07 March 2023

K Drama Review: Crash Course in Romance (2023) 4.6 || 4.5

When my sister first told me about this drama, I was not so sure we'd like it. Yes, I love Jung Kyung Ho, who is part of my list. But I had doubts about the other actors, especially the female lead, Jeon Do Yeon, who didn't seem like a good match for Jung Kyung Ho. In the end, however, all of my doubts were cleared. I was pleasantly surprised with how much I enjoyed this show. 


Crash Course in Romance tells the story of Choi Chi Yeol (Jung Kyung Ho), a star math teacher, who seems to have it all but is actually bothered by traumatic incidents from his past. He has a hard time eating, that is until he found Nation's Best Banchan (side dish), owned by Nam Haeng Seon (Jeon Do Yeon). Chi Yeol finally found food that he could enjoy eating. But things get a bit complicated when Haeng Seon and Chi Yeol find themselves in situations and relationships beyond their usual banchan shop owner-customer interaction. The story takes us through how Haeng Seon finds her way to Chi Yeol's heart, through his stomach. 

Jung Kyung Ho as Cho Chi Yeol

Jung Kyung Ho, whom I loved in Prison Playbook, Crash Landing on You, Hospital Playlist, and Hospital Playlist 2, was perfect as the cold and conceited star math teacher Choi Chi Yeol. Despite his flaws, however, it was difficult to hate Chi Yeol. Because it was evident that he lived a sad life behind all his success, wealth, and fame. On the outside, he looked like he only cared about money. But the more you get  to know Chi Yeol, you'll realize how kind and warm-hearted he is. He's just overly passionate with what he does and he's very eager to share his knowledge with the kids. 

I also loved Chi Yeol's sense of justice. How frustrated he gets when someone's treated unfairly like when Haeng Seon's niece Hae Yi (Roh Yoon Seo) was kicked out from the med school training program simply because she was not as rich as the other kids. It was amazing how Chi Yeol initially wanted to quit the program too but even if he didn't, he still found a way to help Hae Yi. 

Although it was just a side story, I enjoyed the storyline involving Chi Yeol's college classmate, Mr. Jeon (Kim Da Huin), who also happened to be Hae Yi's homeroom teacher. I was happy that despite their conflict several years ago, they were able to rekindle their friendship and Chi Yeol found someone he could rely on. 

Jung Kyung Ho does funny stuff really well too. He has great timing in throwing his punchlines. If Hospital Playlist 3 is really not pushing through, I hope he'd continue making dramas because I will never get tired of watching him. 

Jeon Do Yeon as Nam Haeng Seon

As early as the first episode, Jeon Do Yeon immediately proved me wrong about my theory that she was not a good fit for Jung Kyung Ho. As the show progressed, I even found myself thinking that she was even better than him. 

I loved Haeng Seon's positivity and drive. Yes, she had a difficult life raising her niece and her brother, Jae Woo (Oh Eui Sik), who had Asperger syndrome. But she never became bitter despite those difficulties. She  won me over with her kindness to the people around her. Yes, even to Chi Yeol who was mean and rude to her during their first encounter. 

Haeng Seon is proof that looks can be deceiving. She looks feisty on the outside. And she can be really scary when she advocates for the people she loves like when she protested in front of the academy with her megaphone when Hae Yi was kicked out of the med school training program. But just like Chi Yeol, she also has a very, very kind heart. And while it's crazy how she always seems to disregard other people's personal spaces, she gets away with it because she's very endearing. 

This is our first Jeon Do Yeon drama and I can say that I'll be on the lookout for her other shows. 

Chi Yeol and Haeng Seon

I loved how the show gave us this sort of unconventional pair. Haeng Seon and Chi Yeol give hope to older people, showing them that they still have a chance at love. And it was made more special by how Chi Yeol and Haeng Seon were perfect for each other. 

I loved Chi Yeol's realization that Haeng Seon was actually the daughter of the old lady (Kim Mi Kyung of  Forecasting Love and Weather) who used to feed him before, back when he was so poor and had no one to rely on. It finally explained why he could tolerate Haeng Seon's food. It was the same food that comforted him years ago. I super loved that flashback of the times Chi Yeol spent with Haeng Seon's mom. They were all so precious. I didn't know their relationship was that deep and special. And oh how he repaid  Haeng Seon's mom by taking such good care of her family, going as far as buying the building they lived on. Admittedly, that was quite over the top and it confused Haeng Seon if he really liked her or he simply pitied her. 

The numerous scandals they were involved in were unfortunate. Chi Yeol had no choice but to stop tutoring Hae Yi. And the way he informed Haeng Seon was so painful. It was as if they were breaking up with each other when they were not even together yet. But Chi Yeol's confession during an interview made up for all the heartaches he gave Haeng Seon. 

I was happy for Haeng Seon that she finally found someone who can take care of her. She no longer had to carry her burdens by herself. She deeply appreciated all the things Chi Yeol did for her - giving Hae Yi a chance and being patient with Jae Woo, among others. That's why it was heartbreaking to see her admit to her friend, Young Joo (Lee Bong Ryun), that she really liked Chi Yeol but she thought she'd lost him. And it was really awesome when they were finally together. It was fun to see them awkward, shy, giddy, and in love all at the same time. And that first kiss was not actually a dream. 

I loved how Haeng Seon and Chi Yeol were a good fit for each other. I know that their love will stand whatever scandal would come their way. 

Roh Yoon Seo as Nam Hae Yi

I'm proud to say that we've seen all of Roh Yoon Seo's dramas and movie (Our Blues and 20th Century Girl). And it's so amazing to see her get better and better at what she does. 

I loved Hae Yi's fighting spirit, which she obviously got from Haeng Seon. And her kindness too - how she never wants to inconvenience her mom, which sometimes leads her to sweep her issues under the rug. 

I was so proud that she finally had the guts to ask Haeng Seon to enroll her in Chi Yeol's class. That's why I felt so terrible too when the academy kicked her out of the med school program. She deserved to be there. And despite that heartbreak, she had to put up a brave front for Haeng Seon. 

Hae Yi's shining moment was when she was conflicted about revealing her real relationship with Haeng Seon. She did so well in that breakdown scene when she told Young Joo that she felt selfish for not wanting to reveal that she was not really Haeng Seon's daughter because she feared that people would judge her. Even if she knew that that could help clear the forbidden love issue between Chi Yeol and Haeng Seon. I loved the show's very realistic portrayal of the dilemma Hae Yi faced regarding this issue. Because that made me appreciate more how courageous she was when she finally revealed the truth. She didn't care about herself anymore. She opted to be selfless. And the way she called Chi Yeol and Haeng Seon's relationship as romance and not a scandal was really fitting. I also loved how she talked to both Haeng Seon and Chi Yeol, telling them noy to let each other go and assuring them that she's ready to face her true identity. 

All of these Hae Yi storylines prove how kind and caring she is. And this was further reinforced with the cheating scandal that involved her friend Seon Jae (Lee Chae Min), which I'll discuss later. 

We love Roh Yoon Seo and we hope we can follow her career faithfully. 

Oh Eui Shik as Jae Woo and Lee Bong Ryun as Young Joo

This show was special because of its great cast. And two of my favorites would have to be Uncle Jae Woo and Young Joo. 

Oh Eui Shik was such a revelation. We've seen him in Confidential Assignment, Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok Joo, Hometown Cha Cha Cha, Romance is a Bonus Book, Fight for My Way, and Big Mouth, and his role in this drama left the most impact with us. 

It was horrible when he was accused of stalking a girl in a cafe when he just really liked the waffles she cooked. It was a painful depiction of all the injustices people with disabilities have to go through everyday. 

That's why it was such a big deal for me when Chi Yeol came into their lives. It was so cool that there was another guy that Jae Woo can share secrets with, who listens to him, gives him advice, and treats him like one of the guys. It was so heartbreaking when Haeng Seon told Jae Woo not to call Chi Yeol anymore during one of their break ups. 

It was perfect that Jae Woo ended up with my other favorite character, Young Joo. Like Oh Eui Shik, we've also seen Lee Bong Ryun in a couple of dramas and movies - Samjin Company English Class, Exit, A Taxi Driver, Narco Saints/Suriname, Extraordinary Attorney Woo, Hometown Cha Cha Cha, Run On, and Reply 1994. And it was great to see how wide Lee Byong Ryun's range is as an actress. She's played a number of notable characters in the past and she managed to give us another great performance here. 

I love Young Joo because she always has Haeng Seon's back. Even if they always seem to be arguing or making fun of each other. I love Young Joo's humor - her deadpan delivery and sarcasm. I liked how she talked to Chi Yeol to tell him that she's never seen Haeng Seon cry over a man and that she must really like him. She loves her friend so much. And while I was not so sure if she really liked Jae Woo or if she just needed a man in her life, I found myself rooting for them. She's probably the best person for Jae Woo because she knows him and she could be patient with him. 

Hae Yi's Friends

I loved Hae Yi's fun and supportive friends. Seon Jae was great and he would have been even more perfect had it not been for his overbearing mom, Mrs. Jang (Jang Young Nam of Seobok, Confidential Assignment, and Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok Joo). I loved how he shared everything with Hae Yi, although it did cause trouble later on with the cheating scandal. I was always rooting for him to end up with Hae Yi. My favorite Seon Jae moment was when his brother (Kim Tae Jeong) went to jail and Hae Yi visited Seon Jae and all he could do was put his head on her shoulder because of exhaustion. That was a very touching moment for me. 

Geon Hu (Lee Min Jae) made school life more fun for Hae Yi and her friends. He was a promising hockey athlete whose career was cut short because of an injury. I loved how Mr. Jeon gave him a wake up call - acknowledging that he was upset with his exit from hockey but telling him that he has other options and he just needs to think about what he really wants to do. And oh how he lived up to that challenge by bravely asking Hae Yi to help him study and how he boldly asked her in front of their class to go out with him if he makes it to college. I also loved Geon Hu's bromance with Seon Jae, especially when they defended Hae Yi from their classmates who were making fun of her because of her mom's scandal. 

And while Dan Ji's (Ryu Da In) role was not that prominent, I still loved her for always being there for Hae Yi. I loved how Hae Yi's friends cheered her on when the truth about her real mom was revealed. 

Shin Jae Ha as Ji Dong Hee

Mr. Ji (Shin Jae Ha of Prison Playbook) was initially my favorite character because of how he always had Chi Yeol's back. But as the story unfolded, I realized that he had a twisted way of protecting Chi Yeol. He was the brother of Chi Yeol's former student who committed suicide. And since his sister trusted Chi Yeol, he made this crazy vow of always protecting Chi Yeol, to the point of killing those who got in his way. 

Yes, he was my initial murder suspect. But the show made me believe otherwise. Maybe I was in denial? And I didn't want to be disappointed? But when the truth was finally revealed, I saw that he was really creepy, with scary-looking dead eyes. I'm just grateful that he never really intended to hurt Chi Yeol. But this plot twist still hurt me because I really wanted him to always be there for Chi Yeol, in a good way of course. 

The Competitive Moms

I really, really loathed the competitive moms, led by Su Ah's (Kang Na Eon) mom, Ms. Jo (Kim Sun Young of Juror 8, The Silent Sea, Hospital Playlist, Crash Landing on You, Vagabond, At Eighteen, Romance is a Bonus Book, and Prison Playbook) and Dan Ji's mom, Ms. Lee (Hwang Bo Ra of Vagabond, What's Wrong with Secretary Kim, Fight for My Way). It was annoying how they'd do anything to get advantages for their kids, even unfair ones. I was genuinely happy when they found out that Chi Yeol was tutoring Hae Yi because it was like a huge slap on their discriminatory faces. And they even spread baseless rumors to put down their kids' competitors. They go really, really low. But not as low as Ms. Jang, whom I thought was better than the others, but turned out to be the worst among all of them. 


Although the show's main theme has been covered in earlier dramas, I liked how it was still able to present it in a different and not so heavy handed way. It highlighted how toxic the education system is - perpetuated by the schools, academies, teachers, and parents, and ultimately by the students too who have no choice but to succumb to the pressure from their parents. 

I liked how the drama showed us that things are even tougher for kids from families that are not so well off like Hae Yi's. They're discriminated against and they lose opportunities even if they would have actually excelled in a merit-based world. I hated how the rich moms ganged up on Haeng Seon and Hae Yi, thinking they were better than them just because they were richer. 

And the lengths these crazy parents go to. Like stealing exams to make sure their kids do well. Seon Jae almost committed suicide had Geon Hu not seen him. Su Ah was on the brink of losing it. 

And I couldn't get how illogical some of these parents and students can get. Canceling Chi Yeol (and burning his workbooks) and Haeng Seon's shop just because they fell in love? 

My only consolation was that there are still teachers like Mr. Jeon and Chi Yeol who genuinely care for their students, who understand the pressure they're in, and how they try their best to make things easier for their students. 

I appreciated the show's attempt on touching heavy topics like the price that people have to pay for fame - how people are always out to get Chi Yeol and how he even developed insomnia and an eating disorder because of this. 

And of course the injustices that people with disability go through and how they're attacked and discriminated against even if it's very obvious that they're not neurotypical.  

To balance out the heavy stuff, I liked the show's funny moments because they were really funny. And it helped a lot that the actors handled comedy really well. 

And I loved how the serendipity stuff were not contrived. I can actually imagine a guy finding comfort in a woman's cooking because he used to be fed by that woman's mother. 

I was initially concerned with the criminal/mystery angle and how it would mesh with the entire story. But I was pleasantly surprised that the show handled this story really well. The drama didn't overdo it. I admit, however, that there were some flaws like was it ever reported that Chi Yeol's stalker student was hit by metal balls early on in the show? Or why did it took a long time for the academy to find out that one of their teachers was missing? 


While I enjoyed most parts of the show, there were some story lines that I was not so happy with. 

While it was a relief that Chi Yeol finally discovered Mr. Ji's true colors and how he told him that he didn't want to go back to his old, unhappy, hollow, and meaningless life, I was not entirely happy with how this story line was handled. 

Chi Yeol was so reckless breaking into Mr. Ji's house by himself. Why risk his life when he could have called the police or the detectives for help?

I didn't like how this story was ended so abruptly and how Mr. Ji was given an easy way out. Should he not pay for his crimes? Should he not be given a chance to show remorse? Or if that ending was really inevitable for him, could he not at least have more closure with Chi Yeol? Like despite what happened, Chi Yeol could still express his gratitude for all the good things Mr. Ji did for him. And affirming that Mr. Ji should not be blamed for how he turned out. That way they would at least be at peace with each other. I personally would not have minded if this story line was stretched out a bit. Especially since it seemed like it was a major/primary conflict in the show. I believe it should have emphasized more that Mr. Ji's mom pushed him to be that way. This story definitely deserved a more thorough treatment. 

And I was quite disappointed with how people didn't seem to be that affected with what happened. I would have loved to see some reaction from Mr. Ji's colleagues. And for someone who was really close to Mr. Ji, I found it out of character for Chi Yeol to move on so quickly from his death. Sure he had a better support group now and we're talking about a murderer. But I expected Mr. Ji's death to be more traumatic for Chi Yeol, knowing that someone so close to him whom he thought he knew too well was actually evil. 

I was glad that mom finally acknowledged that something was wrong with Su Ah and she actually asked for help to make her better. 

It was also satisfying to see Su Ah's mom get her karma when the other moms witnessed her husband's infidelity. 

I get that the show was aiming for a happy ending but I just found it quite unbelievable that Su Ah changed completely - she shared her notes with Hae Yi and she appears to be forming a relationship with Geon Hu. Maybe Hae Yi's accident had such a huge impact on her? 

In the end, I was proud of how her parents' scandal didn't break Su Ah. I loved how she bravely told mom to get a divorce if that's what she wanted. And mom finally put to good use her nosiness by being a counselor at the academy. 

I was happy to see Jae Woo and Young Joo's relationship progress. More than the romantic stuff, I was happy that they are each other's support group. Like how Young Joo let Jae Woo cry after Hae Yi's surgery. And how Jae Woo confessed that he felt bad because it was always Haeng Seon and Hae Yi taking care of him but now Hae Yi was sick. I also loved Jae Woo's confession which was awkward and naive but also very sincere and heartfelt. 

I was proud of how Seon Jae courageously admitted the exam leak. Yes, it took time but I understand how torn he must have felt. Of course, he didn't want to cheat but he also didn't want his mom to get into trouble. And I loved how he asked his dad to help his mom when he finally confessed. 

I also loved how the bromance was sealed when Geon Hu stopped Seon Jae from jumping off the school rooftop. 

I hated mom for putting Seon Jae through so much but I'm just hoping that his break from school would be good for him and his family. And I loved his cute and awkward confession to Hae Yi and how Geon Hu mocked him afterwards. 

Personally, I felt that this was a storyline the show could have focused more on. To highlight the evil consequences of what mom did. I also felt that mom got off lightly. I'm happy that she's slowed down and she's rekindling her relationships with her sons. But I also wish this was done in a slower and gentler manner so it didn't come out quite abrupt. 

My least favorite part of the ending was the arrival of Hae Yi's biological mom (Bae Hae Sun of Samjin Company English Class, Love in Contract, Happiness, Hometown Cha Cha Cha, Start-Up, and Hotel Del Luna). While it was good for Hae Yi to get closure, I think mom's return was unnecessary because Hae Yi was pretty much happy with her life. And for this story to be the center of the final two episodes felt unfair because mom totally didn't deserve the limelight. 

And I felt bad that Haeng Seon's heart had to break again after everything she's been through. It was painful to see her buy Hae Yi's stuff and discuss her conditions with her sister, as if she were already endorsing Hae Yi to her real mom. 

It was not fair for Hae Yi to be confused again after all that she's endured at a young age. And it was heartbreaking for Uncle Jae Woo too. I know Haeng Seon's tough and she'll manage. But fragile Jae Woo might not be able to handle it. 

And for mom to just leave again in the end. How traumatic it must have been for everyone. Sure, Hae Yi has some sort of relationship with mom this time. And mom's letter to Haeng Seon was bittersweet. But I just found it odd that they didn't even talk about what happened afterwards. 

But I guess all's well that ends well. Haeng Seon was finally doing something for herself by getting that sports instructor certificate. And she's marrying Chi Yeol. And Chi Yeol now lives a very relaxed life. And I guess we should just all be happy for them. 

Oppa says...4.6.

Noona says...4.5.