After watching most of two episodes, I've decided I like this drama. Okay, it didn't take me that long to like it, or even to decide to recap it, but I feel more justified after what I've seen. It's very cute, as the name implies, and it's well done. I don't expect the plot to be too complicated or deep, but that's a big part of its appeal. It's just a straightforward, solid drama that I hope won't try to overreach its capabilities later on.
We open on a flashback of a little boy intently drawing on the sidewalk. As the camera zooms out, we see that he is drawing cakes. (Adorable.) He looks up when he hears singing to see a little girl in a panda hoodie looking in the window of a pastry shop. He goes to talk to her, but is interrupted when a man runs out of the shop.
Oh Seung Ji is chasing a man who owes him money. When he finally catches up and confronts him, they are interrupted by a giant plush panda walking between them. Seung Ji is distracted enough that the guy gets away, which Seung Ji blames on the panda. "Are they in this together?" He gets an urgent phone call and is told the building has collapsed. He runs to the pastry shop from the first scene and is shown the collapsed cake (it was in the shape of a building). The assistant Beom Bo asks if he can fix it by 3, because Grandpa had something urgent to do. Seung Ji reminds the Beom Bo that he doesn't eat from others' plates (meaning he does his own thing, not what someone else has started), and sends him away to buy glitter.He scrubs in while reciting latin names for fungi and insects, and puts on his chef's coat, buttoning the third, then first, then second buttons. We cut to a woman coming outside and buttoning her coat in the same way. Seung Ji's grandpa waits for her under the cherry blossoms. Meanwhile, Seung Ji makes a cake that looks like some gold bars to replace the collapsed cake from before, then leaves a flier for quick and easy loans on the door of the business having its grand opening. Grandpa comes up behind him with a disapproving glare and reproaches him, and Seung Ji notes the cherry blossoms in Grandpa's hair.
His friend runs up and pulls him away to tell him that they need to stop operating in Sunderella's territory, or they'll get beaten. Grandpa overhears and hits Seung Ji for acting like a gangster and giving out high-interest loans. Seung Ji teases him about breaking up with Cherry Blossom, and that's why he's overreacting. Plus, if Seung Ji didn't make money, they would have no income. Grandpa storms off, and the guys spot some gangsters coming after them and run for it.
They go right past Pan Da Yang's bakery (yes, her name literally means Panda Girl), where she is putting on the huge panda suit to hand out fliers. Her patissier comes out to scold he for not working and she insists that she's trying to drum up some business. He tells her that his cake is too high class for their neighborhood, and they should relocate to Gangnam (to meet Psy? Oppan Gangnam Style! Keke.) She tells him that she has no money to move, and he talks about how awesome his new cake is—until a customer comes in demanding a refund for said cake. She explains that although she's been a loyal customer for years, this cake made her new boyfriend vomit, and he then left her. She tells them the "Scent of Love" cake smells like dirty dishcloth. Ewwww.Panda meets with her aunt to ask for money, but realizes her aunt has nothing. Her aunt advises her to sell off the bakery, pay her debts, and start fresh. Panda says she can't sell it because it would be like saying goodbye to her parents forever. Aunt asks Panda's parents to send someone awesome to take care of their daughter—someone rich who can save the cake shop, and a guy who's "innocent and only knows Panda."
We see the busy Saint Honore patisserie, where Panda's friend works as the kitchen assistant. Panda comes to visit her and rummages through the garbage and kitchen trying to find which products are responsible for the signature taste she's been trying to replicate. Her friend tells her to go ask Eun Bi for help, but that's not really an option. Upstairs, while Eun Bi pours coffee, Panda goes around the office talking to pictures of the founder of Saint Honore, telling him she's jealous of his success. She talks to Eun Bi about her salary, and how she'd like to make as much, and Eun Bi tells her her business is failing because of the baker, and she just needs to fire him. Panda explains that she can't fire him yet since she gave him an advance on his salary. Eun Bi tells Panda that the owner's son is coming back from getting his MBA in America to work at the patisserie. Panda decides to turn in a resumé to be a part-timer.
Speaking of Choi Won Il, he has just arrived at the airport. He helps a little girl who has fallen and notes that she seems to like pandas. She says they are the prettiest in the world, and he says he feels the same. We see a young woman run into Won Il's arms as Eun Bi says that the younger sibling hated studying, and is very unlike her brother, but they're obviously very close. Won Yi calls him "hyung", denoting her tomboyishness, and she's delighted to see her brother. I think I'm really going to like these siblings.
Won Yi is helping her brother unpack, but is really searching for something. When he asks, she tells him she's looking for her gift. He tells her a whole suitcase is hers, and she screams that he's the best brother ever! She tells him that when she told their mom that she wasn't going to college, mom cut off her allowance, so she has no money. Won Il fishes some money out of his wallet and gives it to her. He tells her that she WILL go back to school and start studying. She grudgingly gives in, excited to get some money. (She even pants like a dog in her excitement, which normally would be weird, but she manages to be so cute doing it.) Won Il gives her a credit card, and she calls him "oppa" while thanking him. "It's so hard just to get you to say oppa."
Seung Ji's Grandpa looks over his account books, bemoaning the fact that he has no money. He sighs that it's so hard to be a father, and thinks back to his earlier encounter under the cherry blossoms with Seung Ji's mom, where he gave her a phone. As he's going to sleep, Seung Ji sneaks in, tucks Grandpa in, and muses about how his Grandpa has a girl. He then tells him that earlier, he was too much and shouldn't let himself suffer for love. He says I love you and kisses Grandpa's temple before going back out. Grandpa opens his eyes and complains that he can't kick out a boy who does that, but he can't have his daughter and Seung Ji living together either.
Brief explanation here: the character description for Seung Ji says he grew up without his parents—his mother did jail time for some crime his dad committed. I think Grandpa took him in not knowing his parentage, so they don't actually know they're related, but they are. Or, at the very least, Seung Ji doesn't know it's his real grandfather.
The next day the kitchen at Saint Honore is bustling with activity as Won Il comes in with his mom. He greets his father coldly, noting a burn scar on his wrist, and his dad tells everyone to welcome his son. One of the bakers mentions how stifling it is with Won Il there. Another baker, I'll call him Glasses, is happy to see him, and they wander off together. There's a general welcoming party in front of the whole staff. Eun Bi falls in love at first sight. Won Il makes a speech telling the staff he's the new manager, and promising to make their franchise grow to be the best patisserie in the nation.
Seung Ji and his friend are chasing down his debtor again. They argue for a bit and then start chasing again. Seung Ji goes to head him off, but runs in to Panda pushing a shopping cart full of panda suit and is again distracted. His friend catches up and they realize they've lost the dude again. He comes running out behind them, but they don't see him and he gets away. Seung Ji thinks Panda must be helping out and goes searching for her. Through his research he finds out she owns Panda Cafe.
Grandpa comes to the pastry shop to say he's going out. Seung Ji teases him about going to night clubs. Seung Ji remembers that Panda was getting on a bus the first time they ran into each other and he and his friend hang out at the bus stop waiting for her to show up.
Panda decides her costume is too weak and makes a new flier with directions to the cafe. She decides to post it in busy areas and to put info on her car to advertise.
Seung Ji and his friend see Grandpa and follow him to a woman's inn. He goes from there to a cafe nearby, and they wait outside to see who he's meeting. Seung Ji's mother comes in but they never see her face, and they call her Cherry Blossom ahjumma. Seung Ji remembers talking to Grandpa under the cherry blossoms, but we don't hear what they say. Grandpa comes back to the bakery and has a fight with Seung Ji, who asks if he broke up with Cherry Blossom. Grandpa says he did, is he satisfied? She said she couldn't live together in such a small place.
The guys head back and run into Beom Bo, who is wondering why a strange woman would be looking for Grandpa at the pastry shop. Seung Ji tries working out the math, and realizes Grandpa keeps almost no profit for himself, since he pays his employees so much, especially Seung Ji. He always wondered why Grandpa was so poor, and realizes it's because of him. For example, Grandpa always buys Seung Ji the best cuts of meat, so Seung Ji goes to the butcher to buy some steak for Grandpa. The butcher tells him that Grandpa loves Seung Ji more than he loves his own grandson.
He goes home and muses over things. Grandpa has no money because he takes such good care of Seung Ji, he can't even be excited about finding his estranged daughter because he can't live with her since Seung Ji is around—he probably doesn't feel like he can rely on Seung Ji because they're not blood related. So he decides to quit and leave so Grandpa can have a better life.
Eun Bi is bragging about how handsome her new boss is, and shows Panda his picture. Panda thinks she's seen him before, but can't remember where. She asks if Eun Bi turned in her resumé that she sent in.
Won Il shows up for work the next day, and again we see his coldness toward his father. He goes to his office and looks through the books with his friend Glasses, and asks questions about discrepancies he finds. Glasses teases him about being married off to a rich girl, and he replies that he is already seeing a girl. Panda. He asks how he can look up his classmates from middle school.
Panda is trying to find ways to increase business, and her patissiere gives her a hard time. She threatens to fire him. Seung Ji fills out his resumé and tells Byung Moo he won't come to work.
Won Yi comes and notices him pacing. He shows her Panda's resumé and asks if she knows who that is. She stares blankly and he tells her "It's my first—no last love." She asks if he hasn't dated anyone and he tells her he's too busy. She tells him she's a love counselor/matchmaker and can help him. He says he'll pay her, but only if she's not scamming him. She tells him that women love gentle guys.
Seung Ji takes his resumé to all the bakeries he can, but is rejected each time. He meets with a guy to discuss starting his own business, only to find out he'll need at least 1 million won. His friends stop him on his way back to the bakery and show him the fliers they collected for Panda Cafe. "Patissiere wanted, free room, starts immediately". He runs off to try his luck.
Panda is trying to hang up the giant stuffed panda, but is having a hard time. Eun Bi calls just then to tell her about turning in her resumé, and Panda forgets herself and falls off her stool—into Seung Ji's arms. Just then, Won Il pulls up and sees them in a seemingly romantic position, and he's devastated.
Poor puppy! I really love both guys so far in this drama. I'm going to go ahead and assume Seung Ji is the little boy from the opening scene, so he's had a thing for Panda since he was little. Won Il has been in love with her since middle school, and is just so cute in his devotion to his first love.
I'm so excited to see Yoon Seung Ah as the star of this show. I loved her in The Moon That Embraces the Sun, and I think she'll do well carrying her own drama. She really is cute and cuddly like her namesake, and you completely understand why these two awesome guys fall head-over-heels for her. (I do have to say, though, that Kang Kyun Joon from Big would be appalled at the markings on her panda costume. It doesn't at all resemble a "super-cropped long tee and rain boots" panda.)
I have hopes that this drama will be sweet and light and a fun weekend drama. Nothing spectacular, but it seems to use the subtleties and little moments to shine. Also, the young actors are all doing a great job with their roles. Especially Choi Jin Hyuk as Won Il. He emotes beautifully.