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Series / Secret Garden

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Secret Garden is a Korean Drama that aired in late 2010 on the SBS network. The series consists of 20 episodes and is available on Viki with English subtitles.

Joo Won (Hyun Bin) is the CEO of a department store chain. He's young, handsome, rich, and super arrogant. As the story opens, Joo Won is trying to renew the services of his cousin, Korean pop star Oska, as spokesman for the department store. Oska needs a favor: his ex-girlfriend, actress Chae Rin, has embarrassing photos of him that she is threatening to publish.

So Joo Won sets off to talk Chae Rin out of publishing the photos. He goes to a film set and meets a woman that he thinks is Chae Rin. In fact she's actually Ra Im, Chae Rin's stunt double. Ra Im is a hard-working stunt woman who wants to get ahead. Naturally, the Meet Cute leads to the two of them falling in love.

And then there's a "Freaky Friday" Flip.

Since it's a Korean Drama there are numerous characters. Yoon Seul is a cool, refined woman who directs music videos. She's been matched up with Joo Won by their respective parents, and although she doesn't like him very much she does like the idea of being the wife of a successful business magnate. She also happens to be the old girlfriend of Joo Won's cousin Oska. Also in the cast is Jong Soo, director of the action school where Ra Im works. He's head over heels in love with her, although she doesn't know it.

Not to be confused for an adaptation of the book The Secret Garden, which it has no relation to.

The series contains the following trope examples:

  • Aborted Arc: Whatever scheme Oska's mom was up to (see I Never Said It Was Poison below) is forgotten, as is the C-plot pairing Jong Soo with Joo Won's cousin.
  • Actor Allusion: When Ra Im rags on Joo Won for liking women with classic hourglass figures, he says that his favorite type of woman has changed, and he now likes women who "can't run for Miss Korea". Kim Sa-rang, who plays Seul the second female lead, won Miss Korea 2000.
    • At the very end, Ra Im is offered a Scenario to try out for, Sector 7. The actress playing Ra Im plays a lead in Sector 7.
  • Adventures in Comaland: With one person in a coma, one person just sleeping, and one ghost. Joo-Won-In-Ra-Im (the one in a coma), Ra-Im-In-Joo-Won (the one who's sleeping), and Ra Im's father (the one who's dead) all meet in a dreamland in episode 18. Ra Im's dead dad tells them it's time to love one another, gives each of them (in the dream) some of the magic potion he gave them back in episode 5, and they wake up in each other's correct bodies, with Ra Im out of her coma.
  • Ambiguously Bi: In episode 4 Joo Won states that he does not discriminate amoung his partners, be that on race, religion, gender or sexuality.
  • Answer Cut: In episode 11 Oska's mom advises that Joo Won's mom is conducting the campaign against Ra Im poorly. Instead of breathing threats of fire, Oska's mom suggests that they find a romantic rival, a "fierce opponent" who can beat out Ra Im for Joo Won's affections. Cut to Yoon Seul, being introduced by Joo Won's mom at a family dinner.
  • Apologises a Lot: Gil Ra Im, to the extent that Kim Joo Won gets exasperated with her.
  • The Art of Bra Removal: Inverted and discussed when Ra Im has to walk Joo Won (in her body) through how to put a bra on.
    Ra Im: I bet you've unfastened hundreds of these.
  • Bedmate Reveal: As a running gag throughout the show, people wake up in bed together, often with no apparent explanation of how each party got there. In one case Joo Won and Ra Im's director are in bed together. It's complicated.note 
  • Belligerent Sexual Tension: Both Alpha and Beta couples - Joo Won and Ra Im for certain, and Seul and Oska both feel hurt and no matter their desires can't seem (at first) to do anything but take digs at each other, real hurtful ones too.
  • Beta Couple: Seul and Oska. Unlike many Korean secondaries, who typically spend all their energy trying to thwart the Official Couple, you can't actually hate these two (even Seul).
  • Big Fancy House: The property where Joo Won's house sits has multiple outbuildings and other homes.
  • Bridal Carry: By Joo Won when Ra Im was injured on the set. Also by Director Im when Ra Im leaving the hospital. (Apparently, you can just pick up coma patients and stroll out of a hospital.)
  • The Cameo: Son Hye-Jin (A Moment to Remember, Crash Landing on You) shows up in the last episode as an actress who wants to make a script Jong Soo has written. It's also hinted that she may be a partner for the unlucky-in-love Jong Soo.
  • Call-Back: In the last episode, Ra Im gives her stunt people a talk about safety on the set that mirrors the talk Jong Soo gave the crew in the first episode.
  • Caught in the Rain: Never a good idea when it causes you to flip into someone else's body.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Joo Won's claustrophobia, as well as Ra Im's comment in episode 8 that her father was a firefighter who died on the job. Turns out that her father died saving Joo Won, in the accident that gave Joo Won his terrible claustrophobia.
  • Christmas Episode: Episode 14. There's a big fancy VIP party for the clients of LOEL department store, then a more intimate Christmas party for the members of the action school.
  • Claustrophobia: Joo Won has severe claustrophobia, to the point he takes medication for it. His employees at the department store complain about how he takes the escalators up, which forces them all to line up and bow, when he could take the elevator. The reason is that he can't stand to be in the elevator.
  • Control Freak: Joo Won, who can't stand anyone messing up his plans.
  • Convenient Coma: Ra Im snaps right out of one.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Also Joo Won. A classic example: "'Are you trembling because you see so much male beauty in front of you?'" This line occurs about half-way through the first episode.
  • Disappeared Dad: Ra Im, in a manner of speaking. Her dad is dead, but has come back to body-swap her, in hopes of changing her future.
  • Distant Finale: The ending skips forward five years. Ra Im and Joo Won have had three children in those five years. Joo Won's mom never did forgive them and still pretends like they don't exist, even as she welcomes her grandkids in for weekend visits. And Oska finally pops the question to Yoon Seul.
  • Don't Go Into the Woods: Ra Im and Joo Won get lost in the woods in episode 5. The forest is bound by Ominous Fog, and, weirdly, neither their cell phones nor their walkie-talkies work. They eventually wander to a spooky old house and meet the spooky old lady inside it. She gives them each mysterious drinks, which turn out to be the magic potion that induces the "Freaky Friday" Flip.
  • Drives Like Crazy: Ra In's aggressive, high-speed driving through Seoul traffic in episode 1 (she's trying to get back to the film set) leaves Joo Won screaming in terror.
  • Easy Amnesia: After the last time he comes out of the "Freaky Friday" Flip, Joo Won forgets everything after the accident when he was 21. Piled on top of Convenient Coma in the latter episodes as the show gets more outrageous.
  • Elevator Failure: The cause of Joo Won's crippling claustrophobia is an elevator failure accident when he was 21 years old. Ra Im's father, a firefighter, pulled Joo Won out of the elevator at the cost of his own life. The accident, referred to many times, is finally shown in episode 19.
  • Evil Matriarch: Joo Won's mother lied to Joo Won, caused Ra Im to cry on many an occasion, physically assaulted her as well, and ultimately refused entrance to either one in her home forever.
  • Flashback: Many. Oska and Yoon Seul's past relationship is sketched out in a series of flashbacks. In episode 19, the incident where Ra Im's father saved Joo Won in the elevator at the cost of his own life, after being referred to many times, is finally shown in a flashback.
  • Food Slap:
    • Played for a gag in episode 10. Joo Won's mom throws a glass of water at Ra Im, but Ra Im's catlike stunt woman reflexes allow her to dodge the water, which flies right past her. She then apologizes and gives Joo Won's mom her glass of water, much to Joo Won's mom's fury.
    • Ah Young chucks a glass of water in Secretary Kim's face after he kisses her without permission in episode 19.
  • Foot Popping: Ra Im does this a lot. She has a bad habit of doing this when she is in Joo Won's body, which makes people notice.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • There are scattered hints throughout the first four episodes of the veer into the supernatural that the show takes in episode 5.
      • In a weird moment at the start of the first episode, the lady on TV talking about the weather and the hassle of going out in the rain addresses Joo Won directly through the screen: "Isn't that right, Joo Won?"
      • In episode 4 Joo Won almost buys a weird painting, one where the lights go on and off in a house inside the painting. That's the house where the weird magic lady (really the disguised spirit of Ra Im's father) lives, where Joo Won and Ra Im receive the potions that bring about their body swap.
      • In another episode Joo Won does "she loves me, she loves me not" with Ra Im, gets an unfavorable result with the last petal he plucks, then drops the flower and walks away. Then a petal magically grows back.
    • Another bit of Foreshadowing comes when Oska carelessly mentions "the accident" to Joo Won in episode 6, realizes it's a sensitive topic, and changed the direction of conversation. This foreshadows a major plot development in later episodes.
  • "Freaky Friday" Flip: Joo Won and Ra Im switch bodies every time it rains.
  • Freudian Excuse: It would happen to anyone who has that for a mother.
  • Gender Bender: This is the main plot device of this Korean drama series, in which it turns out that the female lead's dead father engineered a body swap between her and her soulmate, as a part of an elaborate plan to heal her from grief caused by his death, which was caused saving the soulmate's life. This is a complex love story with many different plot elements beyond the Gender Bender switch, which occurs three times over the 20 episodes, each iteration powerfully shifting the complex dynamics between them and with those around them. They first drink the wine mid episode 5.
    • The first switch is from the end of episode 5 through the end of episode 8.
    • There is a second switch that lasts for the latter half of episode 14. During this switch, Choi 'oska' Woo Young and Lim Jong Su discover the transformation.
    • The third and final switch occurs over the first half of episode 18 when Kim Joo Won sacrifices his life so Gil Ra Im can have one.
  • Halfway Plot Switch: What seems like a standard-issue Korean drama veers in a weird direction with the first body swap at the end of episode 5.
  • Hammerspace: Where Joo Won must have been before he materialized outside of Ra Im's house in episode 19, while Oska and Ra Im were talking. Especially since the long shot that starts the scene shows nobody there.
  • Hates the Job, Loves the Limelight: Oska, who, at 35 years old, is ready to retire from singing. His fans don't think so, though.
  • I Have No Son!: Joo Won's horrible, horrible mother reacts this way in the last episode after her son pairs off with Ra Im for good. She never changes her mind.
  • Homoerotic Subtext: Tons of this when Joo Won and Ra Im are in each other's bodies. Ra-Im-in-Joo-Won accidentally kisses Oska and then does her Foot Popping. Joo-Won-in-Ra-Im nearly follows a sexy lady into a sauna changing room. Later, he has to struggle to restrain himself after curvaceous Ah Young snuggles up next to him in bed (Ra Im and Ah Young share a bed in their tiny apartment.) This is also present in a subplot with Oska between him and a younger musician, whose pursuit and response mimics several moments in the overtly romantic pairings.
  • I Need a Freaking Drink: Oska has to pour himself a few shots of something from the liquor cabinet after Ra Im and Joo Won explain to him (and Jong Soo) that they have fallen victim to a "Freaky Friday" Flip.
  • I Never Said It Was Poison: Oska's mother accidentally blurts out that Ra-im is a stuntwoman, something Joo Won's mother never mentioned, which lets Joo Won's mother know that she's up to something. Oddly, this bit of foreshadowing is never followed up on.
  • If You Ever Do Anything to Hurt Her...: A group of the Action School boys confront Joo Won after he asks Ra Im to marry him, complete with baseball bats and wooden sticks. Hilariously, he deflates them by threatening to tell her.
  • Impossibly Cool Clothes: Subverted as Joo Won frequently wears tacky sparkly tracksuits.
  • It's All About Me: Oska, Joo Won, and Seul (she even says it strait up I want to be the queen).
  • Leg Focus: Yoon Seul, brags about her legs in episode 8, when trying to intimidate Ra Im.
    Seul: Aren't my legs long? Some people say I remind them of Barbie.
  • The Little Shop That Wasn't There Yesterday: Sort of. Having finally figured out that the cause of their body swap was the "Secret Garden" chicken joint they found in the woods, Ra Im and Joo Won go back there in episode 15. While the shop is still there, the mysterious lady who served them (actually the ghost of Ra Im's father) has disappeared, and so have the ornate bottles of homemade liquor on the store's shelves (two of which were the magic potion).
  • Lonely Rich Kid: Joo Won and his stark-white house.
  • Lovable Alpha Bitch: Seul is stuck up as anything, but she actually grows on the audience when you find out her backstory. This is without any Character Development, you still like her since her boyfriend Oska unknowingly rejected her by betting on her.
  • Love Dodecahedron: As with almost every Korean drama.
  • Male Gaze:
    • Played for laughs when Joo Won (in Ra Im's body) scopes out a sexy lady at the sauna.
    • And again when Joo Won (still in Ra Im's body) goes to her home and her pretty roommate starts disrobing to take a shower.
  • Marilyn Maneuver: In the first scene of the first episode Joo Won zips by in his sports car, and the slipstream flips up Chae Rin's skirt as she's kissing Oska.
  • Mistaken for Pregnant: Joo Won's subordinate assumes that there's a pregnancy involved if he's paying off the stunt workers' debts.
  • Moving the Goalposts: By Episode 6, Ra Im has literally developed scars all over her body hoping to please her superior enough so he'll give her a big break in stunts. He tells "her" (Joo Won in her body) that he was considering it, but now based on her behavior he's changed his mind. Yeah, right.
  • Not Big Enough for the Two of Us: Played straight in episode 14 when Yoon Sul tells Gyung Ran to back off because she (Yoon) is the only crazy woman for this drama (she is not breaking the fourth wall, she's just referencing drama tropes.)
  • Oblivious to Love: It's hard to imagine how Jong Soo could be more obvious about his feelings for Ra Im, what with all the Longing Looks, but she doesn't have a clue. Amusingly, when Joo Won in Ra Im's body first encounters Jong Soo in episode 6, he realizes this immediately and calls Jong Soo out about it.
  • Ominous Fog: The woods that Ra Im and Joo Won get lost in (episode 5), are dark and creepy, with Ominous Fog covering everything. The spooky house where the weird old lady gives the magic potions is particuarly fogbound.
  • One Dialogue, Two Conversations: An extended sequence of this in the first episode, when Joo Won still thinks that Ra In is Chae Rin, the girlfriend who took racy photos of his cousin. He thinks she's talking about having sex outdoors and taking nude photos, while she thinks they're talking about her getting hired for stunt work.
    Ra In: I usually deal with more than just one man....I get paid more if we're out in the open....I get paid the most when we're in a car.
  • Only a Model: In episode 10 Joo Won shows a model of the planned community his company is building to a group of investors. His jealous uncle who wants to replace him tries to steal credit.
  • Pair the Spares: Beta couple Oska and Yoon Seul get paired up again at the end. Gamma couple Ah-young and Secretary Kim are also paired up. The hinted-at pairing of Jong Soo and Joo Won's sister is eventually dropped, but in the last episode he has a business meeting with a hot actress, and it's implied that they may eventually be paired up too.
  • Plot Hole: Joo Won strolls right out of a hospital with a coma victim.
  • Potty Dance: Done by Ra Im in Joo Won's body in episode 6, right before she goes to the bathroom and screams it's horror at different naughty bits.
  • The Prima Donna: Chae Rin, whom Ra Im stunt doubles for, freaks out when her nail is damaged during a practise fight.
  • Public Service Announcement: One episode has this scene where the sister is like "you can't smoke here, it's a public area" and then shows the nearby children of this guy. She almost gets beat up, until the director saves her.
  • Pull the I.V.: Happens almost everytime Joo Won or Ra Im are in the hospital.
  • Repeat Cut:
    • Several repeat cuts in episode 6 when Joo Won and Ra Im kiss for the first time. (She's thinking that a kiss may switch their souls back.)
    • This is then played for a joke in episode 8 when Ra-Im-in-Joo-Won stumbles and falls right into a kiss on Oska's lips. The Repeat Cut is followed by Ra-Im-in-Joo-Won doing the bashful Foot Popping thing, while Oska recoils in horror and starts wiping his lips.
  • Reverse Harem: Ra Im has about three guys into her, two of which wake up in bed together.
  • The Rich Have White Stuff: Super-rich Joo Won has a lavish house filled with all-white decor.
  • Road-Sign Reversal: Joo Won and Oska zoom past the "To Coastal Road" sign at high speed, causing it to flip around. This proves pivotal to the plot of the whole rest of the series, as it winds up causing Ra Im to take a wrong turn into the woods, eventually finding the mysterious house.
  • Running Gag: The amazingly ugly sequinned track suit that Joo Won thinks is high fashion. In one episode he gets a look at her phone and sees that her contact hame for him is "Tacky Tracky". In episode 9 he's sitting in a jail cell, and he's shocked to see that his cellmate is wearing a knockoff version of the jump suit. The episode after that, he shows up to confront Ra Im wearing a different, even uglier track suit, this one French lace. A boggled Ra Im says "Why are you wearing an ajumma's long underwear?" In episode 18, after a case of Easy Amnesia makes Joo Won think he's 21, he puts on, yes, the sparkly tracksuit. This leads an appalled Tae Sun to blurt out "You don't live alone, why ruin other people's eyesight?". In the last episode, after the romantic leads are married, they are both wearing matching ugly tracksuits.
  • Screw the Rules, I Have Money!: Joo Won pays off the Action School's debt, and is called "Mr. Makes Money" by the stuntmen.
  • Second Prize: Stuntwoman Gil Ra Im is aging pop star Oska's most ardent fan, and there's a department store contest to win a weekend with him. But Ra Im ends up with the third prize, a big clunky vacuum cleaner—which, for complicated reasons having to do with the department store president's crush on her, she brings back and practically throws in the president's face. However, the first and second prize winners are a hugely pregnant woman and a blank-faced old man who's never heard of the singer ("Os...ka?"), so third-place winner Ra Im gets the trip with Oska anyway.
  • Secret Test: Jong Soo in episode 14 mentions that Kim Ji-hoon called. Joo-Won-in-Ra-Im says "Oh?", and asks for Ji-hoon's number. Jong Soo then drops the bomb by revealing that Kim Ji-hoon died three years ago and the real Ra Im would know that. The episode ends with Jong Soo asking "Who are you?"
  • She Cleans Up Nicely: Gil Ra Im at the end of episode 13, after Oska gets her into a party.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Oska's ex-girlfriend accuses him of going out with "Chu Ji Ae". This is the character's name that was opposite Yoon Sang-hyun (the actor who plays Oska) in the Korean Drama Queen of Housewives.
    • Joo Won frequently comments that their relationship was similar to The Little Mermaid, which involves the girl getting turned into bubbles, rather than getting the guy.
    • "She" by Elvis Costello is used as a music MacGuffin for Oska and Yoon Suel. The song was the main love theme from Notting Hill.
    • Oska begs his fans to stop following him and fall in love with 2PM, a Real Life K-Pop band.
  • Show Business: Oska and his music/acting career, the stunt personnel from The Action Company, various characters as casting directors, etc.
  • Shower Scene: A combination of this and Shower of Angst in episode 9 as Jong Soo broods over how things have gone wrong with Ra Im, naturally while he's in the shower showing off his chiseled torso.
  • Something Only They Would Say: How Ra-im and Joo Won prove to Oska and Jong-soo that they have switched bodies.
  • Spit Take: Joo-Won-in-Ra-Im does this in episode 8 when Ra-Im-in-Joo-Won invites Seul over to enjoy a night of his cooking.
  • Split Screen: Used before and during the first body switch at the end of episode 5.
  • Split-Screen Phone Call: When Joo Won finally manages to get Ra Im on the phone in episode 2, and asks her for a date. She turns him don flat.
  • Stunt Double: In-Universe. Ra Im is employed by the Action Sports Company.
  • Surprise Party: In episode 3 Secretary Kim of LOEL Department Store takes Ah-reum out on what she thinks it's a blind date. She's offended by his rudeness and stalks out, only to find her coworkers outside, and Kim carrying a cake. It's a surprise party for her five years of employment at the department store.
  • Talking with Signs: A flashback in an early episode shows Oska besieged by fans and press, while Yoon Seul, outside the throng, holds up signs complaining about him paying attention to other women. This sets up a Call-Back in episode 20 where, while at Oska's concert, she holds up signs apologizing for hurting him.
  • The Tell: Ra Im's foot tapping when she's into Oska.
  • Terrible Interviewees Montage: All the applicants to the action school in episode 2. One strolls in carrying a tuba, only to trip and fall on the mat.
  • There Is Only One Bed: Joo Won pulls this on Ra Im in episode 15, explaining that his ridiculously lavish white house has only one bed. Surprisingly, it works.
  • Visual Title Drop: The spooky house in the woods of Jeju Island, where the mysterious lady gives Ra Im and Joo Won magic potions, has a sign out front that says "Secret Garden".
  • Wham Episode: Episode 16, when at the end it is revieled the source of Joo Won's phobia is an elevator accident, from which he was saved at the cost of Ra Im's fathers life.
  • What You Are in the Dark: Seul actually takes aside one of Joo Won's would-be suitors, and gives her a good scare to let Joo Won and Ra Im have a night together. All they know about this is that supposedly she has "someone who wants to see her." Whereas before she came across as an Emotionless Girl, this sets her up as a Jerk with a Heart of Gold.
  • White Man's Burden: Joo Won decides it's his duty to help out his "poor neighbor" Ra Im (who happens to have an apartment, and an okay career).
  • Wire Fu: When the stunt personnel are engaged in fighting scenes.
  • Your Costume Needs Work: In episode 8 Oska tries to get a cab without having money, by singing a song to show the cabbie he's famous. The cabbie sniffs "You don't even sound like him," before zooming away.
  • You're Cute When You're Angry: When his rudeness in episode 2 starts pissing Ra Im off, Joo Won decides that she's prettier when she's angry.