Surplus Princess kicks off with a voice-over narrative that takes place exactly 100 days after Ha Ni became human.
She talks about her happy memories and experiences, and that she won’t forget the people she’s met. It’s pretty obvious that she’s saying goodbye here, which really adds emotional depth to this scene.
But then she asks, “Aren’t you curious why I’m standing here? From now on, I’ll tell my story.” (Not a direct translation, but that’s the rough gist of it.)
Then, you see her grasp a man’s hand. Who is he? Is he first male lead or the second male lead? Or is he someone else entirely? It’s hard to know in k-drama land, sometimes. Sigh.
Slowly, they pull apart and visual FX lead us to believe that Ha Ni is turning back into a mermaid. (Later, in this episode, you’ll see this same FX used when she drinks the potion and becomes human. But this is purely speculation as I don’t know what the effects of taking the potion were. I can only assume that she returns back to the ocean as the screen fades to black.)
First things first, this scene was beautifully shot. From the views of the ocean, to the time of day, to the camera angles, and even the sad, slow music playing in the background, I was captivated. I love the style of story telling that jerks the viewer right into future events, and then the story backtracks to the beginning to show how and why things have become the way that they have.
So, this is an A+ opening in my books.
Now, we rewind to the past – before the events in the narrative sequence, and it’s a completely different style and feel. It’s a whole new ballgame – from the music, to the upbeat mermaid narrating, and more.
Surplus Princess (aka The Mermaid) kicks off introducing us to Kim Ha Ni, a mermaid who is intrigued by the human world. She’s so intrigued by the human world and their habits that she has a waterproof cell phone and she checks social media and searches on the web when she can pick up a wi-fi signal. She also has interests with celebrities (she follows them online), online fashion, and searching for fashion pieces. Also, there’s a nice little nod to My Love From Another Star as Ha Ni’s a huge fan of popular dramas and new movies. There is also a nod to Disney’s Frozen and Answer Me 1994. She’s even, recently, become interested in searching yummy foods on her phone. So, all in all, Ha Ni seems to act more like a human than a mermaid princess.
But her biggest intrigue isn’t really the habits of millions of humans – it’s just one human in particular: Kwon Shi Kyung. And apparently, according to Ha Ni at least, he’s way hotter than Manager Do From My Love From Another Star. I won’t lie – I’m already loving all the Korean pop culture references in this series. So, these little “nods” to current Korean pop culture earn major brownie points with me.
Perfect hair, perfect face, and perfect body. Ha Ni thinks Shi Kyung is so hot, and heck, I won’t argue with her there. But he’s also kind of a jerk who gets bent out of shape because one of the women on his show forgot to put a placement down. Yikes. Also, Shi Kyung is a chef, and apparently he has his own show. In a truly unrealistic move, the woman rips off a layer of her lace skirt. Perfectly. And she places it next to the dish that chef was preparing. Aigoo. Things are sometimes mad difficult in kdrama land, but sometimes they’re a little too perfect.
Still, from the Han River, Ha Ni watches Shi Kyung from afar. She’s definitely got stars in her eyes for this man, and I keep thinking that if she were to meet him, she’d totally hate his personality. But it seems like he could be just a workaholic as the women think he’s really not that bad outside of work. Also, even while Shi Kyung hears the women that work with him gossiping, he debates waiting a little longer not to embarrass them. So, maybe Ha Ni has the right idea.
Unfortunately, Shi Kyung lingering on the boat means that he spots Ha Ni, but he thinks she’s a tuna. He tries to take a picture with his phone, but he slips, hits his head, and plunges into the Han River as his consciousness is fading fast.
Ha Ni grabs his sinking phone, shoves it in her bra, and swims towards Shi Kyung. She grabs him and starts to kiss him. In no time at all, Shi Kyung starts responding, and it becomes obvious that this show might not be that suitable for younger viewers. But while things get heated under the water, at the surface, the woman who ripped her lace skirt, dives into the river and pulls Shi Kyung to the surface. And it’s probably just in time – because things were getting pretty hot and heavy under the sea.
Elsewhere, we’re introduced to Lee Hyun Myung, who is a third year trying to get hired. He’s an Oriental Painting Major, but things don’t seem to be going well for him as he makes illusions to Van Gogh cutting off his ear for art while Hyun Myung just cut his brush off instead. He can write 70 pages of self introduction in merely one sitting. It’s really obvious that he’s passionate and very determined to secure a job.
Then, in walks Perfect-Lace-Skirt-Ripper, Yoon Jin Ah. She’s a full-time employee at a major broadcasting company. (We saw her earlier helping with the production of the show that Shi Kyung stars in as a chef.)
Hyun Myung and Jin Ah live together, but apparently she’s moving out tomorrow. By the way they first and interact, I’m going to take a wild stab and say that the two are dating.
The other three men who also live with them, plan a congratulatory/goodbye party for Jin Ah – complete with cake and singing. Getting out of that house must be a good sign. Good for Jin Ah, but maybe not so good for Hyun Myung? I’m starting to fee like Hyun Myung cares more about Jin Ah than she cares about him. Maybe she’s just a workaholic, but the way she completely changed and answered the phone for Shi Kyung makes me feel a little suspicious that she might have ulterior motives.
Then, there’s Big and Ji-Yong, two other residents of the house that are betting $10 that Jin Ah and Hyun Myung will break up. The fact that they’re so easily placing a bet makes me feel like the couple don’t have the best relationship. Then again, they take back the bet at the house owner’s insistence and wish the best for their future. Hmm.
Forward to a sexy shower scene with equally seductive music playing in the background. Yep, that’s Shi Kyung. It only took 15 minutes for us to see our first shirtless appearance.
Shi Kyung’s having a daydream about the steamy kiss he shared with mermaid, Ha Ni. The problem is that Shi Kyung doesn’t know if it was just a dream or not. Breaking him out of his daydream, there is a knock on the door. A man delivers Shi Kyung’s laundry along with something he found in the clothes. It’s bluish-green and shiny; it turns out that it’s a scale from Ha Ni’s tail.
Losing a scale seems a bit painful, but not enough to stop Ha Ni from breaking the security lock on Shi Kyung’s phone. Am I the only one who is really amused by how well she can operate a cell phone? And where’s the rest of her kind and her family? She’s always watching over humans and enjoying human activities, but we have yet to really see her interact with any other sea creatures.
While looking through his phone, she sees a status update from Shi Kyung (that goes off on her phone), and she discovers that there’s going to be a pretty huge party with a DJ, celebrities, and the one and only: Shi Kyung. The only problem is Ha Ni’s tail is the only thing stopping her from attending. She desperately wants to become human at that moment so that she can attend the party and go to her true love, Shi Kyung.
So, she hatches a plan to meet up with an alcohol-loving-mermaid, who can point Ha Ni in the right direction towards becoming human. The seventeenth mermaid studied abroad in Russia, and sadly she got hooked on alcohol. She also brought along some pretty foul language with her. Addiction isn’t a funny thing, but the empty alcohol bottles floating around the mermaid’s home was pretty funny.
The mermaid really doesn’t want to get involved, but when Ha Ni names the right price in aged liquor (30 year old liquor to be exact), the mermaid spills the beans and tells Ha Ni what she needs to know and do. See, the reason that Ha Ni knew to go to her was because the seventeenth mermaid confessed to helping another mermaid, Frilia, before. This was revealed while she was in a drunken stupor.
More determined than ever, Ha Ni swims to a dark place to find Witch Ahn, who she believes is a woman. The place is dark and creepy. And when it storms, it becomes the perfect setup for every horror movie. I see what you did there, k-drama.
Then, on land, Ha Ni spots a hooded figure. Unbeknownst to anyone, this man knows who Ha Ni is. He says he personally received her – whatever he means by that. Still, she is desperate for the potion, but the man refuses to budge. He claims he doesn’t have the potion, but he puts his hand over a part of his coat – insinuating that he actually does possess the potion.
I honestly have no idea who he is. Is he a warlock? Did he steal the potion from the real Witch Ahn? Are they related? Knowing k-dramas, this could really go in any direction, so I don’t even know where to start. All I know is that there must be something incredibly dangerous about this human-turning potion if he’s going to great lengths to make Ha Ni leave empty-handed. Also, he doesn’t really seem all that threatening. Am I right?
Back to the world of humans and Hyun Myung meets Jin Ah at her new place. He wants to stay with her, but she shoots down the offer quickly. Is it just me or does it seem like Jin Ah doesn’t seem that thrilled to see Hyun Myung?
Unfortunately, her mom arrives at her daughter’s place with lunch, and Jin Ah shoves Hyun Myung in a cramped cabinet. Apparently, her mother doesn’t approve of Hyun Myung because he doesn’t have a job and because he isn’t the right fit for Jin Ah. (She tells her this over having lunch.) She wants her to find a better man. I can understand Jin Ah’s mother wanting the best for her, but it’s sad that she’s pushing her in the direction of a wealthy salary man, especially since Hyun Myung isn’t a bad guy at all.
He’s trying. I mean, he’s really trying. He may be failing, but Hyun Myung seems like the hard-working type who can’t seem to catch a break. I’m sure that being an Oriental Painting Major doesn’t open a lot of employment options, so I hope he proves Jin Ah’s mother wrong.
Then, the cabinet door creaks open and Hyun Myung awkwardly says hello to her. And then he leaves after saying that he’s been working hard and handing in employment forms. He doesn’t argue; he kind of leaves with his tail between his legs, and I really start to feel for this guy. His confidence had to take a beating while he listened to Jin Ah’s mother from the cabinet.
What’s sadder is that we see how down Hyun Myung really is. It was day when he arrived at Jin Ah’s, but we forward to him walking down the street at night, alone and forlorn. Jin Ah’s mother’s words echo in his head that he’s just not good enough. He eventually gets on a bus, lies to his mother when she calls about what he had for dinner, and ends the call quickly saying that he has another call. Hyun Myung is also sad that his girlfriend hasn’t called him back since the encounter at her apartment.
So, what’s your excuse, Jin Ah?
He eats a cup of ramen when he returns home. Even his housemates are worried about him, but Hyun Myung is in the pits of despair. To add fuel to the fire, he gets a bunch of messages that he didn’t pass many of the job application procedures. He gets angry and sad, but when it seems like all hope is lost, he gets a congratulations message.
He’s overjoyed. This means he’s qualified for an interview.
Go Hyun Myung!
Meanwhile, while out for a late night jog, Jin Ah runs into Shi Kyung. (A little bit later, we see she orchestrated the meeting on purpose. Sigh.) She really wants Shi Kyung’s attention, so she follows him to the building and to the elevator. He apologizes for not acknowledging her. He’s often deep in thought. (Yadda, yadda, yadda. I have yet to take any interest in Shi Kyung, so who knows… maybe time will change that. And you all know that Jin Ah is not my favorite person, so whenever they share scenes, I find my eyes wandering away from the screen.)
He thanks her for pulling him out of the Han River, and tells her that they’ll eat lunch together sometime. Of course Jin Ah is ecstatic. Obviously, this is exactly what she’s wanted all along.
Then, we get a flashback to Jin Ah talking to the clerk at the hotel and asking if Shi Kyung lives there. This takes place sometime before she works with Shi Kyung. After the clerk tells her yes, she begs her mother to live in that building because of Shi Kyung. We also see that Jin Ah, in the present, was waiting for Shi Kyung to appear while he was running home. For whatever reason, she’s drawn to him. And it irks me because she pays so much attention to another man when she’s dating Hyun Myung.
Back at the shared house, the house owner is tailoring a suit for Hyun Myung. Big and Ji-Yon are giving him interview advice, which is pretty comical.
Later that night, Hyun Myung has a terrible nightmare about having a failed interview because he can’t remain calm and his heart explodes. He wakes up and practices more for the interview – in the dead of night. Again, we see just how determined Hyun Myung is.
In the morning, he heads to his interview. He calls Jin Ah, but she ends up hanging up on him when she sees Shi Kyung. This really makes me mad that she cares so little for her own boyfriend. Really, Jin Ah?
Meanwhile, at work, Shi Kyung acknowledges Jin Ah and tells her that her previous perfume was better. Aigoo. Jin Ah really seems captivated by Shi Kyung, but I’m not sure if her feelings are sincere, or if they were orchestrated by her mother who wants her to marry a man with a huge salary. Either way, her character is not off to a good start in my opinion. I won’t write her off just yet, but I personally don’t have high hopes for her character.
Then, Jin Ah gets an ear full from the CEO of the company for fooling around and not being on top of her work. Maybe it’s just me, but I’m liking this CEO.
Ha Ni’s still waiting at that place for witch Ahn to return. He won’t hand over the potion, but she wrestles it from him. She really wants to go to the club party. He warns her that the human world is very, very dangerous. He takes her gifts, but she’s not interested in taking no for an answer.
She drinks the potion and we see visual FX of some kind of change occurring. She ends up being zapped onto dry land and we see that she now has legs.
And, that’s a wrap.
I thought this was a fun opening episode. There are a few characters that have already irritated me to no end, but I was never bored. I’m a bit mystified when it comes to the first male lead. If I go by the description of the series, it should be Hyun Myung?
I’m also curious to learn more back story on Ha Ni herself. It’s my understanding that they (mermaids) don’t live in Han River, so where do the other mermaids and sea creatures live? Does Ha Ni keep in contact with any of them?
I like the various pop culture references and the more comedic tone of the series.
Also, If I’m being honest, I think I’m liking Hyun Myung better than Shi Kyung. Anyone else feel the same way? I mean, there’s plenty of time for Shi Kyung to grow on me, but right out of the gate, I liked Hyun Myung more.
Note: Surplus Princess is a modern retelling of The Little Mermaid, so I’m sure we’ll spot some classic similarities along the way. I won’t vocalize any of the similarities, but if you spot any, you’re more than welcome to share your finds in the comment section.
P.S. I’ve already watched episode two, so I just need to write up the review and take screencaps. This will probably take a couple of days. My goal is to get it up before episode three airs, but I can’t guarantee that. Thanks for reading all the way through this review. If you’ve read it, would you be kind enough to leave a comment and let me know you were here? I love recapping shows, so I will continue this process regardless of who’s reading. But it can be motivational to know people are reading now and again. Thanks, everyone!