Finally, my recent most anticipated Tw-drama Pleasantly Surprised (喜歡. 一個人), previously titled as Love Myself or You premiered last Friday. It’s off to a decent start, rating 1.15, placing itself at second place among Friday dramas, trailing behind the long-running Tw-drama Independent heroes (廉政英雄). In other words, it’s actually the winner among mini-series of that timeslot. 1.15 is pretty decent for a premiere rating, its predecessor, In A Good Way (我的自由年代) premieres at 0.95 so I hope it can continue to rise and I think there’s room for an increase in rating based on what I’ve seen in Ep1. I don’t know how the new English title Pleasantly Surprised is connected or even related to the story as it sounds so random as compared to their previous title Love Myself or You but since it’s already a done case, I don’t care as long as I can continue to get my weekly dose of Jasper Liu (IUUI, Amour et Pâtisserie).
The pilot episode of Pleasantly Surprised performs satisfactorily, it delivers what I expected it to do, being pleasant, fun and lightweight, a rom-com with tons of cute and adorable oozing from it. It really helps that I like Puff Kuo (Just You) and Jasper Liu a lot individually, and together. From what I’ve seen in Ep1 and in the BTS, Jasper and Puff seems pretty comfortable around each other, their previous collaboration in Golden Bell Awards and their mutual friend must have worked some magic to add onto their chemistry.
I’m not expecting them to score high distinction on the acting department as they’re definitely far from being a solid actress/actor but I’m glad to see improvement from them, especially Puff’s speech deliverance, she’s a lot clearer and more natural than she was in Just You. It also helps that her character is a lot more tolerable that Liang Liang from Just You (就是要你愛上我). Despite my strong affections for Jasper, I always think that he’s very green as an actor, especially since I just re-watched IUUI (我愛你愛你愛我), it’s obvious that he’s very lacking in emotional performance, especially when he was acting besides Chloe Wang (IUUI, Lovestore at the corner), she’s so emotive as compared to him. I can’t really see obvious improvement from Jasper in ep1 aside from his slight improvement in speech deliverance but since it’s only Ep1, there’s still a lot of room to see whether he’ve improved or not.
Although I think that a likable main pairing is the priority in a rom-com drama, I also think interesting characters will add a lot of points to the drama as a whole and it won’t make me feel bad for being shallow, liking a brainless fun (inserts Just You here). From characters description, there’s some level of complexity hidden beneath the main characters, Du Kai-Qi (Puff Kuo), Fu Zi-Jie (Jasper Liu) and even secondary characters, Cheng Le-Xuan (Lene Lai) and Cheng Hao-Wei (Jolin Jian) gets fleshed out. It’s full of cliche but the execution so far, is good enough to compensate for those imperfections.
On the comedy front, it still lies in the typical exaggeration category but I feel there’s some subtle sadness and contemplative tone when it comes to what shapes Kai-Qi’s cold personality, her reluctance to let others participating her world and Zi-Jie’s complex relationship with his brother. These interesting characters balance out the rough edges of the drama. Just based on the first episode, I feel like it will be an enjoyable ride ahead.
I won’t be doing a regular review on this drama since I’m also helping with the Pleasantly Surprised subbing team on Viki so it’s a little too much work for me to toggle both sides. I may do commentary on interesting episodes from time to time but no promise there.
Brief Recap/Summary on Ep1:
Du Kai-Qi (Puff Kuo) works as a second cook in a French restaurant, Figaro and have been dreaming about the sous chef position ever since she first stepped in the restaurant 6 years ago. She’s calm and cool about almost everything, except for anything related to food and comic (based on character’s description). Her co-workers are scared of her cold and fierce personality as she’s a complete different person once she enters the kitchen. Her life is full of hardship as her dad is an irresponsible person, he often abuses her mom and make their life miserable.
Due to her difficult upbringing, she firmly believes that aside from family members, being by herself is a lot better than being with another person. She wishes to ease the burden and sufferings of her mom so she tries her best to compete with Cheng Le-Xuan (Lene Lai) for the sous chef spot as the salary is said to be double her current salary. It’s also her dream to work her way up in Figaro restaurant as she holds fond memories of the restaurant since her childhood days.
Fu Zi-Jie/ Louis (Jasper Liu) just came back to Taiwan from France, he’s very passionate about cooking and is also very talented in cooking. Kai-Qi incidentally gets to taste his cooking when he was covering for his friend to work as a Head Chef in a restaurant for a day. From then on, Kai-Qi started admiring his culinary skills without knowing how he look like as she only got to know his English name, Louis.
Due to the intense persuasion from his parents, he disguises as an intern to work in Figaro, his father’s restaurant, making him a co-worker of Kai-Qi. He’s an easy-going, warm and friendly guy, he keeps a low-profile on his true identity and is very humble about everything. He holds fond memories of his childhood sweetheart, Kai-Qi who is the daughter of his nanny when he was young. He is surprised to find his childhood sweetheart, Kai-Qi working in the same restaurant as him but what baffles him the most is how much she’ve changed. She used to be sweet, cute and innocent but now, he finds her cold, fierce and hard to get along with. He wonders what happened to her and feels his heart aching for her at the same time.
They get off to the wrong foot as Zi-Jie accidentally becomes the judge of the competition for the Sous Chef spot that Kai-Qi have been eyeing for a long time, he announces Le-Xuan as the winner of the competition without knowing that the Executive Chef, Ji Yong-Qian (Sean Lee) messed up Kai-Qi’s dish due to his personal petty grudge against Kai-Qi. He notice that something is amiss right after the announcement of the winner, when Kai-Qi taste her food and glares at Yong-Qian. Because of that, Kai-Qi’s first impression of Zi-Jie is summed up as “the annoying intern”.
Having just discovered that Kai-Qi is his childhood sweetheart, he’s curious about her and follows (
stalks) her after work. From her drunk speeches, he finds out that she’s been living quite the hard life. He carries the drunken Kai-Qi home and finds out that they’re also neighbors. In front of her house door, he finds a weeping boy calling Kai-Qi, “Mom!”, he immediately makes wrong assumptions, thinking that she may have gotten married and already have a child without knowing that the boy is actually Kai-Qi’s nephew, Xiao Yi. He’s the son of her deceased sister, Kai-Qi’s brother-in-law is irresponsible and tries to push the responsibility of taking care of Xiao Yi to Kai-Qi and her mom. Thus, she’s now stuck with the kid and it seems that she doesn’t really know how to get along with a child.
Thoughts on Ep1:
I don’t think Zi-Jie is necessarily in love with Kai-Qi yet even though she’s his childhood sweetheart. It’s obvious that his interest in her is more than plain curiosity, he’s concerned about her and feels his heart aching for her when he sees how much she’ve changed. He still have fond feelings towards her and I believe his affections for her will only grow stronger as they’ve now become co-workers and neighbors. The neighbor and childhood sweetheart parts are cliche but it always work perfectly well every time. Despite their contrasting personality, I think they’ve so many things in common that they’re well-matched, they’re both passionate about cooking and share fond childhood memories of Figaro restaurant. Moreover, Kai-Qi’s sharp tongue and coldness doesn’t seem to work against Zi-Jie as he’s always so easygoing about everything that he won’t ever get mad and will continue to stick with her, relentlessly. Kai-Qi is pretty cool and collected most of the time but every single time she encounters Zi-Jie, he always manage to push off her button and she finds him super annoying. I guess Zi-Jie is the only one that’s able to fish out strong emotions from Kai-Qi. I really like their interactions.
I do think Kai-Qi is not as cold as I was expecting her character to be, when she’s drunk and aggravated about losing the Sous Chef position, Puff’s performance kind of reverts back to Liang Liang (Just You) mode but I really like her interactions with her mom, it’s the heavier part of the story and creates good angst to balance out the story. I also think that most of (actually all of) Puff’s strongest performances are when she’s with her mom. Kai-Qi becomes so strong-headed, cold and harsh because of her mom, she’s quite a pushover and meek. Kai-Qi needs to be strong to be able to protect her mom and reduce her sufferings. Puff is pretty natural in her scenes with her mom and I actually felt those scenes highlight her improvements, she’s doing well in her emotional scenes.
There’s hints of the complex relationship between Zi-Jie and his brother when his whole family was eating dinner together but his brother is nowhere to be seen, using the excuse that he’s busy at work. His parents also seems to be very careful when they’re talking about his brother in front of Zi-Jie. I foresee that conflict of interest will arise between the brothers in the near future as Zi-Jie’s brother seems like a businessman, there will be conflicting views for sure. His parents seems like nice, friendly people and their interactions is filled with warmth so I hope there won’t be the cliche conflict of either of them disapproving Kai-Qi in the future.
I can’t wait for the stories of secondary characters to begin their story too. I’m especially interested in the relationship between Kai-Qi and Hao-Wei (Jolin Jian) as Hao-Wei is described as a food critic that got interested in food because of Kai-Qi, they attended the same university and all the people around them, including Hao-Wei himself thinks that he and Kai-Qi are a couple, but one day he discovers that Kai-Qi totally don’t regard him as her boyfriend as he’s very upset about it. It will be interesting to see him reuniting with Kai-Qi and the love triangle between Zi-Jie, Kai-Qi and Hao-Wei will be like a reunion party, LOL! Kai-Qi with her childhood friend and college fake ex-boyfriend, heh! Le-Xuan will join in the fun, rounding off as the girl with brother complex, she likes her brother, Hao-Wei a lot. I’m not sure whether there will be real incest or a fake incest but I totally can’t wait for the story to find its ground and start rolling with all the characters in-tact.
Overall, it’s definitely pleasant, fun and easy watch for the weekend.I also recommend you to eat before or grab some snack when you watch Pleasantly Surprised as there’s food close-ups galore that will make viewers hungry.I’ll be following Pleasantly Surprised for sure and this is my new crack drama. Enjoy the feel-good opening theme video below.
**I’ve translated Pleasantly Surprised’s detailed characters description HERE, excluding Hao-Wei (Jolin Jian)’s character description but I already pretty much summarized his full character description in my thoughts section.
**I made quite a lot of GIFS of Pleasantly Surprised on my tumblr, check it out