Don’t Ask Me About the Past
Also known as: Please Don’t Bury the Past / Please Don’t Ask About the Past
Genre: It’s billed as a Rom-com, but I don’t see that myself. There is some romance, and there are several moments that bring a smile to the face. There is a lot of charm (especially in early episodes), but there’s a lot more darkness, especially from the middle to the end (episode 14? Really dark), and at times it’s even brutal. I would call this as primarily a private detective mystery with supernatural elements, lightly seasoned with some romance as well as some moments of comedic relief.
The Story: We begin with Kwak Sun Young’s wedding. Unlike her best friend who has a different boy friend every month and always ends up getting her heart broken, Kwak Sun Young has had the same guy for ten years. She stuck with him through his mandatory military service as well as his student days, and now at last they are getting married.
As they leave the wedding, they are in a minor car accident and she falls out of the car and hits her head on the pavement, causing a concussion.
Somehow this results in her being able to see a man’s past with women if she smells him, or if she smells something he’s worn. In this way she learns that her husband has never been faithful to her, and has even stashed another girl in a hotel room on a different floor on their honeymoon.
They divorce the next day, obviously. As she comes to grips with her new special power, her best friend, Jang Sun Hee, figures out they can put this to good use. They set up a business similar to private investigators (they can’t *be* P.I. because that is illegal in Korea). They only investigate men, however, because that’s all Sun Young can smell, and they only investigate issues involving the man’s relationships with women.
This allows the show to combine both stand alone episodes, where each week has a different investigation going, as well as a more involved plotline woven throughout the show.
In addition to the usual sorts of divorce fodder cases, the team’s cases include an amnesiac who has remarried, but now his wife wants to know who he was before they married; and a couple of others where the result of the investigation show that it’s not an affair after all. They also get involved in a missing person case that turns out to be far more involved than they expected, and things turn dangerous.
Some comic relief is provided here and there by a pair of rival private detectives who resent the girls for stealing their business. These two are kind of like the Apple Dumpling Gang- that is, not to be taken seriously at all.
I think if you like shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer; The Dresden Files; The X-files- then you might like this. The supernatural stuff isn’t quite as strong, but it is there, and I wouldn’t say the writing is as strong for this one, but it’s kind of more in that genre. Likewise, if you really hate those kinds of shows, you won’t want to bother with this one.
I kind of enjoyed this, which is why I’m reviewing it, but I am not totally sure why, especially since there is so much adultery (but this is always a bad thing, which is good, you know?), and the ending left a lot of questions unresolved and unanswered. After thinking about it for quite a while, I came up with these reasons I enjoyed it:
I like most of the acting and I like most of the characters, especially those playing Kwak Sun Young, her father, and Detective Park.
It really wasn’t predictable, but it didn’t maintain that lack of predictability by just running with any old idea regardless of internal consistency or logic. There were two major plot points that totally took me by surprise, but when they happened, my first thought was, “Well, of course that makes sense, and I totally should have seen that coming.” I like it when that happens. It’s hard for a show to surprise me while still maintaining some internal consistency, and that this show managed to do this twice made me a more satisfied and interested viewer. This is a big deal for me as nearly all internally logically consistent mysteries are utterly devoid of surprise elements for me and have been ever since I was ten and my father explained to me how television mysteries work.
When I speak of logic, of course, I refer to remaining logically consistent within the drama’s world. Obviously, the whole “I can smell a man’s past by sniffing his shirt” isn’t all that rational, but within the drama, one thing follows another rationally enough from that initial point where you must willingly suspend your disbelief. You just don’t have to keep on suspending that disbelief over one new point after another. I think the fact that this show managed to really surprise me with those two plot points is why I’m reviewing it at all, because still, as much as I enjoyed being surprised, this show does not make my top ten. It’s more in a list of shows to watch if you’ve already watched my top ten, or if you don’t like the overly sweet that most of my top ten tend to run to.
The ending was *really* unpredictable and in some respects kind of unfinished- not what we’ve come to expect from a K-Drama. I have my own ideas about where they wanted viewers to go in our imagined continuation of the story line. I kind of flesh that out in the comments here, where there is another review with a lot of spoilers.
So… I liked it, didn’t LOVE it, and there are too many others I love to watch this one again, but I don’t mind having spent so much time already watching it through once. I’d love to discuss the ending and the surprise plot points with somebody who has watched it.
Kim Won Hee as Kwak Sun Young, the main female lead
Kim Seung Soo as Officer Park / Park Young Duk
Jung Yoo Suk as Seo Ki Ho, tall, dark, handsome and very mysterious. He doesn’t show up until nearly half way through the show.
Kim Yoo Mi as Jang Sun Hee, Sun Young’s partner, best friend, and the second female lead
Park Jae Jung as Daniel, bar tender, confidant, and for a while, the second male lead
Jo Jin Woong as Bae Yun Gu, when they are threatened by the competition, the girls hire him as office staff/janitor/bodyguard/assistant. Turns out he’s quite the coward, but if he just stands still and glares a lot he’s quite useful for intimidation purposes.
Kim Jae Man as Kim Jae Man / FBI, Officer Park’s sidekick
Kim Gab Soo as Kwak Sang Hyun (Sun Young’s father)
Jung Joon as Jang Jun Suk; Sun Hee’s brother, who gets sent to Korea from America, where thier mother lives. She tells him to get a job from his sister. Only problem is Mom thinks her daughter owns a clothing boutique. Eventually he gets let in on the secret and helps out at the investigation agency as well.
Song Ok Sook as Han Hyo Jung, The under-appreciated, sweet, and devoted Ajumma who keeps house for Kwak Sang Hyun, who rather takes her for granted.
Lee Hyun Kyung as Jung Sook
Kim Hyun Chul (김현철) as Jong Chul
Im Hyung Joon (임형준) as Dong Geun
Lee Byung Joon as Director Jang
Lee Jae Hoon as Sang Hyun
Yeo Ji Hyo as Kim Yang
Kim Sung Tae
Caveats (besides the supernatural stuff)
In episode 12 one of the male characters confesses that his last love interest was another male.
Obviously, adultery is referred to frequently, although never as a good thing. You do see a handful of bed scenes. They are handled about as discreetly as you could possibly handle them and still have them be, well, bed scenes. One of those scenes turns out to be the shooting of a movie, not the sort of relationship the detective team is expecting.
This is a crime/mystery drama as well as a rom-com, and there are a couple of murders and some brutal beatings.
If you like your endings neatly wrapped up in a bow, you will hate this. If you’re okay with untidy, ambiguous story endings, then this won’t be a sticking point for you.
Dramas I’ve completed, recommend, and reviewed: see here.
Things to know when watching a K-drama
Where to get your fix: Sites where you can find subtitled K-dramas (and dramas from other countries, as well. I’ve watched a handful of J-dramas (Japanese) and TW (Taiwanese) dramas, but I vastly prefer the K-dramas, even though I know more Japanese – I got an A in my Japanese 101 class back in the day, when we actually lived in Japan and once I even knew both hiragana and katakana- but still K-dramas interest me vastly more).