Showing posts with label Welcome to Samdal Ri (Kdrama) 4.6 || 4.6. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Welcome to Samdal Ri (Kdrama) 4.6 || 4.6. Show all posts

02 April 2024

K Drama Review: Welcome to Samdal Ri (2023) 4.6 || 4.6

I'm happy to report that we've finally finished watching Welcome to Samdal Ri! This is probably one of the dramas that we took such a long time to finish. But don't worry. It had nothing to do with the show's quality. We actually loved it. We just had to deal with a lot of things in between. 


Welcome to Samdal Ri tells the story of two childhood neighbors, classmates, friends, and sweethearts - Cho Yong Pil (Ji Chang Wook) and Cho Sam Dal / Cho Eun Hye (Shin Hye Sun) - from Samdal Ri in Jeju. People thought there was an unbreakable bond between the two. But that turned out wrong. Yong Pil and Sam Dal split up and drifted apart due to so many things coming in between them. Yong Pil remained in Jeju, working for the Korean Meteorological Administration (KMA), while Sam Dal, who now used the screen name Eun Hye, moved to Seoul, where she's making a name for herself as a sought-after fashion photographer. Sam Dal's world turns upside down though when her assistant, Bang Eun Ju (Jo Yun Seo of Reply 1994), attempts to commit suicide allegedly because of Sam Dal's abuse of power over her. Hounded by this scandal, Sam Dal lost contracts and even had to pay penalties. She had no choice but to close shop, pack up, and move back to  her hometown which she has not visited in several years. The story takes us through how the unexpected reunion of Sam Dal and Yong Pil help them face the demons they have tried so hard to avoid in the past and how they finally find the strength and courage to give love a second chance. All of these happen as Yong Pil and Sam Dal are surrounded by their supportive friends and town mates who are always rooting for them. 

Shin Hye Sun as Cho Sam Dal / Cho Eun Hye

I mentioned that I was thoroughly impressed with Shin Hye Sun in See You in My 19th Life (she was in She Was Pretty too). And once again, she wowed us with her acting here. 

I still believe that comedy is Shin Hye Sun's strength. But she's also super good in handling transitions from comedy and drama and vice versa. Like how Sam Dal's hilarious tantrum about not having alcohol at home turned into a moving dramatic moment when she started lamenting how hurt she was that her ex-boyfriend (Han Eun Seong as Cheon Chung Gi) cheated on her. Or how her anger towards her friend Kyung Tae (Lee Jae Won of Record of Youth) who said he was happy that she failed and went back to Samdal Ri turned into a major breakdown about how no one seemed to care enough to ask her how she was doing or if she was innocent. The show gives us a lot of these moments that truly highlight how great Shin Hye Sun is as an actress. 

Ji Chang Wook as Cho Yong Pil

My memory might be failing me here, but I recall being neutral towards Ji Chang Wook when I watched him on Lovestruck in the City. But after watching him a second time, I have a feeling that I might have been influenced by how I didn't really enjoy that show that much. Because I now have a new found appreciation for Ji Chang Wook. It helped that I was able to catch him on House on Wheels where he seemed like a really funny guy. Plus he's looking so much better too. 

What probably made Ji Chang Wook and Shin Hye Sun click was how they were both naturally funny, which translated in hilarious comedy scenes for both of them. And Ji Chang Wook handled his dramatic scenes with such restraint that helped me focus on his pain and not the unnecessary tantrums he could have thrown to express his anger. My most favorite scene would probably be Yong Pil's confrontation with his dad (Yu Oh Seong). 

It was evident from the start that Yong Pil was a kind-hearted guy (always bright and cheerful as a kid and professing his love and loyalty for Samdal Ri). But what made me really appreciate him more was how he was a great sport and respectful of his friend/love rival's (Kang Young Seok as Boo Sang Do) feelings toward Sam Dal. I liked how he acknowledged that we can't control our feelings and we do not need permission to feel what we feel. 

I will definitely be more aware of Ji Chang Wook moving forward. Thanks to this drama that gave me a second chance to rediscover him. 

Yong Pil and Sam Dal

This part might be quite long because I loved so many things about Sam Dal and Yong Pil. First of which would probably be how cute they looked in matching knit outfits. They both looked so comfy and fashionable at the same time. 

This couple is very relatable for people who come from small towns and dream of conquering the big city but end up struggling together such that that they find their dreams and ambitions in divergent paths along the way. And how when a couple has so much history behind them (beginning from childhood for these two or even before they were born), breaking up would bring a lot of excess baggage that might be difficult for them to get rid of. 

I know they both loved each other dearly. But Yong Pil's big and little ways of showing his love for Sam Dal just meant so much more to me. How he covered her when they saw each other again for the first time after she came back to Samdal Ri, seeing how mortified she was of how she looked. And how he went all soft and gentle on her knowing that she was probably at her lowest point at that time with nothing going her way. Or how he visited her canceled exhibit and all of her previous exhibits without letting her know. How he saw through her pretentious acts of making it appear that she was okay and how he remained earnest and sincere towards her. How he was the first (and probably the only) one to ask her if she was okay. How he was there when she broke down after she found out that she did not cause Eun Ju's attempted suicide. How after all these years, he still knew where she would hide/hang out in Seoul when she was troubled (I loved that cute Jejusarang Bank name!). And how all of these little things brought them back to each other again. 

Of course, we can't forget how Yong Pil said that getting over Sam Dal was something he can do, but chose not to simply because he does not want to be over her. And how he's proven that when we find out the real, thoughtful, and super lovely reason why he chose to break up with Sam Dal. He knew her mom (Kim Mi Kyung of Crash Course in Romance, Forecasting Love and Weather, and She Would Never Know)  was sick and she won't pursue her studies abroad if she knew. So he pushed her away and gave up on his dreams. And he opted to stay behind so he can take care of mom. And how he bought her all those flowery cloths to cover her buoy so that she would stand out in the ocean. 

And while Yong Pil and Sam Dal tried their best to hold back, probably concerned about how the people around them would react, I loved it when they finally chose to talk things out when Sam Dal confronted Yong Pil about why he kept on worrying about her, asking her if she was okay, and making her waver. And that confrontation was made magical by that kiss. I loved how that conversation finally gave them the strength to seriously and bravely face their feelings. Never mind if Yong Pil was kicked out by his dad. Or if Sam Dal initially denied confessing her feelings as she collected her thoughts. I understand her though. Because she's right that it's harder to re-date an ex because you will always be haunted by the reason of your break up. And how Yong Pil came through by saying he was confident that he can handle it if Sam Dal leaned on him and that their love was so much stronger than the reason for their break up so they can definitely overcome it. And this scene was again capped by that romantic kiss with a beautiful backdrop of the pillar of lights. 

And because this is grown-up love we're talking about, Sam Dal and Yong Pil chose to confront the obstacles to their relationship. I loved how Yong Pil finally manned up against his dad to force him to move on so that everyone else will stop suffering. And how after realizing how Yong Pil has always been there for her (even when she was in Seoul) and loving her silently and from afar, Sam Dal laid down her cards on the table and admitted that she was done with having the unfair kind of one-sided love they shared. That she wanted them to love each other against all odds. And how that braveness was probably the only thing they needed to finally get that highly coveted blessing from Yong Pil's dad. 

Sang Do

Allow me to devote some time to Sang Do, as consolation for the painful fate he suffered. I loved how Sang Do was thoughtful. But there's just too much history between Yong Pil and Sam Dal that there was just no space for him squeeze in. At least he pushed Yong Pil to admit that he still had feelings for Sam Dal. And I enjoyed watching them have that petty argument about the things they gave up for each other like milk and the class presidency way back in elementary school. 

It was heartbreaking to hear Sang Do say he wanted to be the one to comfort Sam Dal. And while I felt bad when he seemed to still be interested in pursuing her despite seeing her kiss Yong Pil, I felt even worse for him when Sam Dal rejected him indirectly and convinced him not to confess his feelings to the girl he liked. And I truly appreciated how thoughtful he was in not confessing, knowing that Sam Dal would feel sorry and uncomfortable if he did. I'm sure his kindness was something Yong Pil appreciated as can be seen when the latter was respectful enough to tell Sang Do in person that he was already dating Sam Dal. 

Sam Dal's Sisters

I loved most of the characters but I'm unable to review everyone so I'll focus on the ones I loved the most and just mention the others here and there. I loved Sam Dal's sisters and how they made things funnier when they were around. I loved their side stories too. 

Hae Dal's (Kang Mi Na of Hotel Del Luna) story was a bittersweet one. She got married early, had a kid at a young age that she had to give up her budding swimming career, and her husband died so she had to raise her kid (Kim Do Eun) on her own. It was sad to see that Hae Dal's daughter thought of herself as an inconvenience in her mom's life. She called Hae Dal her aunt when she sensed that a prospective suitor was around. Or how she was overprotective of Hae Dal and how she wanted to continue her aborted swimming plans. Although it felt a bit contrived and too serendipitous, I liked how Hae Dal seems to be getting a second chance at love with the dolphin guy (Kim Min Chul of Crash Course in Romance and Record of Youth). 

The story of Jin Dal (Shin Dong Mi of Record of Youth, She Was Pretty, and Warm and Cozy) and her ex (Yang Kyung Won of Crash Landing on You, Big Mouth, Vincenzo, and Fight for My Way) was very funny. Their scenes were always hilarious - when they first met again while Jin Dal was directing traffic, when they started talking again, and that great meeting to convince the Samdal Ri folks that they would benefit if a theme park opened in their area. Despite having a lighter story compared to the others, it was evident that Jin Dal and her ex still loved each other. Ex paid for mom's hospital bills and he unreasonably pulled out the theme park project from Namdal Ri when the people there badmouthed Jin Dal. And how Jin Dal helped him in his theme park campaign, knowing that he was doing it to prevent her mom from diving. It was also obvious that Jin Dal's family still cared for him. I loved that drunken confrontation with dad where the latter reprimanded him for not protecting Jin Dal as promised, while also lamenting that he also wanted to know how Jin Dal's ex was doing because he was still his son-in-law. I'm just happy that these two got the happy ending they both deserved. 


I enjoyed this show because it kept me guessing if two people with different dreams (Sam Dal wanting to conquer the world, while Yong Pil was happy in his little hometown) and views can really end up together. It gave me a lot of feels that I always found myself either laughing out loud or crying uncontrollably while watching. 

Of course, it's not perfect. There were little flaws here and there. Like how people in Samdal Ri belatedly found out about Sam Dal's scandal. For someone extremely famous in their hometown, I would have thought they closely followed her career. 

Flashbacks were a bit overused here too. But not as bad as the K dramas from the olden days. :D

My biggest problem was with Yong Pil's dad. He was probably the weakest link among the actors. Which made it more difficult for me to empathize with his misplaced anger. I could not really understand how after all these years, he kept on putting that burden on Yong Pil, which even led him to kick Yong Pil out of their house. 

But I loved the cute epilogues, especially those that showed the characters' cute moments as kids and teens and their struggles during their university days. And how these were used to give us bits of the past without fully revealing everything in one go. Like the story behind the death of Yong Pil's mom. Or how Yong Pil's dad resented Sam Dal's family that he even asked her to break up with his son. 

I liked how the side stories of the other characters meshed well without disrupting our main story. 

As I mentioned earlier, the funny scenes were really funny. Like when Sam Dal's friends tried to fix the camera of the reporter who was bullying her, after they found out how expensive it was. Or Jin Dal's family meeting her ex about the theme park proposal. The fights/confrontations between the Samdal Ri and Namdal Ri haenyeos. Or how the Samdal Ri folks pestered Eun Ju and Sam Dal's ex. 

I also loved how the show felt organic, realistic, and relatable. The characters wore house clothes at home. Or how awkward and crowded the bed was when Sam Dal and Yong Pil first slept beside each other. 

I enjoyed the various themes the show presented - the biggest of which focused on how different people have different dreams. For Yong Pil, it was simply seeing his mom and Sam Dal fulfill their dreams. He accurately pointed out that a dream does not necessarily have to be a job. 

For others like Sam Dal, dreaming meant leaving her hometown and moving to a bigger place. While some, like Yong Pil, are contented and happy with where they are and what they have. In the end, it doesn't really matter how big or small/simple your dream is. The drama showed us that wherever you end up, you just need to remain grounded without forgetting where you came from. 

And how dreaming means being ready to accept and anticipate that things won't always go your way. Dream big and people around you will have high expectations. Go back home and quit and people will deem you a failure. 

And it's important to put in the hard work to realize our dreams. We can't steal and backstab our way to the top the way Eun Ju wanted to do it. And on the topic of Eun Ju, no matter how nice we are, we need to be careful with the people we work with. Cover your ass at all times lest you just wake up one day and find that you've been backstabbed by someone you trusted. 

I liked how the show took a swipe at how public scandals are handled. Public opinion coupled with trial by publicity are always so harsh on the suspect, even if nothing's been proven yet. Fair-weather friends turn their backs on you and avoid even the slightest association with you out of fear that your bad luck can affect them too. Sponsors cancel you, they make you pay penalties, that you have no choice but to give up everything. Second chances are rarely given. This storyline stings given how we've seen this happen to real actors recently. As an aside though, I really wished Sam Dal pursued a case against Eun Ju to teach her a lesson. 

Despite all the trouble Sam Dal had to go through, I'm just glad that she had this opportunity to rediscover herself. To find what she really loved and valued the most. I liked how after her long hiatus from shooting photos, Sam Dal was so happy to be taking pre-nup photos by accident. The sparkle in her eyes showed that taking photos was something she truly enjoyed doing. 

My most favorite theme would have to be the one focused on family and real friends. How it's nice to know that you always have someone to come home to when things go bad. How they will scold but never judge you because they are always rooting for you. And how Sam Dal's homecoming helped her realize that Samdal Ri will always be there to protect her. 

I loved how Sam Dal's mom confronted the haenyeos when they doubted Sam Dal, reminding them how good she was as a kid. And how her friends defended her in front of the bully reporter. How they've always been proud of her from afar even if they were not in touch. How mom wanted to hit Eun Ju when she found out Eun Ju's mom hit Sam Dal. How Sam Dal confided in mom how scared and alone she felt when the scandal first broke out. And how mom poured vinegar on Eun Ju when the latter attempted to walk around Samdal Ri. And how the haenyeos always had each others' backs. 

The most beautiful friendship in the show was between Sam Dal and Yong Pil's moms. How they started out as enemies and ended up as besties. How the death of Yong Pil's mom broke their families apart. And how all those hidden feelings were finally released when Sam Dal's mom broke down in front of Yong Pil's dad, telling the latter that she also missed her friend. And how that gave Sam Dal's mom the courage to finally look back into her happy memories with her friend and keep pushing her way back into the life of Yong Pil's family. It was cute how she invaded their kitchen, cooked for them, and proudly announced that Yong Pil was her son too. And how this paved the way for dad to finally be civil with mom. It was a very poignant moment when dad asked when mom missed her friend the most. I loved how this was done with as little drama as possible because all that subtlety made everything more heartfelt. 

I loved the hometown vibe the show gave us. How it presented to us the pros and cons of leaving our hometowns. How there will often be a better quality of life in our hometowns. I liked how the drama showed us Jeju life away from the touristy side we're often exposed to. And how we saw the real life issues they face - the haenyeos' dedication and the dangers they encounter, the weather challenges, the environmental issues like how animals like dolphins get stressed when stuck in an aquarium, and how tourism affects the peace and quiet of the community and how there's a need to balance economic gains with respecting the culture of the place and the people who live there. 

I also liked that little bit of storyline on how parents always want to shield their kids from heartaches that they choose to unfairly hide problems from them like health issues. I get where parents are coming from, but kids have the right to know too. I liked that painful real talk between Yong Pil and Sam Dal where Yong Pil defended his decision to hide mom's illness from Sam Dal and Sam Dal insisted that regardless of the reason, she had a right to know. And that it's beside the point that she didn't visit for several years. I loved how Sam Dal's sisters also tried their best to come up with solutions to stop mom from diving - with Jin Dal pushing for the theme park project and Hae Dal's daughter hiding her grandma's diving gear and pleading with grandma to stop because she was scared that the sea will take grandma away. 

I had some issues with the ending because some parts didn't seem well thought out. The reporters were like fools being pushed around by the villagers. I also didn't get why Sam Dal and her gang opted to retrieve the photos from the KMA during the daytime when they could have easily done it at night. I just found all the chaos unnecessary. And I don't think it's fair that bully reporter got the first access to Sam Dal's exhibit. 

But all of these bad feelings went away the moment I saw Sam Dal's photos. It was so nostalgic to see her showcasing her people, their stories, their everyday lives, in their turf. It was so nice to see everyone in one place. The terrific captions/narrations to the photos made me appreciate everything even more. 

Then I loved how the show went on to close the loop on everything. That Sang Do and Sam Dal closure was short but very sweet. 

How Hae Dal is now a haenyeo, who's taking care of her new found gang. Dolphin guy's cute confessions. And how Hae Dal reassured Ha Yul that she's not at fault that mom had to give up swimming. That it was her choice. This was a very fitting reminder that parents should never guilt trip their kids about how the parents' lives turn out. 

How Jin Dal is back at work. And how her ex cornered her into acknowledging that she should think about her feelings too and not to give way to everyone all the time. And admitting that she still loved her ex too. 

All's well between Sam Dal and Yong Pil's family too. Although I was quite confused about how Man Soo's (Sazal Mahamud) story panned out in the end. 

I loved seeing the Power Rangers together in Seoul. How Sang Do's restaurant was thriving. How Kyung Tae was finally in love. And how Eun Woo (Bae Myung Jin of The Killer's Shopping List, Forecasting Love and Weather, and Snowdrop) went back to pursuing drawing. I was sad for their hideout though but I know that it will always be ready to welcome them when they need a break. 

Sam Dal and Yong Pil's feelings for each other were well-established from episode 1. And typical K dramas would have them break up over the pettiest of things to extend the story. But I loved how the show didn't torture us that way. There were no silly break ups after they reunited. Even their prior break ups had valid reasons. So yey for grown up love. I thought I spoke too soon when Kyung Tae blamed Sam Dal that they couldn't see Yong Pil because of her. But turns out the show was just playing with us. 

I loved the show's ending narration where it said that having a place to return to is always a relief. We should live our lives like the haenyeos who go as far as they can, who push their limits to safe places, but who also know when to come back for air when needed. 

Oppa says...4.6.

Noona says...4.6.