Oh man, oh man – Kim Seul Gi in anything feels like an immediate hit, and I’m so happy to see her as one of the main leads in this drama. Oh My Ghostess was surprisingly mellow as I did not burst out into gut-busting laughter, but I was rather quite amused by how things played out. It is the first episode, so I am going to give it some leeway in trying to set up the story and the characters all at once.
Shin Soon Ae (Kim Seul Gi) is a virgin ghost who suffered a traumatic accident that led to her death. She doesn’t remember much about her past life, other than the fact that she’s a virgin and rejected an opportunity to go straight to heaven so that she could try to fulfill her desire to not be a virgin on earth. However she only had three years to complete that mission and the deadline is coming up; if she doesn’t go to heaven in peace she will be forced to haunt earth as an evil ghost.
So Soon Ae has been going around possessing a bunch of hot, voluptuous women in the summer hoping to use their bodies to seduce a man. The problem is no man can handle having sex with a body possessed by a ghost – they end up going into shock and suffering hypothermia. No doctor or detective can figure out what’s going on, but the shaman Suhbingo knows why and is making it her job to track down Soon Ae before she wreaks more havoc in Seoul.
There is one man however who can handle Soon Ae’s spirit, and that’s a man with the fortune of two strong arms. Guess who has that fortune?! Yep, Kang Sun Woo (Jo Jung Seok), a famous chef who knows that he’s famous and good. He owns Sun Restaurant with his handicapped sister Eun Hee as his manager. (She was crippled after a hit and run accident.) His mother, played by Shin Eun Kyung, is often mistaken to be his older sugar mamma or his aunt rather than his mother, much to his embarrassment. I cannot tell you how much I can empathize with this situation…
Anyways, his mother is quite superstitious even though she’s a learned professor, and wants him to keep a paper talisman on him at all times to protect him from the “ghost that will be hanging around him all year.” The talisman actually works, as when he passes by Soon Ae while she possesses a female body at one point, Soon Ae is forcibly knocked out of the body and can’t reenter. Too bad he throws it away though, thus allowing for our drama to continue…
There are some rules as to whom Soon Ae can enter. She must enter a body with a similar “frequency” or aura as she; visually, in her eyes she sees the world as black and white, but if someone has a bluish hue around them then she can enter them. It just so happens that Na Bong Sun (Park Bo Young) is someone who fits her frequency quite well. Bong Sun works as an assistant chef in Sun Restaurant, where she primarily is a dishwasher and assists in the smaller tasks in the cooking process. She is very meek and apologetic, never standing up for herself when she is not at fault. Though Eun Hee takes pity on her, Sun Woo can’t stand her personality because it reminds him of himself years ago, when he was also very cowardly in school and embarrassed about his mother giving birth to him at nineteen. Sadly, she looks up to Sun Woo as her hero and has a bit of a crush on him too.
Bong Sun also has the ability to see ghosts, or sense their presence, which makes it very difficult for her to sleep at night. She has a shaman grandmother who advises her to put charms up in her room and burn incense at night, but all that gets her kicked out of her rented room in a gosiwon. Because she can’t sleep at night, she ends up falling asleep at work, which gets her into more trouble there.
She also keeps up a blog about her grandmother’s cooking recipes and of her other dishes. Interestingly Sun Woo is a fan of her blog, not realizing that it’s Bong Sun’s, and he is not one to give much credit or compliments to bloggers. He generally views food bloggers as pretentious know-it-alls who don’t really know anything at all, and a bad experience with a famous blogger in his restaurant doesn’t do much to dispel that perspective.
Bong Sun eventually decides to quit when Sun Woo tells her that he does not believe she has the personality fit for a kitchen. It’s a dog eat dog world in the cooking world, but if she continues to apologize and appear weak, then she won’t get very far. She visits the restaurant late that night to drop off her resignation letter and bumps into Sun Woo, who’s bringing in some fresh shrimp and lives in an apartment adjacent to the restaurant. She helps bring it to the back storage as her last act before leaving the restaurant for good.
Meanwhile, Soon Ae has been caught by Suhbingo when she got knocked out of that random body because of Sun Woo’s charm. She is locked in Suhbingo’s apartment because of all the charms, and Suhbingo also tricks her with fake concern to put a charmed necklace of bells around her neck. Now Soon Ae can’t wander far without making some noise! Soon Ae hilariously complains about being sooooo bored, but manages to escape the apartment when Suhbingo gets food delivery.
A chase ensues, and Soon Ae jumps into Bong Sun’s body as the girl is apartment hunting. And it just so happens that one of Bong Sun’s coworkers finds her on the street and drags her back to the restaurant after everyone found her resignation letter. Since she quit, she has to return the back storage key because otherwise no one else will have access to it!
But Soon Ae-as-Bong Sun has no idea what they’re talking about. When Sun Woo forcibly grabs her and searches her body, she gives him a nice flip over her shoulder. BAM! New personality in full force!
Overall I quite enjoyed the story because it doesn’t spend too much time explaining the mystical aspect of it. There are some questions regarding Shin Ae’s past and why she doesn’t remember her past self, and why she can’t touch certain objects but can protect a baby from a flying basketball. We aren’t sure who can see her and who can’t; so far it’s limited to shamans and innocent young babies. There’s also some rule over how she enters bodies, but it doesn’t quite say whether there’s a time limit in how long she can possess them and when it becomes dangerous for her. What I hope is for a lot of interaction between Shin Ae and Bong Sun so that we can see Kim Seul Gi’s acting in full force.
And speaking of her acting, I love how Seul Gi has the right amount of slapstick humor as well as depth. That scene where she starts talking to the baby (who can see her) was kind of cute, but once she realized she could touch physical objects to protect (or because she had enough willpower) her facial expression was just quite powerful as she discovered her new unexpected “power.” So I want to see her play against Park Bo Young, who’s done a good job in being very unremarkable as her character is.
Im Joo Hwan – boy I’ve missed him! – has a very sparse appearance in this episode. We only know that he’s a police officer and is Eun Hee’s husband, but since we don’t get to know very much about him it suggests that he has a darker backstory. The more we know about our main characters in the beginning, the more “good” they are. But he was introduced to us at night and for only five minutes, so it suggests that there’s something darker going on than him being a “good-hearted husband.” The preview even suggests that Shin Ae recognizes him as a man she may have seduced before too. I hope he’s a good guy, I really do.
One of the funny things I noticed was how Shin Eun Kyung is increasingly playing the mother to older and older actors, when she herself is still quite young-looking and only 42. In her last drama Family Secrets she played a mother to someone 20 years younger than her, which is quite feasible. The last drama I saw her in, Flames of Desire, placed her as Yoo Seung Ho’s mother, who was again 20 years younger than her. But now she’s Jo Jung Seok‘s mother and he’s only 7 years younger than her! Goodness! At least they acknowledge how young she looks by saying that she’s often mistaken for his older lover or aunt.
In regards to the cinematographer and director’s choices, I find it interesting that the camera very rarely moves away from the main character’s face. For example, in Suhbingo’s home, when the shaman is explaining to Shin Ae why she needs to stop angering the heavens, the camera never leaves Shin Ae’s face. We see her every reaction and every reply she makes. Suhbingo is a bit of a minor character, so the emphasis is always on Shin Ae. The actor must always be on because the camera is not going to cut away from her, ever.
In another scene, Jo Jung Suk is getting instant coffee from a vendor in the fish market, and we don’t see that vendor’s face until the very end. It extends the mystery to where he is at that moment, so when I discovered he was in a fish market I ended up being very surprised because that’s not where I expected him to be. It also places emphasis that the vendor is not important, it’s Jo Jung Suk. In another instance, we don’t even see Shin Eun Kyung’s face right away when the mother arrives at the restaurant – it’s kept a mystery from us for just a moment longer so that we can see Sun Woo’s face fall into displeasure at the appearance of his mother.
In this small way, the drama also felt like a stage play. Even though everyone onstage is acting, when I watch a play I tend to pay attention to the main actor of the scene, whether or not they’re talking. I’m in the scene with them, experiencing their moments, so of course I would look to them for visual cues on how I should be feeling in that particular moment of the show. It’s the same in this episode – the camera focused our attention on the main actor in any particular scene because their reactions are the ones that will cue our reactions. It made the drama feel just a little bit different from other dramas because every time I expected a cut away to another angle, it didn’t give it to me.
I can’t wait to see what happens next in episode 2 tomorrow!