What Happened in Bali (20 Episodes)
Lee Soo-jung (Ha Ji Won) is a travel agent who is seeking her good luck in Bali after a harsh and unforgiving childhood. She meets Jae-min (Jo In Sung), Kang In-wook (So Ji Sup), and Young-joo (Park Ye Jin) in Bali, three seemingly perfect people entangled in a triangle of love. When Lee Soo-jung finds herself back in Seoul, her desire for success leads her to seek Jae-min for a job, unwittingly setting off a course of events that further complicate the love triangle.
What Happened in Bali is a drama that reveals the inner materialistic desires of people. It reflects upon the sometimes ugly (but truthful) side of man where nothing matters more than money.
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Oh. So that's what happened in Bali.
First, I should preface this review with a very important fact: I watched this drama solely for its ending. Not that I knew how it would end, mind you, but Bali is one of those drama's you always hear people talking about, and after ten years, curiosity finally got the better of me and I sat down for a marathon. So to be fair, I went into this series with certain expectations, wanting a melodrama that would bring the tears and angst, and leave me an emotional wreck at the end.
What I got instead, was a bland drama with a kick-ass finale, and little else to recommend it.
Not that it was bad, per se. I just found the story and the characters a bit dry and uninspired, and the plot a rehash of the poor girl/rich boy trope I've already seen a million times before (this IS from 2004 though, so I can't exactly blame the drama for that).
My main issue, I think, is that What Happened in Bali is basically about a group of indecisive, annoying characters who can't make up their minds when it comes to love. And in a drama that's toted a "romance" you kind of expect the romance to be epic . . . especially when it's such a strong driving force behind such extreme character motivations. So despite delivering on the WTF-front ending-wise, I never truly connected or became invested in any of these characters, so the Big Shock pretty much lost all its impact. By that point, I was expecting and wanting everyone to hurry up and die so I could move on to my next drama already.
For that, I think the fault lies mainly with our heroine, Soo-jung - a character who spends the ENTIRE drama waffling back and forth between which guy she likes. Normally, I have no problem with a character who struggles to realize she's in love (heck, one of my favorite pairings are ones who start off hating each other, only to fall in love despite themselves) but when you get to the point where even the AUDIENCE can't tell who the OTP is, you've got a problem: How can we root for an epic love, if we don't know who it is we're supposed to be rooting for? And why should we care when (and if) it fails?
On the bright-side, Ha Ji-won acted the hell out of the character like she does every role she's given, so fans won't be disappointed on that score. But even so, I still found it impossible to sympathize, or even like Soo-jung, who was starring in her own version of Hamlet's tragedy. Indecision is not cute, especially when it drags on for over twenty hours. Not to mention, none of the relationships in this series were healthy or positive in any way, shape, or form. It was dysfunction all the way - and I hesitate to call that romance or even love. It's dark, gritty, and "real"; only the boring kind of real, where you just want to slap your friend for being stupid and stringing guys along. But if that's your kind of thing, feel free to dive right in!
What Bali did have going for it though, was some terrific acting (why, hello there, Jo In-sung), an intriguing finale, gorgeous (but brief) Bali scenery, and a surprisingly dark take on the common Cinderella story. Except, you know, here, Cinderella is less the innocent, maligned servant, and more the materialistic, desperate step-sister, longing for a fairy godmother of her own.
On an unrelated note, there is one thing about the plot that I wanted to address. It's not about the ending, so the spoiler below is very minor, but it's an inconsistency that really bothered me all the same.
I still don't understand why Jae-min's family was so pushy and annoying about the whole wedding issue - why force a marriage that was clearly doomed from the start? If they were financially dependent on the merging of the two families, I could understand . . . but it wasn't until In-wook double-crossed them at the end, after Jae-min was already married, that money even became an issue. And it's not like they were trying to uphold their family's reputation or anything - we already know that the eldest brother is divorced, so clearly, if they cared that much, they never would've allowed that divorce to happen in the first place (which also made the father's reaction overblown and ridiculous later on, seeing as how an older son with kids divorcing, is much more unacceptable than a second son, with no such ties, asking for the same thing). And since it was Young-joo who called the engagement off the first time around, they could've easily avoided a scandal by making it seem like an amiable split, or by releasing the blackmail photos if she refused to play along.
Point is, it's not like Jae-min is some pariah who couldn't find another woman to marry, and even if their families were close, Young-Joo is hardly the only rich-girl in Seoul. Why force them together when both made it abundantly clear that they wanted out? I know there are a million reasons to give, like stubbornness, the tabloid scandals, etc . . . but I just couldn't shake the feeling that it was done simply because the writer NEEDED Jae-min to be married. And to me, that's just lazy writing.
End of Spoiler.
You know, on second thought, I think I will add a spoiler about the ending. By this point, you can find it after doing a quick google search anyway, so it's not like its super-duper-secret or anything. And for all I know, that may be the only reason anyone even bothered reading this review. . .
So if you actually do decide to check out this drama after all, here's your chance to bail while you can. The ending is about to be ruined, and you are about to be very, very angry with me.
In-wook convinces Soo-jung to run away with him to Bali. Because, gee, nobody would ever think of looking for the criminal "mastermind" there.
Meanwhile, Jae-min's annoying secretary puts all these stupid lies in his head - claiming that Soo-jung was in on In-wook's plan all along, that she intentionally approached Jae-min for that purpose, and that she was only ever using him to avert suspicion. Considering how coincidental all her run-ins with In-wook seemed, it's not too surprising that Jae-min buys it. Soon after, he follows the couple to Bali (because apparently everyone already knows where the embezzler is hiding, lol).
Tracking them down to a nice hotel by the sea, he watches them secretly, and sees what he thinks is a happy couple enjoying the fruits of their deception. Leaving, he hunts down some shady guy and hands him a wad of money for nefarious purposes (although, technically, didn't his father cut off all his credit-cards, so how's he affording all of this anyway?)
Back to the happy couple, they're lying in bed after having had sex. In-wook is suddenly very perceptive, and tells her he knows she's not really "with" him, that she left her heart back in Seoul (because apparently only sleeping with both guys holds the key to unlocking that pesky question); it's at that point that the couple notice Jae-min standing at the foot of their bed with a gun, not having heard their conversation. Or he did, and that just added a whole new level of What-the-fuckery.
So, he shoots In-wook dead, and then shoots Soo-jung . . . but not before Soo-jung uses her last breath to tell him she loves him. Shocked and guilt-ridden, Jae-min goes to the beach at sunset and shoots himself in the head. Nothing happens to Young-joo, because let's face it, nobody cared about her anyway.
End of Spoiler.
As dark as that was, oddly enough, it did fit with the theme and the tone. I just wish the characterizations and the lead-up could've been handled better to make the payoff more worthwhile. But more importantly, I wish there had been a romance I could get behind (no matter how messed up it was), and a character I could honestly cheer for, instead of cursing at.
What I got instead was a mediocre drama with middling characters, and a fascinating ending.
Of course, I'm in the minority here, since I know a lot of people loved this drama, at least that's what the ratings seemed to attest to. But if you're like me, and tempted to watch this only because of the ending . . . save yourself the time and trouble, and read the spoiler above instead. I just saved you twenty hours of boredom and frustration. You're welcome. ;)