Everyone has been highly anticipating for the release of The Time We Were Not In Love both internationally and domestically and it has finally arrived. TTWWNIL (what a mouthful!) is the Korean remake of the critically acclaimed Taiwanese drama In Time With You which not only spawned a number of awards but also gained itself quite a niche audience, an audience that still keeps with them despite it being four years since it aired. Korean dramas getting remade by Taiwan is quite common but it is not that often that Taiwanese dramas cross the strait to get its own version in Korea which is one of the numerous reasons why TTWWNIL is so highly anticipated this year. With remakes, as they are based on being a remake, there is both pressure for it to be good and also the added pressure for it to live up to its cousin. That is my biggest worry for TTWWNIL and only time will tell whether it will float or sink.
The Time We Were Not In Love Episode 1 Recap:
The drama starts off with Oh Ha Na (Ha Ji Won), the marketing team leader of a shoe manufacturer, finishing her overtime work as she moves her feet from her high heels to her comfier runners. While she walks home, the closed shops light up one by one and she narrates how the 17-year old her imagined the 20-year old her and the 20-year old her imagined the 30-year old her.
The first thing Ha Na does when she gets home is check if her neighbour is home but nope, he neighbour is not yet home. She then begins her nighttime routine and everything around is signalling that she is growing old; from her eye cream to the television infomercial about thinning hair as women grow older.
Ha Na is in heels at the shoe department of department store. She sees a pair of white sneakers on the floor so she goes to try it on. It fits her like Cinderella’s slippers, but then a school girl states that the sneakers are hers. She explains that she thought the store was selling them to which the schoolgirl replies that it’s okay while addressing her as “ahjumma”, much to her shock. She then wakes and learns that it was just a dream.
Ha Na tries to fall asleep again but can’t and instead receives a call from her assistant informing her that there is a major meltdown as celebrity Gu Yeon Jeong who they hired to endorse their shoes can no longer do so as she is surrounded by negative rumours. Ha Na frantically changes and rushes out of the house not even stopping for the seaweed soup that her mother especially made for her birthday.
Ha Na is at the TV station begging for the director to give her some more time to find another actress to film the commercial. The director refuses to give into her pleads and orders her to clear out the shoes in the storage. So Ha Na has no choice but to take the inventory back to the office. On her way back, she gets some sleazy eyes from her colleagues.
Assistant Hong Eun Jung (Woo Hee) tries to help out the situation but a frustrated Ha Na just takes it out on her. Before she leaves she tells Ha Na to check under her desk; there are flowers sent by her boyfriend.
Ha Na reads the attached card which says “Happy Birthday Ha Na”. She suddenly remembers something and calls her boyfriend Joo Ho Joon (Choi Jung Woo) who could barely get out a hello when she says him if the director of the department store is his sunbae. He confirms and she asks him to help her to ask his friend to give her some room in the department store to sell her shoes. She then proceeds on to make plans for later to which Ho Joon awkwardly says he’ll call her later.
She gets a notification on her phone and it’s a video of her high school friends wishing her a happy birthday. The last person is her bffl Choi Won (Lee Jin Wok) who tells her that she is still the same Ha Na to him 17 years ago.
Flashback. Ha Na and Won are 18 year olds rushing out their houses to school. They play a quick game, which Won loses and he has to buy Ha Na breakfast. Without a word he squirts ketchup on her toasted sandwich after every bite she takes. The two are the best of friends, talking about everything on their way into school while a female student watches them from behind with a disappointed look on her face.
During their lunch break, it’s a girls vs. boys showdown. The boys, lead by Won, and the girls, lead by Ha Na, play an epic game of rock, paper, scissors. The girls lose but demand a rematch. Won agrees under the condition that he gets to pick the punishment game.
He picks some leap frog game. The boys for a line while the girls pile on top of the boys’ back. Ha Na and the girls end up winning the game by substituting one of their members with a heavyset girl. The girls win triumphantly while the boys are left defeated.
Back in present time, Ha Na re-reads the card her boyfriend and begins to question it because it doesn’t have “I love you” written on it. She calls her bffl who is on his way to work at the airport. Won can’t help but poke fun at her age of 34. She informs him that he is the same age as she is so he is just spitting in his own face. He responds that a woman’s 34 is very different to a man’s 34 and tells her not to get mad because only he would give her such straightforward advice. He continues to give his straight-forward advice, telling her to take care of her inner-self. She shoots back that she has a has successful career and romantic life and furthermore she is due to be married while he hasn’t had a girlfriend in the past three years.
She then voices if she should be concerned that Ho Joon did not write “I love you” on the card. Won assures her that Ho Joon must be preparing to propose soon which is why he is acting so coldly towards her. She breathes a sigh of relief hearing his assurance.
Won arrives at work and meets intern flight attendant Lee So Eun (Chu Soo Hyun) who is hesitating whether to walk into the room or not. Won encouragingly gives her a warm gesture.
Won watches as So Eun demonstrate the safety procedures on the plane but it doesn’t go perfectly for her but nonetheless she tries her best. She even tries to accommodate to a passenger who clearly is trying to take advantage of her. Luckily Won comes to save her from the unpleasant passenger.
Ha Na is at the department store running her work errands and spots Ho Joon at the jewellery counter. Recalling Choi Won’s words, she wonders if Ho Joon is ready to propose to her. She heads to the bathroom to retouch her make-up when she receives a call from Ho Joon asking to meet. She excitedly goes to meet him.
The meeting goes every way but the way Ha Na expected. Ho Joon is indeed planning to get married, but not with her. He admits that he cheated in their relationship and not only that but the girl whom he cheated with is three months pregnant. Oh damn. She is dumbfounded and stumbles on her heels as she gets up to leave. Ho Joon offers to steady her but she screams at him not to touch her. He yells that he would much prefer it if she screamed or cursed at him rather than being silent. So she turns around and heels-stabs his foot, twice. He calls this “cheating” and this just fires her up even more. She demands for the identity of the other woman.
Ha Na and Ho Joon are in a shoe meeting with Yoon Min Ji presenting her shoe design targeted for women in their 20’s. The shoe features thin glitter straps, an ankle ribbon, and buckle adornments. Min Ji asks for Ha Na to voice her opinion since she is known for her spot-on judgement. Ha Na quickly shoots down Min Ji’s shoe design because a) it is too flashy, b) too expensive to produce and c) she just doesn’t like it.
The plane has landed and it’s home time for the crew. Won and senior flight attendant Choi Mi-Hyang (Jin Kyung) are clearly quite close as he asks her to shout dinner but she can’t because it’s Mir of MBLAQ’s birthday today. LOL, priorities.
So Eun shyly approaches Won and thanks him for helping her earlier today. She encouragingly tells her that she needs to work on her courage. She offers to shout dinner but he couldn’t even catch what she was saying as Ha Na’s mother calls with an array of delicious dishes waiting for him.
Won heads home and sees a drunken Ha Na. He asks her what happened. She tells him they are currently on a plane to Venice. The plane crashed but they survived and find themselves on a deserted island. There’s a quick flashback to the past. In the exact same spot where they are currently at, she hands him a bag with a pink heart on it. She asks if he still remembers this story. He nods and again asks her what happened and wonders if maybe this has to do with Ho Joon. She points at him and says that this is all his fault that she dates douchebags who all harshly dump her.
There’s another flashback to the high school days. Ha Na is eating with her friend and learns that there are rumours of her and Won dating. She clarifies that she doesn’t like him that way. The friend is glad to hear that because she is ready to make her move. She asks Ha Na to hand a present over to Won (the bag with the pink heart) because she wants Ha Na to help her to test out the waters. Ha Na agrees to help without hesitation.
Young Won is sorting out his books and finds a book titled “The Love of the One-Eyed Fish”. His mood becomes gloomy and he goes to shoot some hoops to clear out his thoughts.
Young Won returns from shooting his hoops and sees Young Ha Na waiting for him. He also sees the present she is holding. She hands it to him but before she could even tell him that it was from her friend, he goes to tell her the tale of them being on a plane to Venice. Them two are the only two on the island until the day they die but even so he would never date her and he will never love her. Ouch. What happened here? She asks for the reason why but he doesn’t answer and just hands back the present to her.
Back in the present, Ha Na resents how his words have turned into a curse. In her drunken state, she just questions why loving her is not even a possibility. She tells him she is going to repay him back in the same way and stumbles back home. Whaatt? What just happened? I do not get this scene. All the while, Ha Na’s younger brother Oh Dae Bok (Lee Joo Seung) and with some quick FB stalking, he discovers what has happened between his sister and Ho Joon.
Won is on the table with the Oh family to celebrate Ha Na’s birthday but she is no where in sight. The parents wonders what is wrong with Ha Na and Dae Bok just utters the whole truth. The dinner table is awkwardly quiet when Ha Na heads down to pour herself a drink (of water).
Later, back at home, Won sees the pictures of the wedding shoot and is upset why Ha Na didn’t tell her about it sooner.
Ha Na is still trying to deal with the Yeon Jeong problem but is still far from succeeding.
Back at Ha Na’s workplace, Min Ji and Ho Joon’s wedding invitations are plastered everywhere. Everyone is making their way to the wedding except for Ha Na’s subordinates who are fretting whether they should go. Ha Na comes in and sends them off to the wedding, telling them to go ahead and she will go later.
Ha Na has arrived at the wedding location but finds herself hesitating to go in. Someone taps her on the shoulders and it is none other than her bffl. He has taken the day off at work to accompany her as her new “boyfriend”. She rejects his offer but she is still hesitant in attending the wedding. He pulls her by the wrist into the building. She tells him to wait outside while she heads in to greet the bride.
Min Ji is taking photos with her friends when Ha Na walks in. The friends quickly make their way out despite Ha Na telling them it is okay to stay. One of the friends call Ho Joon to inform him that Ha Na has come to crash the wedding which Ho Joon goes ballistic over, thinking that she is here to cause trouble. He bad mouths her to which Choi Won and his to-be father-in-law overhears. Father-in-law is not happy because he thought Ho Joon has a clean past with women. Ho Joon explains that he wasn’t two-timing, Ha Na one-sidedly followed him around. Once father-in-law leaves, he mutters how Ha Na just causes him trouble. Choi Won is happy to hear someone bitch-talk about his bffl.
Meanwhile, Ha Na and the bride have a heart-to-heart talk. Min Ji admits that she only found out about her relationship with Ho Joon not too long ago. Ha Na imagines herself toppling over upon hearing that but real life Ha Na is still standing firmly on the ground. Min Ji says that Ha Na is her role model so when she found out Ho Joon dated her, she didn’t feel bad about it. She apologises for having stole her boyfriend. Ha Na truthfully and bluntly tells her that she does not want to congratulate her but gives her honest advice on how to improve the shoe design.
Ha Na walks out of the bridal room and wonders where Won went. Turns out he decided to start a fight with the groom today. Ha Na rushes over to break up the fight and when Ho Joon finds out that the guy who threw a brawl at him knows Ha Na, this confirms to him that Ha Na is here to cause trouble. Min Ji comes to the same conclusion.
Ha Na apologises to the bride but Won grabs her wrist telling her that she has nothing to apologise for. Ha Na pulls way, asking him to just stop.
Ha Na storms out, frustrated, while Won acquiescently follows behind her. She stops for a mini frustrated breather and Won knows her well enough that she will stop three times before she turns back around. On the third stop, hethen cheekily runs behind her just as she turns around. She can’t believe that he embarrassed her in front of her colleagues like that. He explains he was just looking out for her. The two get into a heated argument where she rules him out for embarrassing her. He claims that he wouldn’t have done what he did if she did not cry to him about it and tells her that as a 34 year-old, she should act like it. She turns around and gives him the sign to screw himself over. This results in a silence all the way home on the bus ride.
Won nods off on the bus ride while Ha Na, who is sitting behind him, can’t help but laugh at to herself. As they make their way home, she calls out to him. He quickly wipes his drool away. She thanks him for what he did since it did in a way help to heal her wounded heart. They decide to go and grab some spicy chicken feet and are skipping off arm in arm.
Ha Na doesn’t find the chicken spicy one bit while Won is struggling to finish through his piece of chicken. She tells him that it is good to eat this with someone who you don’t want to talk to because they will be too spiced up to talk. Won hands her the eye cream she requested him to buy and advises her to meet a nice man next time who will buy her eye cream. She adds that it has to be an unconditionally nice man. She props her hand on Won’s shoulder and their faces are unnaturally close. Won stares at her, barely breathing like he is leaning in for a kiss. Won breaks the proximity by pushing her away, jokingly telling her that she smells like chicken feet.
Ha Na asks him what kind of girl he wants to date and he lists celebrities like Suzy and IU. The two then make a bet that whoever gets married first before they turn 35 has to pay the other person $500 but Ha Na raises the bet to $5000. Won’s not scared because he’s popular with women and proceeds on to call his contacts.
There’s another flashback. It’s a popularity vote and Ha Na is counting up the votes. Ha Na is walking home and muses to herself that her bffl is really popular. It begins to pour but luckily she has an umbrella. Her bffl doesn’t though as she finds him soaking wet and walking towards her. She rambles on about the popularity vote before realising that something is not right. He pauses and tells her that he will not love her.
Ha Na is shocked and confused and asks him why he is like this. He doesn’t elaborate and just walks back into his home and leaving Ha Na out in the rain alone.
I guess the first and biggest issue with this remake is the relationship between Ha Na and Won, which is very different to the relationship You Qing and Da Ren had in ITWY. Ha Na and Won have been childhood best friends who were inseparable since we met them whereas You Qing and Da Ren were rivals-turned-best-friends. I think this difference in the way their friendship came about will really affect their relationship development. For You Qing and Da Ren, because of their rivals-turned-best-friend relationship, this toned down their feelings for one another in the sense it was kept hidden for all these years until they went through the numerous obstacles which got to question to their feelings for one another whereas I feel with Ha Na and Won their romance is already there from this very beginning moment that we see of them together. That was exaggerated with Won explicitly telling Ha Na that he will not love her. Given the fact that they are childhood best friends, him telling her that suggests that there is feelings more than just friendship in existence.
TTWWNIL like ITWY is about two best friends who have a very extensive friendship where love has never once fallen in between their relationship. But this one bet will change their relationship forever and let their true feelings show and we will be able to witness their relationship change. I loved ITWY; it was a drama written beautifully and equally well executed. I honesty loved everything about it and it is one of my all-time fave dramas which is why my expectations for this remake is more than what expect from a standalone drama. Being a remake, there is the expectation for it to do the original justice which is why I was quite skeptical about this remake. I still am, there are already traces that TTWWNIL is not going to be like the realness that surrounded ITWY. ITWY was a drama that was real and raw whereas that is not quite the same feeling that I am getting here.
As with all remakes, there is one hundred per cent that the remake will be a carbon copy of the original. I’m quite happy to see this remake follow along with the original quite nicely, though there have been some changes made. I’m quite frustrated with the writing of Ha Na and Won because their personalities are not as heavily emphasised upon. Ha Na is not as headstrong as You Qing and Won is not as held-back as Won. Change is good. Even being a remake, I don’t think any drama should ever be a 100% complete copy of the other but sometimes change takes its too much away from its roots. I loved ITWY because You Qing and Da Ren were beautifully written characters with a well-developed personality but here Ha Na and Won have a personality that is quite soft in comparison to their counterparts and takes them back to the typical K-drama characters that I see all too often.
I feel like every drama is a standalone drama in its own merits but being a remake, it is inevitable for comparisons to be made because there now is a benchmark for it to be compared to. Whether it meets the benchmark or falls short of it, at the end of the day it is up to us as viewers to decide that. I’m liking this drama but don’t quite love it just yet. ITWY was a drama that I loved so dearly so watching this remake, I have these certain subconscious expectations for it. So far, it is leaving me with a drama that claims to be a remake of ITWY but is stripped of the reasons why I feel in love with ITWY in the first place.
Click here to watch The Time We Were Not In Love.