“Marriage Without Love” First Impressions (Episodes 1 – 6)

My expectations for this drama were low given the premise of a couple faking a relationship to keep the guy’s parents off his back, especially as I didn’t even need to wear my glasses to see the ending from a mile away. What I didn’t expect was a girl who falls in love easily, a girl who will date at least three guys in the span of one drama, a girl who will date two friends, a girl who will date a guy and his employee, a girl who… yeah, I keep talking about her but I think she’s got the most interesting, uninhibited romantic life in this drama. And yes, besides all the dating, smooching and sexin’, she’s also a girl whose back story explains why she is the way she is, without vilifying or shaming her.

But I’m getting ahead of myself so why don’t I start from the beginning?

Jang Mi and Hoon Dong were dating and in love. Meaning that they’d been together for a year and while she heard wedding bells, he just wanted a regular shag. So when she invites him to a hotel room, he’s expecting to get down and dirty and not the proposal she planned. So he recruits his friend, Gi Tae, to help get him out of a rather sticky situation.

Jang Mi is the kind of thick-headed woman that needs for a man to directly tell her that she’s been dumped  for her to realize that she has been – even if he’s been avoiding her, making silly excuses and pretty much every other thing that cowardly men do when they want to break up. The first episode pretty much consists of him running from her and asking his friend’s help in getting rid of her. She finally gets the message but shortly after, faces stalking and assault charges.

Cute friend Gi Tae comes to the rescue and she leaves the court with only the stalking charge. But also obligated to help him out with the favor of meeting his parents. He’s a good-looking bachelor whose one goal in life is to stay that way, which is completely at odds with what his mother wants. So his plan is to introduce the most inappropriate girl to his family so that they can disapprove. Then he will always have the excuse that he is not married because they didn’t approve of his choice.

Zany things happen and in the first six episodes, we learn certain things about our characters. Our lead, Jang Mi, is scared of being alone due to the childhood traumatic experience of being left home alone by her perpetually warring parents.

They own a chicken restaurant that sells liquor and resort to not talking but instead, sending messages to each other. Their fight led them to leave her alone for several days (I’m assuming they both thought she was with the other person) and she almost died. As a result, she falls for everyone, clings to them for dear life and can’t throw anything away. It also means that she can’t help but meddle in people’s affairs even after she’s been told to back off.

Gi Tae was raised by a traditional mother and a cheating father. His mom is an uncompromising woman who lives by the book, resides with her husband’s family and is worked to the bone. But I think she actually likes it that way. I think she feels she’s simply fulfilling her duties because her mother-in-law is quite cool and I don’t think she’s the sort to breathe down her neck and force her into the life she’s chosen. She seemingly turns a blind eye to her husband’s cheating ways but is embarrassed when she sees his mistress. A wife should never have to hide from her husband’s side piece. She doesn’t show it but she’s humiliated by her husband’s infidelity.

Gi Tae didn’t always want to live alone and at some point, wanted to marry his ex, Se Ah. He’d planned to live in a house he’d felt safe in as a child but when he showed it to his fiancée, she didn’t think it was good enough and without consulting him, bought the place next to theirs with plans of expansion. Her actions made him realize that she was just like his mother and that he couldn’t marry her. I wonder how much they will explore how his parents’ awful marriage affected him. Does he not want to marry his mother’s clone simply because he doesn’t like her lifestyle and wants a different family life or does he blame her for his father’s cheating and thus, doesn’t want to end up like him?

Gi Tae is a plastic surgeon and Se Ah is a fellow doctor. She’s the kind of woman most mothers would want as their daughter-in-law but I think that ultimately, she would be a boring wife. But I suppose it depends on the kind of marriage you want. Do you want to have fun in your marriage or do you think that marriage is a necessary step in this journey called life and you just want someone you can build a “proper” family with?

Hoon Dong runs a restaurant and employs a wannabe chef called Yeo Reum. He was abandoned by his mother as a child and immediately takes a fancy to Jang Mi. He was also paid by Se Ah to dig into Gi Tae and Jang Mi’s relationship. While on this mission, Jang Mi confesses both her feelings and the truth. Se Ah overhears this and thanks Yeo Reum for a job well done. Yeo Reum in turn returns the money, explaining that he’s not interested in her plan and hangs out with Jang Mi for his own personal reasons. I don’t know which route this drama will take because Korean dramas rarely explore casual dating but I think this is a guy who just wants to have fun while Jang Mi looks for love in every relationship.

Hoon Dong gets obsessed with Jang Mi after tossing her away and thinking she got caught by his friend. Now he wants her back but I think he’s just a messed up individual. He thinks he made a mistake and she’s the woman he wants to be with but I think this is mainly because she’s no longer interested in him. If she were to “dump” Gi Tae and train all her attention on him, he’d lose interest. I personally don’t get this dating-your-friend’s-ex thing that is going on in this drama but perhaps the writer just marathoned Beverly Hills 90210. Because now we’ve got Jang Mi’s friend and co-worker, Hyun Hee, interested in a man who treated her badly for goodness knows why (money?) and she’s doing everything she can to make him hers, including sleeping with him in his drunken depression over Jang Mi. What she did was wrong but I wonder how the drama will frame it.

This is a drama where tons of things happen and every episode has its own theme but the key things that have happened are:

Jang Mi and Gi Tae are faking a relationship to get his mother off his back. His mom strongly suspects that it’s fake and has hired her sister-in-law to investigate. Aunty is a double agent so she often tells her nephew his mother’s plans. Mom has told Gi Tae that if she has solid proof that the relationship is not real, he will have to marry her choice. I personally don’t get WHY the mom has so much power over him and at times, it appears that he needs to depend on them financially. He’s a plastic surgeon so he should be fine, right?

Jang Mi likes Yeo Reum and is dating him. She often wants to end the fake relationship but certain things keep getting in the way and she picks Gi Tae’s happiness over her peace of mind. And even though they haven’t known each other for long, she already knows how he thinks. For example, when she and his grandma tried to get into his place, she guessed that he would use his own birthday since he’s narcissistic. This came in handy later on when she had to get into his place and save him after he’d been locked in his bathroom for two days. Even though she wants to live freely and end their agreement, she couldn’t let the true nature of their relationship be revealed to his mother because it would mean he’d have to marry Se Ah, which she knew was something he didn’t want. So when she saw his aunt watching them, she kissed Gi Tae. With tongue.

Se Ah is a controlling woman and while she pretends to be a cool woman who is fine being friends with her ex and never marrying, she doesn’t want him to be with anyone else. In the latest development, after learning the truth about his relationship with Jang Mi, she threatened to spill the beans to his mother if he didn’t father her child. The basic point is she wants him and will try to get him even if it means she has to do something underhanded.

Yeo Reum’s goal is to become a chef and he tries to practice when he can and learn from the chef at his job who treats him like crap and is threatened by him. While he was stuck in the bathroom after wolfing down the food Yeo Reum had prepared with expired ingredients, Yeo Reum had to cover for him and prepared a dish that customers now want added to the menu. This only made the chef hate him more. Instead of being a mentor, he’s a jerk. And I can understand why he’s so threatened because he probably doesn’t have the talent to work at a more prestigious establishment but can see that Yeo Reum does.

One question on viewers’ minds is how interested Yeo Reum really is in Jang Mi. Personally, I think romance is not his main priority but it’s possible he’s just the type of guy who grabs hold of an opportunity once presented with one. He seems interested in her but when she walks into the kitchen while he’s trying to learn from the chef, he pays no attention to her. He didn’t mind getting paid by Se Ah to get close to her but he returned the money. He loves that she loves the food he prepares but mainly because she compliments his cooking. He likes to spend time with her and does so when given the chance. What exactly does he want? Will things get more serious for him?

Jang Mi is the type of person that falls for every and anyone because of her abandonment issues. I don’t even know why she likes Yeo Reum but I can’t wait for her to be able to finally understand what real love is. Just because a man smiles with you and you have nice kisses (and sex) doesn’t mean it’s love. Although to be fair, in the real world, that is sometimes enough. 😀 Anyway, at this point, we’re all waiting for her to wake up and realize that her relationship with Yeo Reum is not the real deal. Why? Because we know that they will not end up together. I think that’s perhaps the problem with Korean dramas and their obvious endings. It’s hard to get invested in her relationship with Yeo Reum when we know that they are not endgame so it forces us to feel impatient when there are no romantic developments with the one she will ultimately end with.

Episode 6 ended with Jang Mi kissing Gi Tae to keep their cover. He was surprised by it but definitely responded. Despite Gi Tae planning to be a bachelor for life, there have been small hints that he’s slowly opening up himself to Jang Mi. What effect will the kiss have on him?

Jang Mi is constantly sucked into Gi Tae’s world and after learning that Yeo Reum was paid to get close to her, she decided to cut both loose. But after Yeo Reum revealed his childhood trauma, she witnessed the chef bullying him and learned that he returned the money, she got sucked back into him.  She’s also passionately kissed Yeo Reum so will the kiss with Gi Tae have any effect on her?

Se Ah witnessed the kiss with Gi Tae and something tells me that she will also notice when her ex starts to develop genuine feelings for Jang Mi. What will that make her do?

I wasn’t quite sure about this drama when I watched the first episode but I quite like it now and despite its predictability, find it interesting. I like how we get an often misleading scene at the beginning of every episode and are then shown how it came about. I like the episodic nature of the drama and how each episode has its own story (and the acts aren’t stretched over two episodes like most Korean dramas). I personally don’t find the chemistry between any of the characters particularly amazing but I think it will get stronger when the leads are conscious of their feelings.

I’m also interested in the older characters and if their marriages will be fixed. Will the nature of their relationships change? Jang Mi’s mom is very happy that her son-in-law is a plastic surgeon and has already begun to use his services. Will she become a plastic surgery monster?

Sleeping with Hyun Hee didn’t make Hoon Dong lose interest in Jang Mi so what will her next step be?

At this point, I guess most of us are wondering what it’ll take for Jang Mi to move from Yeo Reum to Gi Tae.

We’ll get the answers to these questions in upcoming episodes. Till then!


  • deeps says:

    I thought the hold the Mother has over Gi Tae is that damn house. She owns the house and threatened to sell it to somebody else if he didn’t get married or at least meet the girls she set up. Cue the fake contract and then their pride escalated the stakes to what it is today.

    Lovely thoughts. You have really echoed what I was thinking. The show is both predictable in where it is going and refreshing in how it is going there. I find it interesting that we have a professional storyline only for Yu Reom. It feels like a substitute for exploring what he wants or does not want from relationships, especially the current one with Jang Mi.

    • Clockwatcher Clockwatcher says:

      The house confuses me because it’s in her name but isn’t Hoon Dong his landlord (he negotiated with him to help him get out of Jang Mi’s proposal at the beginning) or are they two different buildings?

      • Sarge says:

        I think Hoon Dong is his landlord on his clinic since it’s in the same building as the restaurant – Hoon Dong probably owns the whole building. His mom owns his apartment and he has so much attachment to it that he doesn’t want her to take it away from him. But it looks like later on he can give it up for Jang Mi if that what it takes to get his mom off both their backs. He seems to be falling for her and she seems to want to do what will make him happy, despite thinking she likes Yu Reom.

  • andie says:

    Hoon Dong (his mom in fact), owns the building where Gi Tae has his clinic, not the house. Thanks for your review. 🙂

  • tessieroo says:

    I don’t get GT’s mom threatening him either, does it maybe have something to do with him being the only child? (so he has to carry on the family name) But even then, what’s the big damned rush? (is someone dying?) UGH – questions.

    LOVE reading what you think, thanks! 🙂

    • lidy says:

      the rush is that gi tae is the only son born in the family since his father, since it looks like to there are alot of girls born into the gong family. also as the only male heir in his early 30’s there’s a concern if that he doesn’t get married now, it’ll become harder to get him married the older he gets. however that problem seems to be portrayed in kdramas as being particular worse if it’s an unwmarried woman in her 30’s. Then there’s the issue of if he continues to be unmarried it’ll be harder to have children and as the only heir and male heir, the gong family line cannot end no matter how badly gi tae wants to remain a bachelor.

    • Kgrl says:

      The drama also hints that GT’s father wants GT’s mom to get GT and Se Ha back together. It seems Mom won’t refuse any request Dad gives. Perhaps this is why GT is so estranged from his mom, the fact that she never refuses her husband because of her principles on what constitutes as a good wife/daughter-in-law. It’s likely it was her indifference to GT’s father that has partially resulted in his infidelity. It could all have started as a means to get GT’s mom’s attention, and when she had no response, he sought solace from other women.

      By no means am I condoning infidelity, but perhaps this is another reason GT doesn’t want to bothered by his family, and marry a woman like his mother.

      • Kgrl says:

        P.S. I hope I’m not the only one, but I find Yu Reom one of the least relatable characters on the show. Perhaps it’s the acting, perhaps it’s the writing, but all the smiles in the world has not dissuaded me from being mighty confused by this character and his backstory. What is driving his behavior? His easy-going character really isn’t that “easy-going” for me. Lols.

        Perhaps, I’m just a bit turned off that he can use/take/do things so straightforwardly without feeling the need to notify people first and yet the audience is supposed to accept it readily because of his handsomeness? Hahaha, as if a million-dollar smile compensates for any lodging, food, or inconvenience.

      • Anita says:

        GT’s father liked JM at first until she confronted him about his cheating With JM being so outspoken his dirty deeds could somehow get revealed. Also he’s up for a big promotion and SA’s father can make that surely happen.

  • trotwood says:

    I did not have any expectations for this show either but have found myself laughing out loud (the way she fell asleep the first time at Gi Tae’s family’s house) one minute and being moved the next. I also like how they take plot devices/characters that we have ALL seen before (fake marriage contracts, crazy ex-girl friends, obnoxious first boyfriends, cold male leads, domineering mother-in-laws) and gives them twists. I am not often surprised by dramas, but I was as surprised as JangMi when everyone seems to know about Gi Tae’s dad’s affair. I was surprised by how far his ex-fiance would go to tie him to her. I am surprised at the relationship of all the women in his house frankly. For example, why does grandma blame herself for what has happened in that family? Why does his aunt work as a double agent? Whose side is she really on? I like how his mom came to her rescue when she had her accident and how a usual poop gag was turned into a real heartfelt moment. This show does not just make me want to know what happens next but makes me want to find out who these people really are. I hope it keep this up.

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