him by his name and asks him what he needs it for.
Mi Soo resumes training with her old coach and he couldn’t be more pleased by the results. In fact, he laments the way she would mess up in competition when she is doing so well in practice. It also turns out that the lesson fees are so high that Mi Soo’s mother is forced to take out a private loan in order to afford them. Tae Gab, Mi Soo’s brother finds out about it and fills her in on the situation. He asks her not to tell their mother and that instead he will try working something out and pitching in with the costs.
Mi Soo can’t stop herself and asks her mother where she got the money for the lessons, but the mother denies having borrowed it and says she needn’t concern herself with such things. Mi Soo, knowing what she knows, can’t exactly not concern herself, and this triggers an argument between mother and daughter, the first real one we’ve seen. She goes as far as to say that she feels burdened by the sacrifices her family is making and more importantly, by her mother who is the driving force behind everything being done for her. Hearing that, her mother slaps Mi Soo and asks her, furiously, if after everything, that’s all she can say to her. She tells her that if she wants to quit golf, she should, but not to blame the mother who only believed in her. Mi Soo replies that she doesn’t want to quit golf, she just wants to try taking care of things herself. Her mother is appalled, calls her a bad person and walks away.
The thing is, both of them are right and both of them know it. And to whoever has been in a similar situation before, feeling guilty for the sacrifices their loved ones are making for them or making sacrifices for their loved ones (which is pretty much every person, ever), this argument rings incredibly true. It’s horrible to hear that the sacrifices you have made for someone are burdening them. And it’s horrible to carry the guilt of having been allowed to do something you love at the expense of your loved ones’ wellbeing.
For Mi Soo, this conversation is the decisive factor in filling in the caddy application. She gets accepted right away because of her golfing experience, but her best friend isn’t thrilled about it, knowing what the job entails and how little time Mi Soo would have to practice. Most importantly, she has a problem with keeping it a secret from Mi Soo’s mother and Tae Gab, but Mi Soo gets her to promise she will anyway. The secret might not be too easy to keep though, because her mother has just gotten a full time job as a kitchen helper at the same resort.
Elsewhere, the reporter that has been tailing John Lee and Mr. Park reveals why to her editor. As it turns out, some 20 years ago there was a scandal involving illegal betting in the world of golf. John Lee’s master was one of those involved and the reporter’s theory is that John Lee retired in order to get revenge on his master’s behalf. Wow, how’s that for a thickening plot?
That night, Mi Soo tries to apologize to her mother, but the mother will have none of it, smiling and claiming it never happened. Aw, I love the relationship between these two. Min Hae Ryung may have every financial resource at her disposal, but Mi Soo has her mom, and really, there’s nothing better than that.
Speaking of Hae Ryung, her mother announces that she plans to collaborate with Jay Park in promoting their golf course. Hae Ryung later asks her again who her father is, believing that it might be Mr. Park.
Mi Soo and Gong Sook are talking over lunch, and Gong Sook advises her to get close to John Lee, seeing as he is at the resort a lot and that she could benefit from his teachings. Besides, she says, it seemed like they were getting along pretty well that time at dinner. Mi Soo scoffs at the idea but overhears someone ordering steamed buns and gets an idea of her own.
Later that day, she heads over to John Lee’s abode, steamed buns in tow, except instead of finding him, she finds Hae Ryung who was also waiting for him in his trailer. They have a more or less awkward exchange, both of them unsure where the other stands, Hae Ryung showing signs of mild jealousy or at least curiosity where Mi Soo and John Lee’s relationship is concerned, and Mi Soo finding Hae Ryung strange and uncommunicative. They do however share some coffee and steamed buns and while they aren’t instant BFFs, I can actually see these two becoming friends. Of course, there will be the slight matter of falling for the same guy somewhere along the line and I do hope we’ll have none of that self sacrificial “here, have the man I love because you are more pathetic than I am” crap, but as I was saying, there’s the possibility that these two can become great friends.
The next day, Gong Sook and Mi Soo find themselves dealing with the most ridiculous(ly annoying) set of clients imaginable. The gangster bunch, sporting some outfits that would make even Hyun Bin’s character in Secret Garden proud, think the pre-game workout consists of them cheering the girls on and staring at them as they work out. It’s as if fate was telling Mi Soo she didn’t belong there… or, you know, that caddying can be a crappy job sometimes. When they return from the game, it’s time for the new Master Caddy’s inspection. The Master Caddy finds out that Mi Soo is a semi-pro golfer and asks her if she has given up her dream of becoming a pro. Mi Soo replies that she took up caddying to help her overcome the obstacles in her way.
Later that day, Mi Soo and some of her golfing friends meet up and talk about training and coaches. The girls say that John Lee is the most sought-after coach and that Hae Ryung had had a hard time getting him to train her. However, rumor has it that whenever he trains a player, they become romantically involved as well. Back in her room, Mi Soo thinks back to her interactions with John Lee and because of what she had heard earlier, she sees everything in a different light. She turns to her side and imagines he is sleeping next to her, the way he had when he mistook her room for her brother’s. She tries to shake of the image by turning away – aw, it’s so obvious that she hates his guts.
Next morning, it’s John Lee’s turn to be pestered by the overzealous reporter. She drops by his trailer, tries to take his picture and asks some questions that also give us more info about John Lee’s life story. For instance the fact that he became a pro golfer to find his real parents, and he had in fact achieved that after winning the PGA title, except they had already passed away. She also goes on about his golfing master, but he cuts the conversation short and sends her on her way. John Lee takes off too, but not before getting photographed by someone much stealthier than the reporter and who apparently works for Mr. Park.
At the resort, John Lee is training Hae Ryung while Gong Sook and the witch-caddy are training for their teaching certificate. When they see John Lee, they start fangirling over him and he offers the witch-caddy some… hands-on training, helping her fix her posture. I’m beginning to think this is one of his trademark moves. Hae Ryung is amused by this turn of events and takes off, while a newly arrived Mi Soo gives the scene a hearty eye roll. John Lee’s attitude changes radically when he sees her and especially when he finds out that she had begun working as a caddy.
Mi Soo leaves, not before warning Gong Sook to watch out for that pervert. Ha! The pervert, however, follows Mi Soo and asks her what’s up with her becoming a caddy, has she given up golfing? She says it’s none of his business; she’s doing it because she has to. He offers to be her coach and she says she doesn’t want his kind of coaching, though in all fairness the look on her face says otherwise. She goes to train with her old coach and John Lee follows her there as well. After calling her coach incompetent in several indirect ways, to hilarious results, he tells her that the best coach is the one that can understand her better than she does herself, whether she’s in pain, whether it’s her body or her heart that aches, and who can help heal that pain. Gotta hand it to the guy, he can be rather cool.
Later at home, Mi Soo thinks about his offer and picks up her phone to text him but doesn’t know what to say and gives up. Over at his place, John Lee is thinking about her too, and about the request he had made to his master, to teach her. Apparently it was an injury that prevented him from continuing his career, and his friend, the master’s other pupil had given up on golfing as well, so, as John Lee puts it, the master needs at least one worthy student to perfect his technique and he thinks she might be it. He also promises that next time, he will come back with her. Thinking about John Lee’s injury and all the Mr. Park – Fabian – John Lee entanglement, I wonder if the injury is sports related or Mr. Park related. Hmm…
It also appears that the new Master Caddy and Mi Soo’s mother go back a long time. They were caddying partners and friends, and it was the current Master Caddy that had given the number 8 club to Mi Soo’s mother when she had quit caddying to get married so that she could give it to her child on her first birthday. How fairy godmother-like. Mi Soo’s mother hadn’t done that, but as we all know, Mi Soo had found it anyway. Interestingly enough, it looks like the Master Caddy has ties to both Mi Soo’s mother and Hae Ryung’s mother, having even known Hae Ryung’s grandfather, who had been a caddy himself.
Just as the mother and the Master Caddy are finishing their coffee, Mi Soo and Gong Sook return to the caddy base, and her mother catches Mi Soo red handed. (I’m pretty sure this is where the original episode 4 was supposed to end, by the way – not a bad cliffhanger)
Mi Soo and her mother go outside to talk and the mother is once again furious because of her daughter’s actions. She says the family hadn’t made the sacrifices they had made for her to end up being a caddy, and that if she wants to be one, she should give up golfing altogether. Mi Soo replies that she wants to do both, that this is the solution she found and that her mother isn’t her coach and therefore shouldn’t interfere. This earns her another slap from her mother, who then walks away. That evening when Mi Soo gets home, she finds her bags packed and her mother outside, ready to send her off. The mother tells her that she should leave and not let herself be burdened anymore. That even if they do meet at the resort, they should pretend not to know each other. Aw man, this sucks. The thing is, they are both right. Mi Soo did come off as ungrateful and most importantly reckless to her mother ( her friends, John Lee have warned her about it as well) and Mi Soo, well – how could she keep doing what she was doing and still be able to look at herself in the mirror, knowing what she was putting her family through? It had all reached a breaking point for her. Both character’s actions happen because of everything that’s been set up within the drama so far, and that’s rather awesome. Especially since it’s a mother-daughter conflict in a K-drama world where parent-child conflicts either arise from whatever troubles the parents cause their children, or from misunderstandings, or from the parents looking down on their child’s lover of choice, or take the form of meddling that only really exists for comedic relief. So having a relationship that’s clearly based on love and appreciation where the conflicting parties are evenly matched and their arguments are equally valid is refreshing and makes for good drama.
With nowhere else to go, Mi Soo turns to the resort’s caddy dorm. The only problem is, she is bunking up with the witch-caddy, who is less than pleased with the situation, having had the room to herself all this time. Mi Soo doesn’t spend much time in the room and goes out to the field to practice, thinking about her mother and John Lee’s words and how they had both advised her to quit caddying.
Turns out, her mother hadn’t kicked Mi Soo out without a plan in mind. Sure enough, she was hurt by what Mi Soo was doing and her reaction was legitimate, but more than that, she was worried that Mi Soo’s stubbornness wouldn’t let her realize what she was doing was damaging to her career prospects until it was too late. She had shared these worries with her old friend, the Master Caddy, and she, in turn, had promised to look after Mi Soo.
True to her words, the Master Caddy sends Mi Soo over to Hae Ryung’s training room to clean it up – on her day off, no less. Hae Ryung happens by and twists the knife in Mi Soo’s heart a little, just to get her riled up (as a favor to the same Master Caddy). Mi Soo runs off after another one of her “what do you knows” (which is true, from her perspective, Hae Ryung has had everything she could have ever wished for to help with her golfing, financially speaking), but as it turns out, and I do believe this episode is all about that, she has something Hae Ryung could only dream of in the unwavering support of her family.
If she thought caddying was something she could handle, things get even stickier for Mi Soo, with her brother finding out about her new job, going to the resort and causing a ruckus to get her attention. He then tells her to stop looking down on their parents and to think well about what she is doing. I’m loving Tae Gab’s character as well. He’s not one of the leads but he is given enough complexity to make him interesting and real. He has his own dreams (that I’m really hoping he gets to achieve), he is bothered by the fact that his mother took out a loan to support Mi Soo and I would bet, by all the attention she is getting from the family, but on the other hand, he supports her and wants her to achieve the great things she is capable of.
As punishment for the commotion her brother had caused, Mi Soo gets sent to gather the balls that had gotten lost on the course. The punishment doesn’t really feel like punishment though, and she has a great time collecting them, even finding one of her own. Back at caddy central, the Master Caddy tells Mi Soo that she heard she had trained with lost balls as well, and then wistfully wonders how lost dreams can be recovered. Score one for the fairy-godmother.
Mi Soo’s mother thinks back on what Mi Soo had told her about being burdened by her family’s sacrifices and then goes through the journals she had kept to record Mi Soo’s training, the strategies she applied and Mi Soo’s progress. The next morning, it’s time for the waving of the white flag in the form of a lunch box the mother brings Mi Soo, along with all the journals she’d written. As she reads her mother’s journals, Mi Soo begins to cry and remembers what John Lee had told her, about how a true coach knows everything about their player and knows how to heal their hurt.
That night, as Mi Soo walks around the course in a much better mood (and giving me some serious leg envy), she runs into Hae Ryung, who was practicing. Mi Soo apologizes for saying her success had been bought with money and asks who she had learned to play golf from. Hae Ryung replies that she can’t name a specific person because she’d learned from so many coaches over time, and notes that it really does seem like her success was bought, before walking away. Next we see Mi Soo in her room, gathering her things and then going home, back to her mother.
These two episodes have brought a lot of development and have shed light on several characters’ background. John Lee and his teacher, Mi Soo’s mother and her friendship with the Master Caddy, and even Hae Ryung’s mother – I had thought she came from a wealthy family, but being the daughter of a former caddy, turns out she’s pretty much self-made, which also makes me wonder how she got to where she is and whether or not she and Mr. Park had any dealings in the past. The basis for what I believe to be the main conflict of the series has also been set, with the arrival of Jay Park and the hints at his connections to the other characters. To be honest, I’m not really interested in seeing how this main conflict will play out because I’m pretty sure it’ll be somewhat straightforward villain + satellite villains vs. heroes, like in most cases. However, what I’m really enjoying about this drama are the bits of human interactions and glimpses of the characters’ dilemmas that feel so real and personal. So what I am looking forward to are all the individual developments that the conflict in question will bring forth.