Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Love Around Episode 1

"Come back to me, come back to me~~" Crap, that song is stuck in my head.

I have to say, promotions for this show on FB was crazy. The fan page and George updated with teasers and reminders on the hour. It was announced that George himself would be watching the premiere in real life with the fans, and interacting with them on the fan page during advertisements. I guess it made it pretty exciting to be in Taiwan as part of the audience.

I love the opening and ending footage. I think the concept is great - they go through "love influenza" and the shoot plays around with colours: when they are heartbroken, they see only black and white.

The episode was an introduction to the premise - it zips along at a brisk pace, and we get entanglements between characters already. I think the emotional beats are in place, with some unexpected moments of levity and tons of feels for the leads. Ratings came in at 1.86, which is nothing to shout about, but it's a solid start and placed Love Around at the top of its timeslot. Let's hope it continues going upward when the conflicts come into play.


We start seeing our female lead, LIANG XIAO SHU (Annie Chen) on her daily morning commute to work. Then we cut to a sports stadium where our male lead,  ZHOU ZHEN (George Hu) is celebrating his birthday with his girlfriend, CHEN PIN YING (Christina Mok). They are all lovey-dovey and the perfect boyfriend presents her with a watch on his birthday as he "wants her to be with him every hour, minute, second". She promises to be his wish and be with him every birthday from now. Precursor of doom, that sentence usually is.
We catch up with Xiao Shu rushing all the way and barely making it to her spot in the station for her DJ session, saying her introduction sentences while catching her breath, welcoming listeners to "Xiao Xia's" time ("Xiao Xia" is a hero/heroine in those ancient Chinese martial arts stories). Listeners are welcome to call in to discuss any matters under the sun, especially those who have been unfairly treated.
Next thing we know, a weirdo calls in saying, "So what colour are your undies today?" LOL. Xiao Xia does not take it lying down and threatens to report him to the police when she finds out his identity. We also meet the rest of her colleagues, JAMES (MC40), JESSICA (Ginger Yao) and FEI FEI (Stephanie Chang), who seem to find her daily enthusiasm and passion amusing.
It seems that the previous scene happened a year before as we now see our perfect boyfriend slumped in front of his TV, watching those sweet scenes amidst beer cans. His assistant, Philip calls him to wish him a happy birthday, further rubbing salt into the wound. Before he gets into the car, he calls Asia FM 92.7 and requests "the usual" song from Xiao Xia.
Xiao Xia sits back and muses on Mr. J (as Zhou Zhen calls himself) calling every day for two weeks now, requesting the same song "I Will Be Around" for his girlfriend, Miss C. She doesn't know what happened and the reason for his persistence but she promises to support him till the end. Zhou Zhen tears up in the car and instructs Philip to take him to the music academy, with Philip sighing that it's already been two weeks.
Miss C is sitting at the piano, having heard his dedication with her laptop. She meets with Zhou Zhen outside, who wants her to take the watch back. She refuses to have anything to do with him as they have already broken up. He can't accept her sudden request and wonders what went wrong. She bites that it was because she was ashamed of him.
She had been fired from several music academies in the past just because when he came to pick her up, parents would soon complain after that she had a gangster boyfriend. She never brought him to meet her friends because she never told them of his existence. Her love for him has all but disappeared because of all the problems brought upon just by being with him. Can't argue with her logic, but gal, you'd better not come back in the future.
He finally accepts that their break-up is final but still insists that she keep the watch. She has no need for it and smashes it to the ground, saying "From now on, my every hour, minute and second, my happiness has nothing to do with you."
Zhou Zhen heads to a baseball center to release his emotions, hitting pitch after pitch. His assistant tries to cheer him up by giving him all sorts of compliments. It only annoys him and he gets banished to stay inside. Haha this assistant is cracking me up.
Xiao Shu has changed her clothes in anticipation of meeting her boyfriend, Jason for his birthday. She goes to a baseball center and intends to buy him a baseball bat when she sees a special autographed one made for Chen Chin-Feng, Taiwan's famous baseball player in the Major League. The salesperson informs her that it's not for sale but it's the prize if she can get first place in their Batting Competition.
Having never played before, she looks for a spot to practice. The staff informs her that there are no empty spots, but Xiao Shu sees an empty spot beside Zhou Zhen and enters. His face says, "Now which annoying gnat is here?" and he coolly tells her that he bought the three spots in a row because he hates having people beside him when he bats. She gets out but then enters his spot and continues arguing with him, "Your actions are just like people who put bags on both sides on the subway, with no concern for others. It's not civic-minded of you to waste resources like this." He merely tells her to clear off again.
The competition starts, with a patron hitting the highest score of 8 pitches. Xiao Shu's turn come up and she makes a great show of prepping. The first ball lands without her even seeing her. Hah. She continues although she gets hit all over by the balls. The host informs her that she'll not win at this rate and just give up. Zhou Zhen watches her from the crowd.
Xiao Shu is examining her bruises when she catches sight of Zhou Zhen hitting ball after ball, back in his spot now. She goes over in awe and begs him to help her win the bat. He turns away and she walks over to persuade him, putting her in line for the ball to strike her. Zhou Zhen quickly grabs her to the other side. SO. HOT. This is obviously why they paired them together again. "How many times do you want to get hit?" he asks.
She tells him that it's her boyfriend's birthday and she really wants to win the bat for him. That of course, gets his attention. Next we see, he's wearing the protective helmet and preparing to bat. He easily hits 10 balls, earning a perfect score and the bat. He tells her to take the bat since he never wanted it anyway.
It rains heavily as Xiao Shu leaves. She hails a taxi and gets in, before realizing that Zhou Zhen's already in it. She realizes her mistake and gets off. He looks at her in the mirror and obviously unable to abide seeing a damsel in distress, goes back and commands her to get in.
 She tries to ask him for some tissues to wipe herself but he's closed his eyes. She reaches for the tissue box, which is on his side and falls onto his lap. LOL. He opens his eyes and she scurries away like a squirrel. He hands her the tissue.
She answers a call from her mother and begs her mother to let her stay out later tonight. HAHA SHE HAS A 10PM CURFEW. She begs her mother to help her with her dad since she really wants to spend more time with Jason. She chats happily with her Mum, not realizing that Zhou Zhen's already gotten off at his hotel. She tells the taxi driver to turn back since she should pay him back.

At the hotel, a staff greets Zhou Zhen, who's the general manager, and asks if he's here to pick up his sister. Zhou Zhen immediately narrows his eyes and asks what is his sister doing here.
We see her swimming in an empty pool with some staff standing by. She even has a companion, PEI LI, whom she sends to arrange for music. Zhou Zhen comes and roars, "ZHOU YING YING!" (Elleya Tao).
She hilariously tries to hide in the pool, holding her breath, hoping that he'll go away. He just bides his time. Of course when she comes up for air, he is standing there like a dark avenger.
He gives her a lecture with her wrapped in a towel. He tells her that she's wasting resources and being unreasonable, that she shouldn't use her privileges like that. She bursts out, "But I hate having people around me when I swim!" Oops, sounds familiar. He at least, appears a little uncomfortable at that, and in a softer tone now, tells his sister not to do it again.
Xiao Shu is now at the hotel and calls her boyfriend, JASON to arrange for dinner. Unfortunately, he tells her that he has to work late at the office. She tries persuading him, even telling him that she pushed her curfew back an hour and she has a great gift for him. We see the scumbag with a girl in his arms and he's kissing her even as he says goodbye to Xiao Shu.
As she hangs up and starts asking for a "Mr. Zhou", she catches a glimpse of Jason. She follows him to the lift and sees him getting intimate with that wench. She goes back to the lobby and tells the receptionist that one of their guests, Zhang Jian Wei aka scumbag, left something that she wants to pass to him. The receptionist dials his room, which Xiao Shu sees by peeking over the counter. (Finally! One of those getting-hotel-room-number-scene that makes sense!) She rushes off to the lift, at the same time that Zhou Zhen comes back and sees her.
Scumbag is getting ready for skivvy times when the doorbell rings to reveal Xiao Shu. He tries to say at first that he is meeting a client but the act is soon up when a female voice calls out for him. He starts giving excuses, but she slaps him as Zhou Zhen arrives at the hallway.
Xiao Shu goes mad with the betrayal and hits and pushes scumbag, demanding how he could do this to her. He stops her and finally says that they should break up since she knows. He's had enough of being with such a prim and proper girl, that she's only ever let him hold her hand in the time that they were together.
He complains about her curfew and says that she's cold and frigid. She stands there silently taking the abuse, and then demands to see the other wench. He finally pushes her till she falls to the ground. "Do you know that you look really pathetic now? Be more mature, ok?"
Zhou Zhen can't take it anymore and hurls a punch at scumbag. NICE. He goes to check on her when the scumbag comes back at him. He easily twists the scumbag's arm behind his back. Xiao Shu tells him to let go, and agrees to the break up. She desolately gets up and leaves.
Zhou Zhen picks up the bat she dropped and goes after her. He finds her sitting on some steps near the beach. He hands her the bat, which just makes her dissolve into tears. He sits down beside her and notes the contrast in her bad-ass attitude earlier at the batting centre and now, when she's just sitting her crying over a scumbag. Speaking now from experience, he says, "When the person doesn't love you anymore, your pleas are just white noise, your tears are just acid rain. You're just wasting your effort."
She sees a couple in the distance arguing. In a rather nice touch, they start putting in the dialogue for the couple they can't hear.

She: "You're too much. How can you do this to me? I hate you, hate you!"
He: "You hate me, because you like me so very much."
She: "Then why did you betray me? Did I force you to pursue me? From the start, you knew that I was such a prim girl. I never changed. I'm still me."
He: "You can scold me, hit me but I'll never let go. If you hate me holding on like this, go ahead. I'm not afraid that you'll look down on me, nor do I need dignity, as long as you're willing to keep being with me. Please don't break up with me, please."

 Xiao Shu realizes that he also had a break up recently, as Zhou Zhen keeps his tears at bay. The couple in the distance make up and walk away, holding each other, as if they heard what was said.
Xiao Shu asks if they'll be able to love someone else. He considers, and you can see he thinks it impossible, but he says he doesn't know.

Xiao Shu finally remembers the reason she came to the hotel and invites Zhou Zhen to dinner at the restaurant she had booked for the occasion, a month ago. At first he thinks that she doesn't want to waste her reservation, but then she summons over staff who come and sing the birthday song. She wishes him, "Happy Birthday, Zhou Zhen."
He's surprised that she knows his name and birthday. So am I. She reveals that she was asked to sign for the bat when he won it earlier, and she saw his name and birthday on the form. Ok, at least that makes sense too. She brings out the cake - and you can just see his face darken when scumbag's face is on the cake. Awk-ward.
She apologizes and starts to clear it away, but he motions for it to remain. And then, STAB! goes his knife smack in the middle of scumbag's head. Methinks he's enjoying this a lot. Hah.
She's shocked until he asks if she's still feeling sorry for him. She responds by stabbing her knife in too. He hands her his fork. Stab-stab-stabbity it goes until she giggles. They agree that it looks better now and order their meal. She asks for the wine menu as well.
He thinks that she shouldn't drink, astutely remarking that a girl who needs permission to stay out later an hour at night would not be a strong drinker. She assures him that she's fine.

Next we see, Xiao Shu is happily walking in a zig-zag motion while the ever-cool Zhou Zhen follows behind, "One glass of red wine was your definition of a good drinker?"
They stop outside a house. She says that it's the scumbag's place. And car. She wants revenge. He looks on as she ineffectively stabs at the tires with a branch. Sensing that he'll be out all night otherwise, he bends down and helps her by removing one of the screws on the tire rim, letting the air out.
She's impressed and giggles, "It farted!" LOL. His face stoically says, now can we go?
She stands up clapping and spinning, before passing out on the ground.
Resigned, he carries her on his back. She stirs awake and he asks for her address. She mumbles "Wu Xing Street.... Dong Xing Street..." He bumps her up and her mobile gets knocked down. She passes out again. Exasperated, he gives another bump and drops her entire bag. I have this feeling this gonna be a problem the next morning.
He brings her to a motel and puts her down on the bed. She turns on her side and her body shakes with silent sobs. He helps her remove her shoes, wipes her tears, tucks her in. Such a knight.
The doorbell rings and it's the police here for a spot check, having received a tip that there were drug deals underway. The male officer asks for his identification. As he goes to get it, the officer sees Xiao Shu's feet and asks for hers as well. He doesn't respond immediately, and the officer asks what is their relationship. He answers that they're friends, and officer asks for her name. Uh oh. He tries explaining that they only met today. LOL. This sounds so bad. See, you should have asked her at dinner!
The female officer takes the cue to move into the room and tries to shake Xiao Shu awake. Xiao Shu says incriminatingly, "Don't touch me! Let me go!" HAHA. Zhou Zhen realizes it's starting to look bad. The officer asks, "Were you planning to drug-rape her?!" "NO!" he asserts. He tries shaking her as well, to no avail. The officer decides, "Sir, we're gonna need you to come with us to the police station."


I think George has done it again - created another image of the perfect guy *groans at the unfairness of it* I mean come on, a bad-ass guy who has gangstah training to protect you from danger but is not really a gangstah and has an emotional soft core at that?

His chemistry with Annie is obviously still off the charts. I think Annie has improved too - it's funny how in both "Love, Now" and "Love Around", she has a huge crying scene in the first episode. "Inborn Pair" was too far back for me to remember offhand if it also happened. My point being that, I can see the difference she brings to each crying scene, which tells me that she put in a lot of effort in building her characters.

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