Ok, raise your hand if you decided to watch a drama because you saw an actor in another drama who piqued enough interest to make you put all of the said actor’s filmography on your watch list no matter how big or small the role. This is exactly the situation I currently find myself in with Lee Do Hyun and hence, why the 2018 drama, Clean With Passion For Now ended up on my list.
A little caveat before I let the fangirl out to play. I have not written about a drama here in like forever. I am a little nervous but decided to go for it.
My first run-in with Lee Do Hyun was during his turn as the ill-fated Ko Chung Myung in Hotel del Luna. While I should have attempted to write about my thoughts of the drama and Do Hyun upon the conclusion of, or even during, my watch, I decided to leave that to the professionals like Kfangurl who unpacks both the drama and Lee Do Hyun’s gentle, nuanced and smoldering performance in her wonderfully detailed review here. What I will say is that by the end of my watch, I knew I needed more Lee Do Hyun in my life. But, before I talk about his Gil Oh Dol here, some thoughts on the characters and plot of Clean With Passion For Now.
I will be honest, it took me nearly my entire watch of this drama before I warmed up to our male lead, Cleaning Fairy Company CEO, Jang Seon Kyul (Yoon Kyun Sang), and I still cannot determine why I was playing so hard to get. Nevertheless, I did find myself becoming more and more sympathetic towards him as the episodes wore on. By the final third of the drama, I was genuinely hoping he would overcome his mysophobia (the pathological fear of contamination and germs) and yes, that he and Gil Oh Sol (Kim Yoo Jung) would end up together in healthy couple bliss. I was not too thrilled that it happened LITERALLY in the last five minutes of the final episode. Sigh….why do Korean dramas do this?? I will give this one a pass, however, as a good portion of the drama’s midsection fed viewers ample couple interplay.
I am discovering that one of the main reasons I click so much with Korean dramas of the romantical nature is that they generally involve a sort of star-crossed lover plot. I am not going to deny that the reason is most likely because I am a hopeless and hapless fan of William Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet. So while a couple in a Korean drama may have to jump through hoops of fire on their way to ultimately be together, I am eased in knowing that more often than not, they are not going to suffer the same fate as Romeo and Juliet.
In the early episodes of this drama, I was immediately intrigued by Daniel Choi/Choi Ha In (Song Jae Rim), the Gil family’s enigmatic and seemingly unemployed boarder living in the rooftop apartment of their building.
I was finding myself in second lead camp for a better part of the drama as a whole, that is until Ep. 11 when the writers decided to make Daniel’s otherwise reserved, gravitas-laced persona ridiculous and cartoonish. This is spoilerish if you have not watched the drama (most of what I am writing here is spoilerish), but we eventually learn that Daniel is a prodigy doctor of psychiatry who was a renown student of a doctor in the US who had (no surprise) treated Seon Kyul when Seon Kyul was sent by his grandfather to the states to get treatment for his severe mysophobia. A couple of things happened in both Episodes 10 and 11 that annoyed me. The first was that Seon Kyul’s trusted assistant, Secretary Kwon (Yoo Sun) asks Gil Oh Sol to physically move into Seon Kyul’s apartment to become a live-in housekeeper. The MO behind this of course was to help Seon Kyul get over his germophobia. See, conglomerate bad guy Cha Seung Hwan (Ahn Suk Hwan) who is also Seon Kyul’s grandfather, wants to pass his company, AG Group, down to Seon Kyul but needs him cured before doing so. For context, Gil Oh Sol had been an employee at Seon Kyul’s Cleaning Fairy company but because of an accusation lodged against her during an on-site cleaning job (she was accused of shredding an important document after being told not to touch any papers on the desk in the office she was cleaning – she did not do it, by the way), Oh Sol voluntarily resigns her position with the company (much to Seon Kyul’s dismay because by this point he is absolutely smitten and duly in love).
Having Oh Sol move into Seon Kyul’s apartment made no sense to me whatsoever. Having Daniel also invade the premises in Ep. 11 was even more infuriating to me because it was done so capriciously. Then again, Daniel has a thing for Oh Sol and is also Seon Kyul’s treating psychiatrist. I get it. It still did not make any sense, and I just did not like it. Furthermore, Seon Kyul had EVERY right to be angry and to demand Daniel leave. On the one hand, he wants his me only time with Oh Sol. On the other, it seems highly abnormal for a psychiatrist to be openly treating a patient in the patient’s home while there is a live-in housekeeper also on the premises.
Up until Ep. 11, I was ok with Daniel. I thought he kept a respectful distance from Oh Sol even after she refused him when he confessed his heart to her and was cognizant of her feelings for Seon Kyul. He seemed perfectly content maintaining a friendship. This was part of why I really liked him. Daniel crashing Seon Kyul’s apartment AFTER discovering that Oh Sol was living there, however, was proof to me that he was still trying to covertly win her. In the closing episodes I had moved on from my initial Daniel love because ultimately he held back on confessing the how and why he came to live on the Gil’s rooftop. He NEVER told Oh Sol OR her family how he knew them or how he was involved with the death of Oh Sol and Oh Dol’s mother. He coyly alluded to Oh Sol that they had met before and that he felt responsible – but never said WHY!!! THIS is critical because this is why Daniel came to live on the rooftop in the first place and why he felt so obligated to keep watch over the family. He also just wanted to be close to Oh Sol. Then, to infuriate me even more on this issue, he leaves without warning and with no good-bye. Badly done, Dr. Daniel. I may have wanted Oh Sol to choose Daniel in the beginning, but by drama’s end, I knew I would be content if she ended up with Seon Kyul.
Before I go into gush mode over Lee Do Hyun let me talk a little about the Cleaning Fairies and Gil Oh Sol.
The Cleaning Fairies
The dynamic of our four core cleaning fairies here is so reminiscent of the four core cafe employees of Coffee Prince that I could not help but enjoy their time together on screen. When Oh Sol is hired along with family friend Jeon Young Sik (Ko Geon Han), they join an already established team of current employees, Lee Dong Hyun (Hak Jin), the stoic and quiet team leader with a criminal past, and aspiring actor Hwang Jae Min (Cha In Ha). As they become a cohesive team and enjoy an easy and playful camaraderie with each other, I found it heartwarming that Oh Sol’s burgeoning relationship with the ‘boss’ never really phased any of them. When Seon Kyul and Oh Sol come clean (no pun intended) to the team that they are dating, the initial shock quickly turns into warm congratulations. As in Coffee Prince, these four cleaning fairies become close and supportive of each other, in addition to witnessing their otherwise prickly and arrogant boss soften as he begins to tumble into the throes of love.
I cannot recall the exact episode, but there is a scene where Young Sik sees Dong Hyun having coffee with Eun Hee (Bae Yoon Kyoung), the woman Young Sik had been obsessed with and pursuing to no avail. Young Sik’s automatic and aggressive response is to think that Dong Hyun is trying to steal Eun Hee when in fact, Dong Hyun asked to meet with her to find out what her intentions were concerning Young Sik. The mark of a good team leader is to make sure your team is healthy and happy so that they can be productive. Dong Hyun knew that Young Sik’s exhaustive pursuit of a woman who was not interested would continue to interfere with his ability to stay focused while working. In a moment of clarity, Young Sik says, “I guess I can’t change someone’s feelings by just enduring.” And with that, Young Sik and Eun Hee were able to face each and get the closure each needed to move on. There were other instances, of course, where the team continued to bond with each other despite their differences, much like Eun Chan, Min Yeop, Ha Rim, and Sun Ki from the Coffee Prince cafe.
[On a sad note, I came to realize when I began writing this post that we lost Cha In Ha back on December 3, 2019 when he was found dead in his home by his manager. It was the third death in a matter of months that rocked the Korean entertainment world. First, singer/actress Sulli on October 14, 2019, and then singer/actress Goo Hara on November 24, 2019, both to suicide. Many speculate that Cha In Ha also committed suicide, but I have not seen any confirmation that was the cause of death. Cha In Ha was 27. So sad.]
Gil Oh Sol
Kim Yoo Jung was a bright spot in this drama for me overall. Female leads are often a hit or miss for me sometimes. I am still not over Sung Yu Ri in The Snow Queen and that drama aired in 2006. Granted I probably watched it sometime in 2013 or 2014, but I still stew over how much her performance annoyed me. Anyway, I have only good things to say about Kim Yoo Jung. Before I go medieval, however, let me say that I liked Gil Oh Sol as a character. A true square peg in a round hole world, I found her to be a dutiful and loving daughter, an encouraging sister, a wonderful and reliable colleague and friend, and a gentle and patient girlfriend.
I think some viewers probably had a hard time with the diminutive and young Kim Yoo Jung opposite the towering and older Yoon Kyun Sang. I see where that can put some people off. For me, I felt Yoo Jung mature enough to handle her character who was also an older sister to Lee Do Hyun’s Gil Oh Dol; Do Hyun is four years her senior. In all of their scenes together, I would have thought Yoo Jung was indeed the elder of the two. I suppose that is a compliment to both Yoo Jung and Do Hyun’s acting chops.
Throughout the drama, I was full-on rooting for Gil Oh Sol. I wanted her to get the job of her dreams and find true love. Her journey was rocky to be sure with setbacks and disappointments. Yet she forged through it all. I saw Oh Sol as genuinely authentic and honest, as well as strong despite her protestations and moments of wavering self-confidence. This is why the final two episodes of the drama set my hair on fire!
I am going to attribute my disappointment to the pleasure-delaying ‘you have to watch until the bitter end to see if Oh Sol and Seon Kyul end up together‘ storyline and writing. I thought it was stupid for Oh Sol to flat out dump Seon Kyul because he was related to the CEO of the organization responsible for her mother’s death. Ok, before you riot over the fact that it is a familial duty and whatnot, let me just say that I would have expected Oh Sol to at LEAST EXPLAIN to him WHY she was dumping him instead of saying boom…we are done, don’t call me, etc. I was crushed when she did it. In the back of my head I knew why she was doing it but it made me so angry that she did not even extend Seon Kyul the courtesy as to WHY she made the decision. Indeed, I thought that authenticism I spoke of would have made her capable of being truthful to Seon Kyul. And when she is unable to find Seon Kyul at the airport as he readies to leave for the US which turns out to be for a two-year stay, I knew the writers wanted to keep us hanging. My conflicted feelings of whether to feel sorry for her or satisfied she missed the opportunity were arguing it out in my head.
If that wasn’t enough to make my blood boil, the fact that it was not until LITERALLY the last five minutes of the FINAL episode of the drama that we got a reconciliation certainly did. As I mentioned earlier, I was willing to forgive the writer for this only because we did get the opportunity to witness Oh Sol and Seon Kyul not only declare their relationship publicly but were privy to their happy times together before the truth spilled out that he was heir to AG Group thus forcing them to part.
Okay, breathe. This is the part of the post where I get to talk about the reason I watched this drama in the first place.
Gil Oh Dol
Whenever Gil Oh Dol (Lee Do Hyun) showed up on my screen, I was a happy fangirl. His small supporting role packed a power punch (for me anyway) because it confirmed what I had thought of Lee Do Hyun as I watched him in Hotel del Luna and that is, he can act and has a very nice screen presence. I guess it doesn’t hurt that he is handsome, tall, and athletic. :\ Indeed, that athleticism served his interpretation of Gil Oh Dol well in that Oh Dol is a taekwondo champion with his sights set on becoming a member of South Korea’s national Olympic team. Still, he is a typical high schooler often hard to rouse and get out the door to school.
But clearly, a serious and focused athlete when it came to pursuing his dream.
The pivotal Oh Dol moment for me, however, came in Ep. 13. Because I have not been breaking this entire drama down episode by episode or even really discussing the full parameters of the plot, and because I probably need to set up why Ep. 13 became the most memorable for me, let me add some context here.
At one point in the drama, Oh Sol and Oh Dol’s father, Gil Gong Tae (Kim Won Hae), is laid off from his waste management job. He decides to start a self-owned car wash service and begins washing cars in local parking lots. This does not sit well with local thugs who feel he is honing in on their territory/business and begin threatening him regularly.
One day Oh Sol’s best friend, Min Joo Yeon (Min Do Hee) sees the thugs harassing Gong Tae and intervenes on his behalf. It will never sit well with me watching men become verbally and physically abusive towards women, but Joo Yeon who suffers no one, tries to stand up to them, threatens to call the police but the thugs continue with their intimidation. Joo Yeon calls Oh Dol who is at the gym training.
Oh Dol arrives just in time to see one of the thugs ready to strike Joo Yeon. OH HELL NO!! He intervenes and the thug punches Oh Dol. Game on.
Oh Dol is subsequently accused of using his taekwondo (he was wearing a dobok at the time) as a weapon and this, unfortunately, threatens his chances of making the national team. Joo Yeon feels directly responsible for causing Oh Dol to be in this position (having to face assault charges as well as disciplinary action from the taekwondo athletic association). She tries to counter his negative outlook over the situation with constant encouragement and even prepares him a home-cooked meal that she delivers personally to him at the gym.
I have to be honest, I never saw it coming. I never saw Oh Dol being remotely interested in a relationship because of his laser-focused desire to make the national team. If he were to show interest in dating or the like, making a play for his elder sister’s best friend certainly was not on my bingo card! The moment came in Ep. 13. Oh Dol was talking over the upcoming disciplinary hearing with Young Sik when they passed a cafe where Joo Yeon was having coffee with a blind date.
Perhaps seeing Joo Yeon on a date is the moment Oh Dol understands his young but true heart and his sincere affection for his sister’s best friend. With little to no forethought, Oh Dol seizes the moment, escorts Joo Yeon from the cafe, and with the authority of a man on a mission to win his girl, tells Joo Yeon to stop going on blind dates and getting involved with good-for-nothings.
OMG!! If that wasn’t enough, Oh Dol then addresses Joo Yeon informally declaring: “You’re mine from today!” He proceeds to rattle off that once he wins a gold medal at the Olympics, he will have a pension, buy an apartment, and might even shoot a commercial. Joo Yeon is shocked by his unexpected declaration and when she asks him if he is crazy, Oh Dol removes a Korean flag pin from his jacket collar and “swears on the national flag.” He ends the conversation by saying that when he makes the national team, he will ask her out before anything else.
THIS is the content I signed up for. And like that, after one simple short scene, I was prepared to let the drama unfold as it would because, in my silly fangirl mind, I was getting a relationship I could 100% be on board with whether it came into fruition or not. The mere suggestion that Oh Dol and Joo Yeon would date and become a couple was enough. I was satisfied.
As you know, I finished the drama. As to any foreshadowing suggesting my OTP would end up together, the drama was kind, but the road to get there, not so much. I nearly lobbed a shoe at my screen when in Ep. 14, Joo Yeon meets up with Oh Dol on the eve of his disciplinary hearing to give him back his flag pin. WHAT? She quickly put me at ease by keeping the ship afloat by telling Oh Dol that when he wins his first gold medal, she will accept. Like Oh Dol, I bought into that deal 100%. In the disciplinary action against him for defending his father, Joo Yeon, and himself, Oh Dol was given a one-year suspension from practicing taekwondo (Seon Kyun’s evil grandfather fixed the outcome by putting AG Group people on the disciplinary board – all in an attempt to break up Oh Sol and Seon Kyul). As a result, Oh Dol said he would give up taekwondo, much to everyone’s dismay (including mine).
By Ep. 16 (and after an earlier stern lecture from his big sister), Oh Dol ultimately decides that he will not give up taekwondo and even takes his suspension as motivation to succeed. He tells his family that running away is not who he is and that he will face the problem head-on with his talent. Just because he cannot take part in competitions does not mean he has to quit training. With complete and undiluted confidence, Oh Dol states that he can still join the national team without going to college; so, if he can accomplish that, “a one-year suspension…sure, they can suspend me.” I stan this man!!!
As the 16th and final episode continued to unfold, I nevertheless became more and more frustrated. The two-year time lapse. The long, drawn-out reconciliation of our lead couple (well, maybe yours . . . heh heh). The suggestion that Grandpa Cha’s ultimate apology to Gil Gong Tae and his family along with assuming full responsibility for the accident that caused wife’s death, as well as surrendering all of his assets to society seems to have miraculously elongated his life span in the wake of the 4th stage cancer he was suffering throughout the previous 15 episodes. It gives me hope that good deeds do not go unnoticed. But I digress.
The best part of this final episode (well, for me . . . heh heh) is when Oh Dol runs to meet Joo Yeon after she leaves work. Now that he is straight in his head about what he wants to do following his suspension, one thing is clear: he also wants her. When they meet, Oh Dol returns his national flag pin to Joo Yeon and asks her to hold onto it for him until he wins a gold medal. He pleads, “do it for me,” promises her he won’t be an idiot anymore and swears that is his vow.
Joo Yeon accepts. They embrace and Oh Dol sweeps her off her feet and into his arms for a happy victory twirl.
Ok, look, I know I went a little overboard in the previous section over a minor character in this drama. I am not ashamed to admit that having little tidbits of Gil Oh Dol throughout 16 episodes kept me invested even when the drama was trying my patience. Ultimately, I was rooting for Oh Sol and Seon Kyul. But I also admit that their plight fell a little on the wayside during Ep. 13 when I was blindsided by the thought of Oh Dol and Joo Yeon coupling up. When it became clear that they would, all of the previous nonsense that did not sit well was easier to swallow even if it was not so appetizing. To show I really did care for our lead couple, let me give them a shout by sharing my fave OST from the drama, Sleep by Kim Greem:
I will admit that because my lens was particularly focused on Lee Do Hyun, I probably gave him a little more love than the average secondary character gets when a blogger writes about a drama. Perhaps if you made it this far into the post, you have already forgiven me.
For indulging me and for graciously extending me that license to fangirl over (the needs more roles and screen time) Lee Do Hyun, I humbly thank you.