Taking a break to watch some dramas! A few weeks ago, Yui recommended two dramas for me to watch. Both are Taiwanese dramas, 1) Refresh Man with Aaron Yan and Joanne Tseng and 2) Back To 1989 with a cast I’m unfamiliar with. My choice? Fresh faces! And I also like the synopsis much better. A sharply-dressed man accidentally time-travels to the year before his birth to meet his mom and find the truth about his missing father. Sounds good.
Back To 1989 (1989一念間) Episode 1 Recap:
We begin the series with these shots…
Apparently, the director knows their targeted audience. Swimmers are very strong and flexible, yes yes? Lol. Ladies, meet our male lead, Chen Che (Marcus Chang), an astute financial analyst, who’s enjoying a swim because he’s decided to quit his day job at an investment company. For what reason, we don’t know. But the kid does show signs of parental issues when the manager asks how he could heartlessly leave his position, casually throwing out the question: “How did your parents raise you?!”
Cut to his mother, Chen Ya Juan (Mini Tsai), refusing an offer to eat out with her co-worker. Dressed plainly, she works as a housekeeper, and the supervisor raises his concerns about her withdrawn and quiet personality; she’s been with the company for over two years and yet everyone only knows of her name. After he leaves, a phone call puts worried lines on her face.
She calls Chen Che to the hospital and apprises him of his grandfather’s worsening condition, leading to his latest fall down the staircase. When grandpa’s eyes flutter open, he says wistfully that Christmas is coming and asks for a person named Li Jin Qin to take responsibility. Ya Juan looks rattled at the mention of the said person and raises her voice at her father to stop it. He turns away from her, mumbling, “No, no, no. Ya Juan doesn’t want Li Jin Qin. She wants to give birth by herself!”
The statement hits Chen Che hard and he looks at mom curiously as she pushes grandpa down to bed, trying to stop his sputtering. Getting more worked up, Grandpa pleads earnestly: “Xiao Juan, I’ve let you down. We shouldn’t have objected Jin Qin from pursuing you…. Your mom regretted that she didn’t forgive you…” Interest piqued, Chen Che stares hard at his mom, a round of questions running around in his head.
Feeling suffocated by grandpa’s sudden awakening of guilt, Ya Juan steps outside to tamp down her rising emotions, and Chen Che follows her, determined to get some answers of his own. He has asked her the same question when he was in middle question, again when he was 18, and then again when he was in college. He repeats the question, “Where is my father?”
“He passed away.”
He calls bull crap on that response. A dead person will have a grave, he’ll be recorded and be remembered. His dad has nothing of the sorts, not even a photo. She faces him and says one more time that his father is really dead. Chen Che grabs her arm and spins her around before she can walk away, “Who is Li Jin Qin? The person who should take responsibility…” Ya Juan tells her hotheaded son that grandpa suffers from dementia, his words have no meaning and logic. She breaks free from his grasp and continues to walk down the empty aisle but he’s not finished with the pursuit for answer. “Words with no meaning don’t mean they are lies. That person definitely exists in grandpa’s memory.”
Frustrated with her repeated answer, he shouts at her to stop avoiding the question because he will ask her again tomorrow and the next day until he gets an answer. “Everyone has a father, I must have one too!” Before, he didn’t want to harry the answer so relentlessly, knowing that every time he’d approach the topic, she would grow distance and reticent. He thinks that Dad might have hurt her, but she, in turn, is hurting him by living in a forlorn and stranded way. All his life, he has only ever known of an ailing grandpa.
Ya Juan becomes firm and points at him. “I don’t want to bring up that person! If you ask me that question one more time, don’t treat me as your mother anymore. Don’t ever see me again!”
Hurt, Chen Che becomes defensive and tells her coldly with his face turned, “So what if I don’t see you? You think I care? I already don’t have a father, so what if I don’t have a mother?” Oh, you cold bastard.
Ya Juan watches as her only son trudges away and she leans against the wall for support, tears brimming in her eyes.
With the rain and thunder pattering against his body, Chen Che remembers his upsetting conversation with mom speeds into a tunnel, letting out a loud roar before being blinded by a bright light before him. He’s knocked off his motorcyclist and rolls a few feet before being absorbed into the light, leaving behind his safety helmet and bike.
Slowly regaining consciousness, Chen Che faces the familiar tunnel and wonders how long he was out for. He gets up, observes his surrounding, and notices his motorcycle isn’t anywhere to be found. At the entrance of the tunnel, he notes it’s not raining, and when he dials a number on his phone, it’s ringing nonfunctional.
When a girl drives down the tunnel, he stops her doing this:
Lol. This is our heroine, Ye Zhen Zhen (Ivy Shao) and she asks what he wants, and he apologizes for his brash intervention, but it was the only way to get her to stop, and asks for her cellphone. She gapes up at him, confused, not knowing what a cellphone is, and points him to a phone booth. He sizes her up and down, and comments about her old bike, “You can still use it?” Offended, she hops off her motorbike and confesses that she bought it not long ago. He can’t believe his ears and offers to pay her if she brings him to a place with people. He tries to hop on her bike and she stops him, musing at his lack of manners, “Please, thank-you, sorry… You haven’t said a word, why should I help?”
She’s about to leave when a car comes spiraling out of lane and towards their direction. Chen Che reflexively grabs her by the arms and swings her to safety. She pushes him away and prepares to yell at him some more before another careless driver charges down in the opposite direction and Chen Che spins her the other way, ending with her in his safe embrace. Unfortunately, no one cares about her motorbike and it gets kissed by the careless driver. In her haste to check her new baby, her head juts him in the face. Lol.
The angry driver gets handsy with her and Chen Che intercepts immediately to grab his wrist with one hand. His other hand, he gently pushes her (by the waist) behind his back. I am swooning. Don’t blame the deer for looking at him with a new set of eyes.
They’re at a local repair shop and everything befuddles our time-traveler. Our heroine listens to the boss and her face slowly droops at the repair fees. Chen Che tells her that if it has to do with money, it’s the easiest thing to fix. She rides on his comment and demands him to pay for it. Seeing that he doesn’t carry much cash, he takes out his credit card, and she marvels at the VISA card in his hand. “Didn’t VISA arrive in Taiwan just this year?” Chen Che lets out an incredulous laugh at her country bumpkin attitude, “I’ve been using this for ten years! What world are you living in?”
Then something dawns on him and he uses the old-fashioned phone to call the police, without noticing the big calender behind him with the year 1989 printed on it.
Chen Che puts the phone down, horror written on his face. “1989…the year before I was born?”
While he tries to understand the situation he’s stuck in, Zhen Zhen chatters on and on about the repair fees and I gotta tell you, I have the same look as Chen Che below.
To reassure her naive heart, he plucks off his Rolex watch and hands it to her as a hostage, promising to return a week later with money. With that, he runs off before her non-stop chattering gives
me him a bigger headache to deal with.
At a local bar, campus prince Li Jin Qin (Yorke Sun) takes the stage, serenading all the ladies with his voice and guitar skills. Zhen Zhen sits at a table with a friend, Lin Xiao Long (Yang Zhen), and he tells her the Rolex watch is a fake. She pouts her way to his side as he distances himself, citing her bad luck as contagious. Arriving with a few drinks in hand, the bespectacled young owner Wang Zhong En (Zhang Jie) hands Zhen Zhen a drink and taps Xiao Long’s claws away from the other one, because he’s saving it for Ya Juan (Chen Che’s mom!).
And what do you know, a younger and healthier-looking Ya Juan enters the bar in a pink dress, prompting campus prince Jin Qin to sing about her tardiness. She smiles sweetly at him and joins the table, completing our circle of friends.
Zhen Zhen heads home with a sour face on and her parents are the owners of YEB Suit, the same store Chen Che went to earlier to get his suit fixed since the owner has an awesome life time warranty for the suits he made.
So where is our hero? Chen Che paces back to the tunnel and when nothing comes of help, he screams out of frustration, “To hell with 1989!” Hey! That’s not nice! Later, he finds comfort in a nearby park and uses all his physical power to rub the stamped date on a newspaper, hoping that it would magically become 2016 again. When nothing of the sort happens, his mind flashes back to the last rebellious moment he shared with his mom, realization dawning on him how cruel and disrespectful he was towards her. He leans back with a sigh and deduces that if he could travel back in time, Einstein’s theory of relativity is correct and there must be a way to go back. When his sudden outburst of I’m Chen Che and I can do everything! scares away a young couple, he sneers at the innocence of kids back in the eighties. Lol.
First step in adapting to the current world is looking presentable and finding a job. Chen Che heads to YEB to have his suit fixed, surprising Zhen Zhen’s dad because he doesn’t recall making the suit at that caliber yet.
Zhen Zhen, Xiao Long, and Ya Juan all work as stockbrokers at the same company, Tai Yuan Securities, which is where Chen Che strolls in confidently to apply for a position which doesn’t exist at the time – a financial analyst. He throws out a lot of big promises but Zhen Zhen’s manager, Manager Jian, questions the legitimacy of his resume and education, and once he can’t provide proof, he’s shot down quickly as a phony.
Before he leaves, Chen Che emphasizes, “You will definitely regret not hiring me.”
After Zhen Zhen listens to an earful of complains from her manager, she comes sobbing into the break room to make him tea, which is where Chen Che waits to strike a deal with her. He reasons with her that he can repay all the money he owes to her if she lends him some investment money. Zhen Zhen lays it thick about his unemployment and calls herself a dummy if she does believe him.
As she makes the tea, she mumbles about her miserable work life, tonight she even has a date with a big shot at Ding Shang Shark Restaurant to increase her sales numbers before the end of her 3-month probation period. Her friends warn her about the dangers of these social parties but our hot-headed heroine cheerfully tells them she will show them who’s the real tiger. Moreover, she doesn’t want to burden her parents financially. To make sure her friend is safe, Ya Juan promises to find Zhen Zhen when the clock strikes nine.
Turns out the big shot man is a lecher and chills go down my spine as he leers at Zhen Zhen up and down. Xiao Long tries to intervene but is sent away to buy cigarettes. Chen Che arrives outside the VIP room and witnesses Manager Jian openly pushing Zhen Zhen into the tiger’s den. When the topic of accompanying him alone to a karaoke bar, Zhen Zhen stammers and tries to get out of the situation. Chen Che steps into view then and exclaims, “I will accompany you instead.” Zhen Zhen screams a wave of relief at his entrance.
Chen Che catches Director Li’s attention with his statement about the fall of stock market, he even brags about knowing the exact percentage down to the decimal points. The men make a bet, if Chen Che is right, Director Li will pay him 200,000NT, but if he’s wrong, Zhen Zhen will sing with Director Li, until the sun rises.
Upset for being a pawn in the match, Zhen Zhen trails after Chen Che on the street with her non-stop babbling about the unjust and insensitive nature of the deal. With his stress level increasing with her words, he grabs her by the shoulders and screams at her to leave him alone and of course this is how Ya Juan finds them. She charges at them with her bike and falls off of it with Zhen Zhen to the side.
“Chen Ya Juan, that was really dangerous!”
Upon hearing his mother’s name, Chen Che looks up and his mouth drops when she turns around. He can’t shake off her visual and repeatedly inquires about her name, age, and parental figure.
The girls team up and warn him to stay away because Ya Juan’s dad is a famous astrological professor and wouldn’t let him off easy if he messes with them. He then keeps his distance but follows closely behind them.
——- END ——-
Kappy: I absolutely enjoyed episode 1 and found the stakes pretty high if the story allows the precarious time-traveling elements to play its parts seriously. One wrong move and our male lead could be wiped from existence. Which won’t happen right? Since this is rom-com, after all.
While Chen Che is a dashing male lead and well-acted out by Marcus, I have a hard time being persuaded by his story of desperation to know his father. Maybe I’m just a heartless person. But if you have no part in raising my little behind up, I don’t want to know or meet you. Which is exactly what I’m planning to do for the rest of my life. When he saw the pain it causes his mother whenever he speaks of his dad, he should’ve stopped and re-evaluated the worth of his pursuit. I do hope they explain his side of the story more so I can somewhat understand his POV.
Our female lead is your typical well-meaning heroine who could use a few more brain cells and less chattering. Lol. She’s cute but let’s give her more substantial lines, okay?
The opening themesong is nice. “A Friend” by Gary Chaw![Download the Song Here.]