Looks like Tdramaland is littered with leads looking for their parents. Lol. Or am I just naturally drawn to that aspect of a drama? Love At Seventeen premiered last weekend to a strong start. The first thing that stood out was the deft hands directing the scenes with a purpose to impact. Along with being in capable hands, we also have a batch of likable characters with a story tell.
Love at Seventeen (我和我的十七歲) Episode 1 RECAP:
An overture of the future with our hero running frantically across a bridge looking for someone.
“Why would I, at this moment suddenly think about the day I first saw you? That year, without knowing your name, I was already running to catch up with you. I never thought that after 13 years, I still couldn’t catch up with you. Ai Li Si, where on earth are you?”
Opening theme video rolls…and we’re back to 2003 at a National Swimming Tournament held at Chong Ying High School. The camera focuses on a lovely young teenager, Bai Shu Lei (Amanda Chou), who is well-loved by her friends occupying the benches on the side. Among the student, the loudest and most enthusiastic cheer comes from student Liu Xiao Fen (Zheng Yin Sheng) and upon being told that Shu Lei’s father stood up his own daughter again, she encourages the crowd to cheer louder. A nerdy-looking, bespectacled student, Song Han Ming (Edison Wang), says quietly to himself about Shu Lei’s strained back muscles from last week’s practice.
Elsewhere, a short-haired student tries to get past a group of reporters during a campaign held by Shu Lei’s father. Having no other choice to disperse the thick gathering, she tosses a shoe into the air and it lands a foot away from Mr. Bai’s face. Startled, he looks up at the rude intruder and the student introduces herself as Shu Lei’s friend, Ai Li Si (Nikki Hsieh), and she’s here to ask for a favor, holding a recorder in hand.
Meanwhile, another handsome student without an ID is being chased by a pair of policemen, afraid that he’s running away from home and skipping school. This is our male lead, He Hao Yi (Lego Li), indeed skipping school in search of his mother and older sister. He does some impressive flips and jumps while escaping, only to crouch in shock when Li Si literally hops over his head and drops her purse in the process. Like a good person, he chases after her to return the purse, and just like that, they run for miles and miles, with her always being a few yards ahead.
She finally reaches her destination and just seconds before entering the school gates, he catches up to her and screams out, “The girl with white undies.” If that doesn’t stop a girl, I don’t know what would. She turns around worried, and he clarifies that he didn’t see anything and only said those words to stop her. He returns the purse and informs the security guard of his status as the new transfer student. Li Si points him to the guidance’s office and hurries off, not forgetting to say thank-you with a sweet smile. The moment zeros in on Hao Yi’s face as he gazes fondly after her disappearing form.
Mesmerized, he crinkles his face at his own reaction.
At the pool, the girls line up for their final round: 400 Meters of Free-styling. Li Si arrives when the ladies are already in the water, and she steals the microphone from Xiao Fen and plays the recording, it’s Shu Lei’s dad, cheering his daughter, “Jia You! Jia You! Jia You!” It’s a sweet moment but I doubt she could hear anything in that moment. Going neck-to-neck with another contestant, she comes out on top and gives a winsome smile at her friends.
Our transfer student wanders into classroom 209 and scans the chart of seating arrangement. He smiles at one seat and mutters, “Jie (Older Sister).” His sister turns out to be our cheerleader Liu Xiao Fen. Feeling the emotions rising, he sits down in her seat and recalls the day he turned sixteen and was accompanying a very sick dad at the hospital while jugging down energy drinks as a form of celebration. That night, he found Dad’s letter to his sister, revealing to us that they are twins.
This scene is so sad. Still in the flashback: Hao Yi pushes his dad’s wheelchair along the endless corridor of the hospital, while Dad grimly tells him to go live with his aunt after he passes away. Hao Yi replies with youthful optimism, “When you leave, I’ll probably be 60 already. And maybe I’ll have a few grandsons too.” Aww. Dad asks what he would do if he were to go abroad? Stopping the wheelchair, Hao Yi fixes the saline drip and says with a lump in his throat, “I would go to Taipei to find mom.” He tells dad he knew about his secret letters to mom and big sister, but Dad sighs dejectedly, “Then you should know, they never replied to my letters.”
Hao Yi reminds his dad of his own words. “Men need to be independent, strong, have their own opinions, and definitely cannot cry. So I will manage everything. You don’t have to worry about me. Just cure your illness and quickly leave this place, ok?”
The smallest smile breaks out on dad’s pale face and he nods softly. Moving his hands to the wheels, he tries to move forward, only to feel Hao Yi’s grip on the handle tightened with force to hold him back. Such a lovely moment of contrast. The father already accepts his grim fate, but the son stubbornly wants to hold on. 🙁
Cut to the doctor trying to revive dad and Hao Yi sitting outside his room furiously writing a letter, begging his mom and sister to visit dad for the last time. Then the line goes flat, signaling the end of dad’s life. A very eerie scene as the doctors and nurses pull the equipment cart down the empty, dark corridor, with only Hao Yi’s cries to fill the vast, dreadful silence.
Back to the present, Hao Yi smiles mockingly and ruins his sister’s food, chap stick, and whispers idiot when he sees her low score on a test paper. Lol. Such a kid.
Our nerd’s crush on Shu Lei is discovered by fellow big bully at school, student Cheng Qi Tai (Snoopy Yu Jin), and he glares at Han Ming for daring to record her race times and injuries without permission. His lackeys carry Han Ming to a staircase and try to hit his groin straight on but fail because Han Ming is heavier than they thought.
In class, Xiao Fen marvels at the boys’ blind worship of Shu Lei’s beauty and the latter takes it all in with grace, even sharing the chocolates with her classmates. She only cares about one gift that comes from a secret admirer who goes by the name Peter. “He’s the only one to give me what I need.” She smiles at his thoughtfulness, this time gifting her with pain-relieving patches.
Qi Tai and his lackeys drag Han Ming to a cafe where the girls are enjoying snack, announcing to her about Han Ming being a pervert. He shows them his tiny notebook and as Shu Lei flips through the pages, her face changes and surprises everyone when she says he has a heart. She takes her stuff and leaves, giving back the book to Han Ming and telling him firmly, “I have no interest in you.” Being an ass, Qi Tai drives the point further by stepping on the notebook.
Li Si lingers behind to witness the whole scene, calling the boys disgusting. Approaching Han Ming, she asks if he’s okay, but his crestfallen face droops as he brushes past her without a word, and she picks up his notebook.
Standing at a bus stop, Hao Yi checks his wallet and sighs that he can’t keep living at a hotel. He hides himself when Li Si’s trio walks past and recognizes the stuff bear animal hanging on her bag as the one displaying on his sister’s desk. Oh no. You think she’s your sister?! It doesn’t help that real mom greets Li Si at the cake shop and he catches them smiling and laughing, and his lip twerks up in contempt, remembering today as also his birthday.
The birthday celebrations deftly cut back and forth, demonstrating their difference in life and status of mind. While Xiao Fen is surrounded by friends and family with an elaborate cake, Hao Yi wishes himself happy birthday holding a… lighter. Her friends tease Xiao Fen, “Is your wish to marry Jerry Yan?” LOL. YES. SOMEONE HOOK THAT MAN ALREADY.
Hao Yi cries to himself, commenting that at least energy drinks taste better than a plain bun he’s chewing on right now. On the other side of the family, mom appears to be in a solemn mood. She turns and caresses the framed photo of her and her twins, seemingly showing us that she’s more affected than she lets on. She holds up candlestick 1 and 7, and wishes him a happy birthday.
Nighttime, Shu Lei hops onto a fancy black car and fusses at dad for secretly smoking again, and then adorably shows him her new medal. The mood changes when he mentions Li Si’s intervention today and how he rejected to record the Jia You message. Like a jaded wolf without real friends, he reminds his daughter of the difference in family backgrounds and tells her to be careful when choosing friends. Indignant for her friend’s sake, she refuses to speak to him again, not even when he pulls out another cigarette. I like her! Keep her this way please!
Next day at school, a new stalker emerges in the form of Hao Yi, trying his best to make his “sister” life a living hell. She’s on cleaning duty for skipping class the other day and he watches above, then casually drops a carton of milk/juice to the ground. She turns and looks up at him, which is his cue to smirk down at her. “Keep working hard!”
After she wraps up one bag, she turns around, shocked to see the ground being littered again with dry leaves. A few yards away, Hao Yi chucks the leaves out from her other bags. She doesn’t understand why he’s doing this and he merely says that she’s cleaning trash, and he’s simply, dropping trash in the said area. When she comments being the only child in the family, his face sizes up and he bites down his lower lip to control his pent-up emotions. His following silence catches her attention but Xiao Fen’s appearance disrupts the conversation, and Li Si is dragged away.
Hiding under the benches in the field, Shu Lei coughs repeatedly at the irritation in her throat after trying to inhale cigarette smoke. Xiao Fen takes away the cigarette and the girls wonder why Shu Lei suddenly wanted to smoke. She tells them she knows her dad never cheered for her yesterday and muses the reason behind dad’s good mood when he smokes with his friends. The girls warn her it’s a silly method and they sweetly poke Shu Lei to give up the pack, prompting then to fall back into their playful scuffle. Our resident stalker, Hao Yi, smiles at their friendship. Or so I think.
With his paperwork for transfer completed, Hao Yi casually asks one of the teachers whether students are allowed to smoke on campus, and when he hears the response he wanted, he informs the teacher of an earlier scene he witnessed. While he’s introducing himself in the room next door, the students’ bags are being checked in the other. Not as a surprise to us, in Li Si’s bag is a pack of cigarette. When Li Si’s questioned, Shu Lei stands up, so close to admitting the truth but is cut off by Li Si’s quick admission of being the owner.
In hot pink sport wear, Li Si’s mom proves a force to be reckoned with. She slams a hand on the table, demanding to know who accused her daughter of smoking, and which eye did they see her smoking with. Lol. At this point, Shu Lei and Xiao Feng report to the doorway, citing them as witnesses because Li Si was with them earlier, so someone must have planted the pack in her bag. The girls exchange supporting smiles. I love their friendship. Stuck at a hard place, disciplinary instructor can’t demerit her points today and tells her to do some labor hours as a warning. Upon hearing that the student who smoked got away, Hao Yi’s face stills with defiance.
Lord. Li Si is cleaning the sink without wearing gloves. *BURRHHHH*
Determined to rat out the traitor and informer, Shu Lei posts a wanted notice to reward whoever comes forward with the truth. Nerdy Han Ming takes note with interest because he did walk past the office when Hao Yi was up to his mischief. Later on, Han Ming is touched when Li Si returns his notebook. She compliments his drawing on the bottom of each notebook. Ha. I finally see what he drew! It’s Shu Lei swimming across the pool, a smooth animation if you flip through the pages quickly. So cute!
She encourages him to keep the notebook and tells him that Shu Lei is only worried about her reputation, or she would thank him in person. When he sees Li Si moping the floor, it’s then that he knows about her being the punished student. Touched by her kind gesture of returning his notebook, he returns the favor, apprising her of Hao Yi’s participation as the snitch. Yay!
Storming with righteous indignation, Li Si finds him splashing water angrily with his feet at the pool. After she finishes her threat, she kicks him into the pool and when he doesn’t emerge immediately like a normal person would, she bends over the pool, only to be pulled down when he rises like the wet version of the Grudge from the water and pulls her into the water with him. LOL!
Once they’re outside of the pool, Li Si chases after him, screaming at the top of her lungs to know what she did to cause his animosity. He doesn’t have an answer and when Shu Lei and Xiao Fen arrive on the scene calling out Li Si’s name, he’s caught in a tangle.
“Your name is Ai Li Si..??.. I must’ve mistaken you for someone else.” He darts away with the girls clamoring after his tail.
Xiao Fen’s mom receives a call. The customers in Tainan are looking for her and her face becomes a mask of silence when she hears the name.
Without sufficient funds, Hao Yi seeks shelter at the library, and to keep his mind off of certain grimly thoughts, he’s in possession of Naruto Volume 16, the same edition Li Si eyes at furtively. He invites her to help herself, though the smell of freshly cooked ramen across the table distracts her constantly. The lights suddenly go off and Li Si yelps in terror, causing Hao Yi to sidle hastily to her side and clamp a hand over her mouth. In close proximity, they gaze at each other…
———————– END ————————
Kap: A solid start! Misunderstands came and resolved quickly. And I’m excited to see the bonds these kids (AHUM) will create during their short time as high schoolers. Our female lead has a sweet disposition for someone raised by a firecracker of a mother and I’m looking forward to learn more about her. Second female lead Shu Lei is also adorable and I’m glad she isn’t a spoiled brat and actually appreciates small gestures from secret admirer Peter, rather than the expensive gifts from her other suitors. The story structure also allows multiple bonds to be told and hopefully, amended. Parent-child, bro-sister, friend-friend, bully-nerd, etc.