Profile
Drama: Late Night Snack Man and Woman (야식남녀)
Network: JTBC
Episodes: 12
Release Date: May 25 – June 30, 2020
Runtime: Mon & Tue 21:30

Plot
A struggling chef agrees to be on a show about a gay chef dishing advice while serving delicious food. What will happen when people find out he has been lying and he isn’t really gay?

Main Cast
Jung Il Woo – Park Jin Sung
Kang Ji Young – Kim Ah Jin
Lee Hak Joo – Kang Tae Wan

Review
I was really looking forward to watch Jung Il Woo cooking in his new drama but sad to say, he has to learn to choose his scripts better! This drama had so many unrealized potential! Or maybe because the direction of the story wasn’t what i was hoping for. Plus, Jin Sung made so many bad decisions that I can only roll my eyes at him.

Let me back up a little. The original setup of the story is Jinsung’s dad had an accident and Jinsung needed money to pay for his hospitalization. Then his friend bailed on him and sold his restaurant. He was barely able to convince the landlady to let him keep his restaurant and pay his deposit. In short, he needs cash asap and the banks turned him down that he ended up going to a loan shark. Then he finds out one of his regulars, Ajin, is a TV producer looking for a gay chef to star in a cooking/advice themed show. So he ended up pretending to be gay and he got the role. Interesting right? Unfortunately the story went downhill after.

It was for a pilot episode, the ratings were high and the viewers loved Jinsung! So now Ajin finally gets a chance to direct her very first tv show (after working hard for the last 4 years as a bullied and often looked down contractual employee). She tries to convince Jinsung to join the regular season. At first Jinsung adamantly refused to do it because he knows it’s wrong and he doesn’t want to further deceive the people involved. But soft hearted Jinsung, so how tough it is for Ajin, that her career may go down if she doesn’t cast Jinsung, eggs were thrown at her in front of the tv station, and he is started to feel something for her. So what did he do? He agreed to help her out and took the offer to continue to star in the show! Ugh!! Big mistake!

I thought Jinsung should have told Ajin right then and there that “I’m not gay. I only did it because i needed the money and you needed a gay chef for the pilot season. I’m not going to do it again.” I thought that this way, the decision is on Ajin – if she still wants to cast him knowing they will be lying, or let Ajin find some other gay chef to do it. Or, if she really thinks that Jinsung is the main reason it was a hit, then create a cooking show around him. Viewers are quick to forgive so i think they can always say, gotcha! it was just a character acting. Now, the real show will start or something. I think whatever Ajin decided, it would still be a great drama to watch because it will be interesting what happens

Next up is the love triangle. I honestly didn’t feel the chemistry between Jinsung and Ajin. I thought they were better off as friends rather than as lovers. It just complicated the things and if you think about it, Jinsung wouldn’t have continued lying if he didn’t fell in love with Ajin. It’s because he wanted to protect her from getting hurt. And in the end Ajin realized it too when she thought of all those times – Jinsung did reject her so many times and she kept pestering him and telling him of her work problems that Jinsung couldn’t help but help her. Yes, i would say it is also partly her fault.

And not just Ajin. It’s her b*tchy boss’ fault too! She was pressuring everyone to create new shows and she just sits there and do nothing. Instead of motivating and supporting her team to be more creative, she would threaten them, like she did to Ajin, to come up with a gay chef in 24 hours or you’re fired! I also thought it was unfair. And when Ajin is having a hard time to persuade Jinsung to join the second season, the boss again pressured her by saying she will get a permanent position if she can do it. I don’t think it was the right way to encourage your staff and when it turned out that Jinsung was a fake, i’m glad the boss had the decency to take responsibility for her actions. Yes, she may not have known and she wouldn’t have agreed to this had she know, but her decisions and initial actions helped create this problem.

and what i dont understand is the lack of background check and validation done by Ajin and the team on Jinsung. I know, how do you validate or ask the guy if he is really gay or pretending? but i thought the fact that there are already rumors about Jinsung, they should have investigated, rather than trust Jinsung fully.

I hated Gyu Jang’s character but he was the only one who actually thought of investigating the rumors, although I think it’s partly driven by wanting Ajin to fail. I think he is such a homophobic, chauvinistic bully and rather than take responsibility for being part of the show like what the boss did, he escaped the wrath and was even proud enough to spread malicious stories about Ajin. I also hoped that he be given some kind of reprimand too because it’s as if he was the only one who didn’t get impacted by the issue.

The only thing that made me continue to watch this show is Kang Tae Wan. From the minute Jinsung and Tae Wan bumped into each other at the stairways, i was hooked. Their stares and sizzling chemistry onscreen was amazing that i wanted them to end up together. It made me rethink the whole drama. The plot was a girl (Ajin) and a guy (Taewan) will fight over a guy (Jinsung). Since we already know from the start that Jinsung is not gay, then it just felt so terrible knowing that Taewan was being lied to while he is slowly falling in love with Jinsung.

That’s why it made me think – wouldn’t it be more powerful if Jinsung was instead bisexual – that he actually likes both of them and can’t decide who he wants more? That knowing that there’s no way Jinsung will love Taewan just feels like a fakeout – especially when they kept showing a lot of scenes between Jinsung and Taewan – holding his hand, looking so close to each other as if there’s something going on but there’s nothing but just teasing the viewers! or if Jinsung is really straight, then at least give Taewan the dignity of a one-sided crush without Jinsung unintentionally leading him on.

In addition, i loved Tae Wan’s story about being afraid of coming out to people and esp. his father, who he respects the most. That it was Jinsung who gave me the courage to come out and be happy with himself was beautiful and that final conversation with the dad was also touching. I also thought Tae Wan could have been the main character in a different drama and it would also worked so well because Lee Hak Joo gave a memorable performance as Tae Wan. I absolutely detested him in A World of Married Couple but i loved him here!

Another expectation that i had that was not met was that thinking this was a show within a show. That every episode we will see the cooking show with different people’s problems and Jinsung dishing out advice to them, all the while showing great food shots and the stories somehow connecting with their off the record lives. So i was really disappointed because aside from that one episode where the girl hated to eat tripe, there were no other cases shown. Instead, everything happened offline — they went on a overnight trip together – which didn’t really make any sense at first. I thought they just threw the story out the window and gave up on episode 3 (haha). But looking back, the trip was important to bond the group together – that Jinsung ended up having actual friends.

And i also felt weirded out by the side love story between the writer and the rookie. I didn’t like the rookie, i thought he was rude and the fact that he followed Gyu Jang and bullied Ajin was terrible. And again, i thought, where’s the story about Jinsung and his cooking show? Why are we focusing on these two people that are secondary?

Another missed opportunity is giving Jinsung’s brother, Jinwoo more screen time. They spent too much time on Jinsung who was pretending to be gay, and Taewan, but what about Jinwoo’s struggles also a gay person wanting to be accepted in the industry too? I thought they should have focused on his story rather than the writer’s love story. And Jinwoo only showed up during the time when he found out Jinsung’s lie! And he and his dad barely got screen time or one last scene after the press found out about Jinsung. By the end of the drama, when everyone finally found out the truth, I honestly agreed with all of them. Keep the show at 8 episodes and just stop. Or.. make the big reveal on national tv before the press finds out the truth! at least they would have gone in a big bang! And it’s now up to the viewers if they continue to like Jinsung as himself or just develop another hit show.

And looking back, i wondered why people weren’t as angry at Jinsung as i thought they would be. and i think it’s because aside from lying, Jinsung wasn’t really a bad guy. He didn’t do it for fame or money. He did it to help his dad and to help Ajin. And he continued lying because he didn’t want them to suffer because of him. Yes, misguided but you can’t really get angry at him. And they already know his real personality – which is very nice and warm and simple. I just wished that Jinsung chose himself over the others too, that way he didn’t have to sacrifice himself all the time.

Overall, i dont know how i was able to finish this drama. I think it helped that this was only 12 episodes and i watched it 2 episodes a week so i didn’t feel the time pass until i realized it was the final episode. Also the ending wasn’t so bad – it wasn’t super happy – they all faced the consequences of their actions – yet there was a silver lining after all the hoopla died down. In the end, the story taught us about getting back up even after falling.

As Ajin said in the final scene, “Like morning always comes after night, when you think it’s the end, something else begins, like a miracle. Even if it’s one step at a time, we just have to move forward. Toward the bright light at the end of the tunnel.”

Rating: 6/10

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