Review – Cheese in the Trap
What an awesome character study! Hong Seol and Yoo Jung may be the most interesting couple I have watched fall in love in a K-Drama. I thought this was going to be a cheesy college romantic drama, but it turned out to be complex study on individuals coming to terms with their own personalities by observing the actions of the people closest to them.
Overall Rating – 9/10. Sociopaths Make The Best Boyfriends.
Let’s talk about the main characters! (spoilers follow)
Let’s just start with the best character:
I’m a fan of this sociopath. Huge, huge fan. I loved him the minute he spilled beer in that girl’s lap in the first episode and smirked over it. Watching him cut out intricate designs with a straight razor into black paper? Loved it. Watching him beat the shit out of a violent criminal without an ounce of remorse? LOVED IT. I adored all his complicated little schemes to ruin people without getting his hands dirty. He was his father’s son, after all. And every single one of them deserved it (well, there were a few questionable victims, but everyone makes mistakes).
Was he really a sociopath? Well, a bit. Let’s face it. He pretended to be nice and caring but really he didn’t like anyone at all. He was indifferent to their feelings. He considered himself separate from everyone, even though he went along with everyone. He blended in well until he decided to step out and reveal himself on occasion, scaring the pants off people. It’s not that he couldn’t care about people – he just hadn’t been given the opportunity to very often. The two people he trusted most betrayed him, and he’d never fully recovered. Everyone else always wanted something from, as the son of wealthy CEO, so he was constantly bombarded by insincerity and ploys. So… yeah… he was a bit of a sociopath and an extremely compelling character.
His daddy was a sociopath too… who worried his son might have inherited his evil mind. In an attempt to help his son, he taught him to repress all his emotions and go along with the crowd. To be agreeable. He also brought in two strays – sibling orphans – who he had spy on his son and be his friend…. which worked out pretty great until his son figured it out and was heartbroken by the betrayal. Which left Yoo Jung unable to trust anyone, let alone expose his feelings. Hell, he had a hard time even exploring his feelings by himself. It was much easier to be a cold island.
A cold island who lets his frustrations out by being a secret bully. Targeting people who he feels deserve it – people he’s caught stealing or lying or cheating or whatever – he tinkers around behind the scenes and screws up their lives. Justice… and amusement for our repressed vigilante. He just doesn’t believe there are good people.
Until he meets Hong Seol. Which initially he hates… and torments for a year. Yet her reaction to his bullying isn’t the norm. And he finds himself drawn to her. And eventually decides he wants to get to know her – but she’s having none of it! She avoids him like the plague – which leads to a fun game of chase for him… in which he pursues her like a determined cat stalking a mouse.
And slowly… slowly… wins her over.
Their relationship is awesome. Hesitant. Slow. Patient. Full of stops and starts. I loved how he was always willing to step back as far as she needed, but stay in sight. The genuine smiles that would spring up on his face were spellbinding. How could she not fall for that?
Hong Seol is a struggling student who’s had to fight for everything she’s gotten. She has two close friends that she trusts and parents that love her, though they place her brother’s success ahead of hers. She doesn’t express herself well. She keeps things held close, hidden. She keeps her head down. She lets people take advantage of her and doesn’t stick up for herself. She’s a bit sad and lonely but hates to admit it.
She begins to see these same traits in Yoo Jung – which seem obvious and frustrating in him. As it always is when you see your own worst flaws in someone else, it’s easier to pick on them for it than turn on yourself. Which she does. But she also begins to understand these are her problems as well. They learn from each other. They see their differences and similarities. They grow as people.
He gets frustrated as hell with her. She gets upset and angry with him. They get closed up and storm off. Then find each other again and bridge their differences through communication. Slowly they build trust.
He’s able to do with her what he was unable to do with the two others who’d hurt him, the siblings. He’s able to see his own fault in the problems they’ve had and he’s willing to try to change. I loved the end of this show.
Baek In-Ho, the pianist, and Baek In-Ha, the crazypants. These two children had been fostered by Yoo Jung’s father from a young age, raised with wealth and privilege. However, due to the nature of their arrangement with Yoo Jung’s father – basically acting as spies – their relationship with Yoo Jung is doomed. And when things spiral out of control at home – leading to In-Ho’s fateful accident (which is orchestrated by Yoo Jung, though he refuses to acknowledge his own guilt in this) – In-Ho leaves the house, leaving his sister behind. In-Ha, abandoned and now loathed by Yoo Jung, basically turns into a neurotic mess who has no one to rely on. She compulsively spends money and actively, perhaps subconsciously, sabotages her own life. In-Ho does the same, joining a gang for several years before returning back to his home town.
Baek In-Ho was the lovable bad boy who’d been using his injury as an excuse to run from responsibility for years. He was full of resentment and rage. But he was also playful and genuinely kind, when so inclined. He blames Yoo Jung for his injury that kept him from playing the piano – but refuses to see his own part of the tragedy. And it is a tragedy, their story…
I believe they really cared for each other – but their relationship was built on shaky ground, with In-Ho always considering Yoo Jung the odd ball who had to be watched and reported on. And Yoo Jung always resentful of the relationship he saw between his father and In-Ha. They were doomed, poor things. Yet their fates were still tied together because In-Ho hadn’t stopped taking money from Yoo Jung’s father. And In-Ha would soon develop strong feelings for Yoo Jung’s girlfriend, Hong Seol.
Maybe they were fated to finally work out their childhood problems. Both of them hadn’t gotten over their issues. They were still hanging on the pain they caused each other – seeing one another as the catalyst to their troubles. Anyways, In-Ho’s return home set the stage for a long show down between these two boys…
And between them, other than Hong Seol, was In-Ha.
Baek In-Ha, played to perfection by Lee Sung-Kyung, was hysterical, terrifying, and compelling. Orphaned and then abused. Then fostered but encouraged to be devious and two-faced by her new “father.” And later abandoned by her brother and hated by her foster “brother”… she was probably destined to be bat shit crazy. And she was! She was. Full blown nuthouse crazy. And sooooo fun to watch!!! She stole the show whenever she was around with her insane theatrics. You could tell this actress had a blast playing this role.
She was a horrible person with zero redeeming qualities. But I couldn’t bring myself to hate her. She was the product of her upbringing. She admired Yoo Jung and felt she was the only one who really understood him. And in a way, she was. She also felt betrayed by her brother, yet secretly missed their familial connection. She’d been pulled apart from both of them, yet kept bringing them together with her shenanigans.
The rest of the cast was interested and well developed. (Loved our side couple! How adorable were they?)
You had friends and lovers and stalkers and cheaters and perverts and slackers and bitches and your myriad assortment of college students. There was a great deal of variety in the personalities and motivations of each of them and I give the writer snaps for drawing such well developed characters. I had a good time exploring all their stories.
I especially enjoyed watching Yoo Jung tear them down. He was wrong for what he did – but then again, so where the people he went after, for the most part. The big fish pick on the little fish… and then a shark comes and just tears you apart. Yoo Jung was such a great shark.
This was such a great drama about growing up. Growing up is largely about learning to see other people. Children are self centered creatures. Teenagers even more so. It’s only when we look to others to find our place in the world that we become adults. When you start to recognize the humanity around you, you can clearly see yourself. This show was the perfect example of that.
I really loved it. Highly, highly recommended.