Lighthearted daily dramas are always my cup of tea. It’s the perfect thing to accompany my dinner. Taiwanese daily dramas are about 48min long per episode and it’s usually around 70 episodes in total per series. That’s a pretty large number of episodes to watch but the numerous stories of different characters happening simultaneously help to fill up 70 episodes. Moreover, there’s more continuity in terms of momentum as it airs every day so I won’t forget about last week’s events. Even though the budget for daily drama productions are lower than weekly idol dramas, they put more emphasis on the family plots and so, the tone is more heartwarming than usual idol dramas.
Dear Mom is off to a decent start, scoring 1.43 rating for its pilot episode and becoming the winner of rating for the night. Besides being heartwarming and easy-to-watch, it also delivers a cute OTP, played by Melvin Sia and Joanne Tseng. I’ll be honest, I didn’t even had much expectations for this couple when it was first announced but surprisingly, they’re so cute together that I keep on squealing and giggling like a rabid fangirl whenever the scene cuts to them. It’s far from flawless, but overall, the cute OTP and the heartwarming family scenes make it an enjoyable watch.
Note: I won’t be writing the recap in episodic sequence but instead, I’ll summarize the stories based on the 4 daughters, these summaries are not very complete but you can get an overall gist of the story.
Characters & Story Introductions
Li’s family have 4 precious daughters. Li An-Qing (Jennifer Hong) is the eldest daughter. She’s always the cream of the crop, exceling in everything – good grades, well-educated and she lives with her husband and son in USA. She’s the perfect daughter that makes her parents proud and the role model for her younger sisters. She returns to Taiwan with her son, hiding the fact from her family that she’ve recently got a divorce. Her divorce is probably the only flaw she has. Behind that perfect façade, she’s actually a prideful person that doesn’t like to show her weakness to anyone.
She’s very generous and thoughtful when it comes to her family. She remembers her mom’s birthday and is even willing to lend her treasured wristwatch to her youngest sister when asked. But at times, she overdoes her generosity on spending a lot of money on expensive stuffs for her family and not considering her own circumstance, where she doesn’t even have enough money left on her bank account. Despite how book-smart she is, she’s pretty bad in managing and controlling her own finance.
To solve her financial shortage, she plans to sell off her treasured watch which she bought for herself when she got into a great company when she was back in USA. The watch contains the carvings of her own motto, “I do as I can!”, which always remind her that nothing is impossible. However, just when she’s about to sell off her watch, Chen Qi-Le (Xiu Jie-Kai) accidentally bumps onto her on the corner of a street and spills his coffee over her watch.
Chen Qi-Le is elated to see her as he recognizes her in an instant, remembering that she’s that stranger that motivates him to get out of his life slump. Years ago, when he was depressed for the financial crisis faced by his family business that sells fitness equipment, he accidentally bumps onto her and spills his coffee on her but not only she wasn’t angry, she even encourage him by saying that, “No matter what happens, tomorrow is another day.” From then on, the phrase “Tomorrow is another day” became his life motto. He successfully overcomes his family crisis by evolving the company to become a fitness technology company and now, he owns various fitness related businesses, including gyms.
However, different from the happy Qi-Le, An-Qing’s mood is spoiled as she’s frustrated at the fact that she’s now unable to sell off her watch as it’s spoiled. Unlike years ago when she wasn’t even angry at his coffee spill, she’s now pissed at him and don’t even recognize him. Feeling apologetic, Chen Qi-Le offers to buy her watch to compensate her. Still pissed off, An-Qing says that it cost $200,000TWD to get back on him. He immediately agrees to pay that huge sum of money, surprising An-Qing who didn’t expect him to agree.
As An-Qing accompanies Qi-Le to walk to the ATM to retrieve his money, she’s unable to speak out and tell him that her watch actually doesn’t cost so much as she needs the money. In the end, she accepts the money and thanks him for his generosity. She left him with a conflicted feeling.
However, that $200,000 didn’t last long as she lends her dad $150,000 for him to invest on organic vegetable business and she also bought an expensive massage chair for her mom as a birthday gift. She now faces shortage in money again as she finds difficulty in paying the registration fees for her son’s enrollment in kindergarten.
The second daughter, Li Yi-Wan (Joanne Tseng) is a kindergarten teacher. She’s simple-minded, kind but can be a little bit slow and clumsy at times. She’s always the good obedient daughter of the family, the daughter that her parents will never worry about.
Because of her slow personality, she seems younger than the mature third daughter of the family, Li Qing-Qing (Albee Huang) who is younger than her by one year. However, it seems that there are some rifts between Yi-Wan and Qing-Qing that’s not yet explained. Even though they share a room, there’s not many common topic for them to talk about and they’re not as close as they used to be in the past.
One day when she’s about to refill the gas tank of her scooter before she goes to work, she accidentally got entangled into a conflict between a mob gang in the middle of the road. The mobs seem to be targeting Du Xiao-Fei (Melvin Sia), the son of a mob boss. To ditch the mobs, Xiao-Fei hijacked her scooter and drive off with her screaming for her mom to save her.
They arrive at the court and it’s then revealed that Xiao-Fei is a lawyer and he was rushing for work. When he returns her scooter, he accidentally takes off the key from her scooter which makes her unable to leave the court. She tries to call out to him but as he’s too busy in the court, he does not notice her and she have no other way than to wait for him. In the courtroom, Yi-Wan is amazed by how good Xiao-Fei is in court.
Xiao-Fei finally notices her once he’s out of the room and returns her keys but she finds out that her scooter is out of gas. To compensate her loss, he offers to help fill the gas tank and return her scooter tomorrow. For the mean time, he calls out a taxi for her to rush to work but before she leaves, he asks her to return his cellphone which she took when she was helping him to answer his call during the scooter ride. However, she accidentally mistakes her phone for his and gives him the wrong phone as they have the same cellphone model.
To retrieve his phone back, Xiao-Fei heads to the kindergarten she’s working. He offers to stay to help her look out for a mob boss that may be on his way to get back on her as she accidentally picked up his phone and hung up on the mob boss who is rude to her on the phone as she told him that he got the wrong number but he didn’t believe her. She’s reluctant and rejects his offer as he is scaring the kindergarten kids who burst into tears at the sight of him. She also thinks that the mob boss won’t come for her as it’s been a few hours ever since the call. She thinks that he would have come by now if he really wants to get back at her. However, the mob boss soon came barging into the kindergarten, looking for her. Xiao-Fei saves her by mediating the conflict and explaining the whole situation to the mob boss.
Xiao-Fei mom’s who is always worrying about her son’s love life got wind of the whole fiasco in the kindergarten and asks her gangster subordinate, Feng Gou-Qing (a nickname that means crazy dog) (Yang Ming-Wei)to investigate on Yi-Wan as she thinks that she may be Xiao-Fei’s girlfriend.
The next morning, Xiao-Fei returns her scooter and recognizes Qing-Qing who is also on the way to work with Yi-Wan as they work in the same building. Xiao-Fei offers to ride with Yi-wan as he also needs to retrieve his car where he parked at her kindergarten. At first Yi-Wan is reluctant but relents as Qing-Qing encourages her to go. Before they leave, Qing-Qing whispers something into Xiao-Fei’s ears, making Yi-Wan very curious about what are they talking about.
As he retrieves his car in her kindergarten, he tells her to call him if there’s any suspicious person hanging around her as he thinks that his overreacting mom may ask Feng Gou-Qing to investigate on her.
True enough, Feng Gou-Qing appears in the kindergarten, taking pictures of Yi-Wan and interviewing her colleagues and the kids about her personality and how she is usually. Sensing that someone is following her, Yi-Wan calls Xiao-Fei and he tells Feng Gou-Qing to go away and confiscate his camera. Before he leaves, Yi-wan ask him what did Qing-Qing whispered to him in the morning but he does not reply and only gives her a meaningful smile. He seems to find her interesting.
Feng Gou-Qing reports back his investigation findings to Xiao-Fei’s mom as he had an extra camera which Xiao-Fei didn’t manage to confiscate. Xiao-Fei’s mom asks him to continue with his investigation. The following day, Feng Gou-Qing sneaks up in the kindergarten again to investigate on Yi-Wan. Yi-Wan spot his suspicious acts but before she’s able to walk up to him, she’s stopped by Xiao-Fei who tells her that he’ll handle him as he’s his acquaintance. Xiao-Fei shoo Feng Gou-Qing away and tells Yi-Wan’s colleague who have a crush on her to call him whenever he spots any suspicious person lurking around.
As Yi-Wan gets off from work, she spots Xiao-Fei sitting on her scooter, waiting for her. She’s frustrated at the sight and asks what business he and his people have with her by appearing so often in the kindergarten. Xiao-Fei explains that Feng Gou-Qing has no ill-intention and he just came by order to investigate on to whether he likes…
Before he finishes his sentence, he thinks to himself that if Yi-Wan learns that his mom asks Feng Gou-Qing investigates her just because they think he likes her, she may think they’re crazy. He thinks of an excuse to explain to her by saying that they’re just investigating whether he likes the kindergarten and if he likes it, Feng Gou-Qing will let his kid enroll in the kindergarten. Simple-minded Yi-Wan easily buys his story and tells him that the most important thing is to whether his kid likes it. She suggests him to bring Feng Gou-Qing’s kid to do a trial study.
Just when she’s about to ride her scooter to go home, she realizes that the scooter’s engine is not starting. Xiao-Fei offers to accompany her to go to the repair shop as he wants to find out whether her scooter stopped working because of his hijack the other day. In the repair shop, they learn that it stopped working because of its old age and the boss tells Yi-Wan to get a new one. Hearing that, Yi-Wan starts tearing up as the scooter have been with her for so many years.
As Xiao-Fei walks her home, he asks why she is feeling sad for a mere scooter and comforts her that new things will come when the old things leave. She explains that the scooter means a lot to her as it’s the first thing that she doesn’t have to share with her sisters. Being the second oldest daughter, she always have to wear used clothes from her eldest sister and even if things finally come to her, she still have to give it away to her younger sisters so the scooter is the only thing that is solely hers. She says that it will be difficult for him to understand as he’s the only son. The more Xiao-Fei listens to Yi-Wan, the more he finds her interesting. He tells her that he’ll come pick her up for work tomorrow morning. Yi-Wan don’t seem to hear that as she’s still lost in thoughts.
The next morning, Xiao-Fei comes to pick her up for work. Yi-Wan is baffled by his appearance. He laughs at her forgetfulness and teases her that her brain capacity is as small as a bird. As she’s about to be late, she takes up his offer and this scene is caught by Feng Gou-Qing who camouflages himself into the woods, taking the pictures of them heading to work together. He’s now convinced that they’re really a couple and gives Xiao-Fei’s mom a call to report to her his findings.
Soon, Xiao-Fei’s mom appears at Yi-Wan’s kindergarten with her group of gangster subordinates. Yi-Wan recognizes Feng Gou-Qing from the group and misunderstands the situation. She thinks that they came for the trial study for his kid and let them in but before they can start on a proper conversation, she’s interrupted by a kid who needs to go to the loo. She excuses herself first and promises to return back after she handles the kid. Xiao-Fei who came to return the bag she’ve forgotten in his car sees his mom. He quickly tells her that he’ll introduce her when it’s ready as an excuse to send her off. Xiao Fei’s mom happily agrees and leaves the kindergarten.
When Yi-Wan returns, she’s confused by the disappearance of the group of people and asks Xiao-Fei what is he doing here. He tells her that there’s some misunderstandings between him and the group of people but he already solved it just now. He returns her bag that she forgotten in his car and tells her to check whether anything is missing. She’s very grateful for his help as the bag contains all the props she prepared for her lessons and she’ll be in trouble if she didn’t have these. As she seems genuinely happy, he comments that she seem to really like her job. Xiao-Fei stares at her as she beams when she talks about her job. Uh oh, this boy is in falling in love, haha!
To express her gratitude, Yi-Wan offers to treat him for dinner and he immediately agrees and tells her to make it tonight as he’s free tonight. However, she tells him that she can’t make it tonight as she needs to find the broccoli-shaped keychain she forgot to take out from her spoiled scooter when she sent it to the repair shop. He offers to accompany her to the repair shop and they can go for dinner afterwards.
In the evening, Yi-Wan is disappointed to find out that the repair shop owner have sent off her scooter for write-off. When Xiao-Fei suggests that he can buy her a new keychain, she insists that she must find that keychain as it’s very important to her.
They sit together on a bench, finally have the chance to eat rice balls for their dinner after a long search of the keychain in the scooter write-off centers. Yi-Wan feels bad looking at Xiao-Fei gobbling up his rice ball and apologizes that she didn’t manage to treat him to a good meal. He says it’s fine and asks why is the keychain so important to her. He teasingly says that it must be from her ex-boyfriend. She immediately rebuffs that, saying that she doesn’t have any boyfriend. Hearing this, he stares at her meaningfully.
In the following day, Xiao-Fei appears in front of Yi-Wan’s house, still wearing the clothes from last night and his face is filled with dirty spots . It turns out that he spent the whole night searching for her keychain and gives it to her. She’s touched by his kind gesture. He offers to drives her to work. In the car, Yi-Wan keeps on stealing glances on him but turns away whenever he looks at her. He asks what’s wrong and she tells him that she’s curious to why is he being so nice to her. He replies that it doesn’t mean anything and it’s just a kind gesture to help when someone is in need. She seems to be a bit disappointed at his answer.
Li Qing-Qing (Albee Huang) is a confident and level-headed girl. She’s a capable secretary of an owner of a mid-sized trading company. She’s a workaholic and her work load is so heavy that she often returns home late at night or even sometimes, the next morning. Her mom is constantly worried about her well-being and asks her to not work until so late and thinks that rather than working so hard, she should get a boyfriend to marry and live a more relaxing life. Qing-Qing is unable to agree with her mom and may sometimes say harsh things to her unconsciously.
She seems to have a crush on her boss, Xu Ji-Kuan (Duncan Lai) who is already a married man. Ji-Kuan is a good boss. He’s very mature, gentle and is always thoughtful and considerate for her well-beings. They share a tacit mutual understanding and have a good rapport as they often need to stay together for work.
One late night, they’re accidentally stuck in the exit staircase as the building manager turned off the electricity and the guard mistook that no more people is inside and lock them up. Being stuck together, Qing-Qing starts to open up about her family to him and they share a friendly chat. After some time, he starts feeling thirsty and she offers him the wine she got from the client. They start drinking together and under alcohol influence, they loosen up and share a romantic dance in the staircase.
The next day, they finally get out of the building and Ji-Kuan drives Qing-Qing home. Things seem to return to normal but there are still some feelings that remained from last night’s dance. None of them speaks out about the budding mutual attraction they have for each other.
Unlike her older sisters who are already working, the youngest daughter, Li Xiao-Xi (Beatrice Fang) is still a college student. Like many other college students, she’s always on the phone being lovey-dovey with her college boyfriend. Spoiled by her parents and the oldest sister, she can always sweet-talk her way out of any problems. The whole family dotes on her but many times, Qing-Qing thinks that her family is being too lenient on her.
Comments & Thoughts:
As the first five episodes are heavily focused on YiFei loveline (the nickname fans give for Yi-Wan and Xiao-Fei couple), there are less things to talk about the other daughters, especially the youngest one, Xiao-Xi whose potential love interest played by Jack Lee haven’t even appear. I didn’t really cover much on the family bits in my summary but I feel like they’re also the main highlights of the series.
In Li’s family, the mom will always worry for her children, always concerned when will they come back, are they eating well and sometimes may be a bit nosy and poke into their life. On the other hand, even though dad’s ventures fails most of the time, he doesn’t give up trying different investment projects because he believes that he’ll be successful one day and wants in to give the family a better life. Even the overly nosy and overreacting mother of Xiao-Fei just cares too much about her son. In the end of the day, the parents just want the best for their children. Although sometimes they bicker, they truly care for each other and family bond is something special. Their everyday interactions remind me of my own family at times. The family scenes are always so heartwarming and cute to watch.
Usually the combination of simple-minded, slow and clumsy can be a recipe for an annoying heroine but Joanne Tseng puts in the right amount of strength without being too dramatic and she comes off as naturally endearing and cute instead. At first it also seem that Xiao-Fei is your typical arrogant guy and their story will be a love story between a good girl and a bad boy but he’s actually very kind and friendly once he starts to warm up to Yi-Wan. Even though they start off with the wrong foot with Xiao-Fei hijacking Yi-Wan’s scooter on their first meeting, they slowly become fond of each other as they get to know more of each other.
On the front, it seems like they’re living on different spectrums but actually they’re similar in terms of how much they care for their family and their good-natured personality. Even though Xiao-Fei is constantly annoyed by his nosy mom, he still relents to her requests in the end and it shows that he love his mom. They have a great rapport and chemistry. I think I’m obsessed about this couple, their interactions are just so squee-worthy and Melvin Sia is really hot for his role. This couple makes me smile because not only they’re cute, they also have Feng Gou-Qing and Xiao-Fei’s mom who are great stocks for comedy.
The rift between Qing-Qing and Yi-Wan is also another potential topic to be covered. Even though they’re not at odds with each other, there’s still this awkward atmosphere between them that’s left unsaid. In the future, I hope they can solve their issue and show me their sisterly bond.
It’s interesting that on the outside, Qing-Qing is more like the second oldest daughter than Yi-Wan because she’s so level-headed and complicated that she comes off as the more mature one. However, on the family aspects, the way Yi-Wan treats her mom is much more mature than Qing-Qing because she often cares too much for her own values and work ethic that she will easily say some harsh things to mom when they disagree.
I’m not too fond of the adultery route between Qing-Qing and her boss, not that I can’t digest adultery-themed dramas but it’s because her boss seems to still have a great relationship with his wife so I feel like the boss is just being unfaithful for no reason. Not that I condone adultery, it’s just that I can’t find an excuse to convince myself to root for this forbidden relationship. There’s nothing romantic about it and it gives me a bitter aftertaste, it’s just so wrong. I don’t know how the writers will write their route without going into the makjang-route in the second half of the story as I know that their love will definitely end with a disaster and it’s bound to bring miseries to people around them.
The secret that An-Qing hides from her family is like a ticking time-bomb, it’s gonna explode any time and I really worried about it. I think she should just come clean about her own financial circumstance and stop trying to pretend that she’s still well-off. I understand that she doesn’t want her family to worry about her but I think a family should weather through hardships together and it’s unhealthy to keep everything to herself. I hope through this, she’ll learn a lesson to know that there’s nothing wrong with exposing a weakness to a family.
Dear Mom isn’t without its flaws. I think that the courtroom scene is the weakest execution in this series. It’s just so dramatic and unprofessional. Fortunately, the courtroom scene only appears for a little while in the pilot episode and there’s more emphasis on the lovelines and the family scenes. I’m really thankful for that because if the workplace scene is not their biggest strength, they should just refrain from showing us too much about it. Less is more.
While Yi-Wan and Xiao-Fei couple are so cute together and provides comic relief, I think that their story is a bit dramatic and cliche, son of a mob boss who is a lawyer constantly getting entangled with a good-natured, simple woman. However, they’re just sooooooo cute together that I can overlook these flaws. At the end of the day, what matters the most is the overall tone and so far, Dear Mom has been very easy-to-watch and enjoyable despite the flaws. I seriously pray for this series to not go off-track midway like their predecessor, Love Cheque Charge (幸福兌換劵) because it will be such a waste of potential.
As usual, I probably won’t do any further review on the series beside this first impression post as there’s too many episodes and I think it’s too time-consuming.
I really love their opening sequence which is said to be filmed in one shot without cut. The opening theme song, Rollercoaster by Wang Da Wen is such a feel-good song!
Opening Theme: Wang Da Wen – Rollercoaster
Ending Theme: Rachel Liang – Light of the Loneliness
I love it so much that I had to make gifs for the opening and ending sequence on my tumblr.