Can't Lose
지고는 못살아 (2011) MBC 18 Episodes
Legal Melodrama / Comedy / Romance
Marry In Haste, Repent At Leisure, Grade: B

Korean Drama Review by Jill, USA


On paper this K-drama Can't Lose (2011) probably seemed like an excellent idea for a romantic comedy - a theme of two divorce lawyers who marry in haste and then discover to their surprise that marriage is more like a battleground than a perpetual romantic honeymoon (though why that should be a surprise to two divorce lawyers is anybody's guess). I remember I was very excited when I found this show. I absolutely love the two main leads, actress Ji Woo Choi (Winter Sonata, The Suspicious Housekeeper) and actor Sang Hyun Yoon (Secret Garden, I Hear Your Voice, Take Care Of The Young Lady), and they both did a great job with their characters in this show.

The trouble? Once again, the script! There ended up being far more bickering between husband and wife characters than most viewers can probably stomach for very long. It's a nice idea to examine a marriage in a drama - it has the potential to actually teach people what a good marriage is all about, if the writing remains upbeat and positive most of the time. However, this show was 18 hours long, and during the majority of the episodes their marriage was in heaps of trouble, and they fought like cats and dogs, and even considered a divorce from each other. From all the comments I have read from viewers I was not alone in thinking the constant bickering ceased to be funny early on in the show and soon became exasperating. Even though this pair did have lots of sensual chemistry together (when they weren't fighting!) it all just got to be too much and wasn't too inspiring.

In real life, if you are around people whose marriage is breaking up, you can cut the tension with a knife! You probably would want to get away from such fighting spouses lickety-split and I wouldn't blame you! Yet in this show they expect the majority of the audience to stick around for nearly 18 hours of it? The only reason I did was because I loved the two actors so much and didn't want to quit on any show they had invested so much of their time and effort on. To be fair, it does have a happy ending, so if you can stick it out you will be rewarded with some satisfaction and pleasure at the outcome, but it is a bumpy journey.

The Story: Our main couple, Eun Jae Lee (Ji Woo Choi) and Hyung Woo Yeon (Sang Hyun Yoon) are both lawyers and meet while sitting next to each other at a baseball game. They fall - pretty much - instantly in love with one another, which is cemented even more when they discover they share a profession. When the baseball field camera zeroes in on them the audience yells "Kiss! Kiss! Kiss!" and so they do, and the sparks fly. Without knowing much about each other at all they experience a whirlwind short courtship and then plan a wedding, which goes off so smoothly that they see no potential troubles on the horizon!

After their marriage they decide to set up a legal firm together -- she will take the lucrative private jobs and he will work for poorer people and take pro bono cases (where clients only pay after a judgment has been rendered by a court). Right away that sets up conflicts between the couple: he is a good loving husband, but depends on his wife to make the bulk of the money to pay their ongoing household and business expenses. Because he has a more traditional view of marriage he expects her to maintain a spotless house, even though she is tired from working much longer hours. He does complain initially but then has to become the main housekeeper, cook and bottle washer, to keep the peace. (Why these two professionals couldn't afford to hire a maid or housekeeper, I have no idea. It would have removed that bone of contention from their marriage right off the bat).

Almost immediately after the marriage more problems appear: it seems she neglected to file the correct papers with the marriage registry so technically they remain unmarried, even after they've consummated their relationship. She has troubles accepting responsibility for this oversight, blaming it on him. After that issue is resolved they experience other common problems: for instance, there never seems to be enough time for sex; she is too tired and he is too anxious. (This is probably the only K-drama series I've ever watched where they actually have a "condom" scene!).

When they finally plan a vacation together he has to skip out because his conscience won't allow him to abandon an elderly male client who desperately needs his help. She is highly annoyed and tells him she won't live with him if he doesn't go on the trip with her. They have ongoing in-law problems as well, for instance her mother expects him to do legal real estate work for free, just because her daughter is married to him. He finds this annoying and unfair. So little by little tiny fissures in their marriage become giant fractures. He becomes so upset that he takes to recording his feelings about their relationship into his own personal recorder, to keep track of all the issues they face together. 

Because of all the divorce clients they serve they grudgingly begin to think they might actually have to undergo the same legal procedure, to put an end to the daily stresses between them, but all along the audience senses these two really do love one another -- they just need to grow up, put aside their pride, and realize what marriage really is: not a continuous honeymoon, but rather hard work, forgiveness, compassion, patience, forbearance, humor, and most importantly of all commitment, come what may! 

Toward the middle and end of the series we start to have old boyfriend, girlfriend troubles arise, which further stresses any hopes of reconciliation our couple may experience. He gets his own bachelor pad away from her - a definite danger sign. However eventually absence makes the heart grow fonder, and they take to phoning each other late at night. He sings to her over the phone while she cries herself to sleep. It all gets to be so frustrating. We, the audience, just want our married couple happy and fulfilled! If you simply looked at them for the first time you would immediately say, "This couple look perfect for one another!" but once behind closed doors the evidence is not always so certain.

The last two episodes become far less rocky as forgiveness and a new maturity enters their relationship (these episodes were added as extras; the stars had initially signed on to only do 16). This is when I started to like this series all over again. They must have heard from the fans that they did NOT want to see this couple separate permanently. I think it was a brave series; most K-dramas are about non-married relationships but once a love relationship is consummated the audience seems to lose interest. With a drama examining marriage you have to take a big gamble that you can hold the audience's interest after the first big bed scene is over.

I did make it all the way through this drama, but it was never one I felt I had to marathon. I would come back to it and watch another episode or two while in the middle of watching another series. Perhaps you will be different and find it more spell-binding than I did. Try it and see what you think, especially if you love these two actors, as I do. The two of them are incapable of giving bad performances; only the writing team here had the most challenges to face.

Just keep in mind that this is a PG-13 show. Fan girls who only like teen flower boy shows probably won't be able to follow this more mature story-line at all. All others? Give it a chance. :)