Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha is a light, warm, healing drama, that embraces us like the sand that embraces the beautiful sea of Gonjin.
This recap of the Netflix K-Drama series Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha season 1, episode 1 recap contains spoilers.
If I ask you to describe your hometown in one sentence, what would it be? Mine would be, “a city that never sleeps.”
Before we begin, let’s take a moment to inhale our worries and breathe them out! It’s the weekend! And what’s more exciting is, one of the most anticipated K-Dramas has finally come to our screen! It’s Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha! I do believe that the right drama will come to you when you need it the most. From the very first episode, I can already feel that this drama is meant for me to watch. It’s all about healing, humility, and adjusting your way through the fixed life, values, and mindset.
Now, imagine yourself standing in the middle of a beach. Imagine the sensation of the sand is on your tippy-toes, the sound of calming waves. Imagine how it feels when the breeze of the air rushes through your hair. The smile on the elder’s faces while cleaning the squids; the laughter of children. How their chatters mix with a fresh, fishy smell that’s coming through your little nose. Imagine, across the beautiful sea, orange blended with red-velvet sky embraces you, while the pelicans are flying around through the clouds.
Welcome to Gongjin!
Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha season 1, episode 1 recap
Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha welcomes us with relaxing jazzy and cute animations. It starts with enchanting cinematography. A collective of wide shots, they take in the ocean, sky, and hills. It truly gives you a sense of healing and curiosity! Also, the visuals of the cast make it even more exciting. After almost two years, Shin Min-ah makes her way back to us with her undeniable charm (and dimples!) as Yoon Hye-jin, a top-tier dentist in Seoul. She is the type to put things on her wishlist while browsing through her e-commerce but holds until there’s a thing called ‘discount’. “A little promotion does not hurt anybody.”
From the very first scene, we have seen how Hye-jin lives her life in order and independently. A hard worker who treats her job diligently. She meets Mrs. Kim Yeon-Ok, an old lady at the elevator who happens to be her neighbor. She offers Hye-jin to eat her side dish rather than ordering food, but she politely declines. It shows us how she does not like sniffs on other people’s business. “Just focus on yourself,” as she said. Well, who would have thought that they’ll meet again at the dental clinic, patient and dentist.
Despite her high standards, Hye-jin puts her patient’s well-being over their money. Unlike her boss and senior dentist who conducts false and overrated treatment to make greater money from her patients. Due to Hye-jin disagreeing with conducting more treatment on Mrs. Kim Yeon-Ok, her boss takes over her patient without consent. For the first time, Hye-jin risks her entire career to save her dignity as a dentist. She quits her job after years of coping with corruption at her dental clinics. She decides to break it off, even treat herself with dazzling shoes that she always dreamed of without waiting for a discount like she used to. Later, feeling helpless due to her recklessness of exposing her boss’s issues and no clinics willing to accept her due to the false rumors, she decides to visits her hometown celebrate her late mother’s birthday.
A fishing boat welcomes us alongside the wide shot of the sea and the bright blue sky. A man appears standing at the deck. Yup, it’s our Kim Seo Ho, our Chief Hong, who is ready to steal our hearts with his smiles and dimples. Other than his dimples, he is the counterpart of Hye-jin. He is unemployed, yet hard-working, helps everyone and does everything with his hand and heart. We witness him speaking Russian to one of the fishermen that he hires. Later, we see him walking around the market getting along with everyone, from youth to elders.
Their worlds clash with one another as Hye-jin comes to Gongjin and lost a pair of her expensive dazzling shoes. Well, to put it shortly, she sits by the beach while reminiscing the sunset sky where she is running around playing kites while her ill mother watches her with loving eyes. She walks through the beach, barefoot, and makes a brief phone call with her father who is already re-married. As soon as she hears the voice of his wife, she couldn’t bring about her late mother’s birthday. All they ever said is “Hi” and “take care.” I guess, many of us have or may not have to experience the same thing. As we grow older, the bond might stretch and for some of us, the holes become wider as we age.
After the phone call, the next thing she knows is her dazzling shoes disappear. It is already gone by the waves. There, she meets the kindhearted Chief Hong or Doo-Sik, who is surfing in the middle of the calm sea and got hit by her pair of dazzling shoes. Who would have thought that becomes the start of their fated encounter? Not wanting to walk barefoot, Hye-jin asks him to find the other pair of her shoes, which he refuses. Later, he gives her the toilet sandals from a local Seafood Restaurant. As a modern woman who lives and builds her life in the city of Seoul, of course, Hye-jin refuses. But, humans usually do things outside their way when in an endangered situation. She uses it anyway and is comfortable enough. That’s the mark of her first tiny steps to adjust her life. Because from my view, other than to stir the plot, the pair of shoes might also symbolize the first beginning of Hye-jin’s growth. By throwing the barged stuff that she only fantasizes about, but does not need. To go back to the purpose of things.
Upon her wanders through the village, she encounters two children, a boy and a girl, who seems to be crying out of pain. One of them, the boy, in particular, got hit by his cute little friend and his baby tooth fell out. Hye-jin rushes to treat his teeth in the nearby pharmacy. Later, a divorced couple bickering in front of a seafood restaurant. She walks the boy home and realizes that it’s the name of a restaurant that is imprinted on her sandals. Well, although it’s awkward again, sometimes connected events and dots keep on happening to us like it is fated.
The lady offers to repay her kindness with the meal but Hye-jin refuses since she is not familiar with receiving kindness or being indebted. But, the lady insists so she orders a seaweed soup, as a way of celebrating her late mother’s birthday. She also gives a clue about how Hye-jin will rebuild her life, as the lady hints on how one of the minus things about his hometown is that the dental clinics are too far away, it takes 30 minutes, while there are so many villagers that would probably line up to get their dental care.
Later, the lady gives out my most favorite dialogue from the entire episode, “Gongjin harbor feels like my later mother’s embrace to me.” I think that dialogue leaves a deep impression of me. It also explains Hye-jin’s situation. She needs warmth, an intimate and rich connection to adjust her life once again. Due to how we see her previous workplace environment, where you measure things with materials, rather than their core values and purposes, being part of urban life might become suffocating.
With her earning, she can afford to open her own clinic at Gongjin, but her pride intervenes. “Opening a clinic in the countryside? Don’t be silly.” But that’s the main point of the whole series, to see Hye-jin’s growth. After she lost her dazzling expensive pair of shoes, her car engine won’t start, and worse… the electricity and signals go off in the entire Gongjin. Hye-jin finds a cafe that runs by Oh Yeon-Seo, a 90’s singer which she does not acknowledge. Unfortunately, the Americano sucks that she won’t even take a sip out of it. The child of the Cafe owner assumes that her bag is fake and she’s a scammer. Nothing seems to go on her way.
Going around cashless, she’s in trouble when the ATM machine goes down. That’s where our Chief Fong comes in. Later, she put down her pride and ask to borrow 4,000 won for an Americano she has waste from him. Doo-Sik, who since the beginning always does plenty of work wholeheartedly asks her to follow him around the village to earn her money. “I’ll show you how to earn money through valuable works,” he said. On their way, Doo-Sik visits the elder villagers and kindly tells them about the situation. One of the most meaningful scenes is when he informs the deaf elder about the electricity shut down. The deaf elder woman rewards them with milk. Unlike the pricy Americano, Hye-jin enjoys the free rewarded milk full of warmth.
Hye-jin gets curious about what he does for a living since people have been calling him Chief Hong, but he refuses to answer since she’s still considered as an outsider. Later they arrive at the place where Hye-jin will earn her 4,000 won. Yup, fish market. She will be working to remove innards from the squids with the elder fisherwomen. Something that she finds unworthy due to the low wages and fishy works. But again, she does it anyway.
I love how the elder fisherwomen explain why they work to remove the innards from the squid when Hye-jin naively said she doesn’t understand the importance of the job. They clean the squid and send it somewhere to dry before it becomes the delicious dry squid that people enjoy in entire South Korea. An excellent explanation about low wages does not always define the value of the work itself. The scene is intended as a metaphor for the journey of achieving something.
Thank to removing innards from squid, she earns enough money to survive a night at Gongjin since her car won’t function until the next morning. Chief Hong informs her about the nearest sauna with a friendly budget, also, because she smells like squid already. Hye-jin helplessly decides to sleep in the nearest Sauna, where she once again meets Chief Hong, this time, as a cafeteria man. After the encounter, she wanders to the rooftop since there are bugs in the room (a very typical urban person behavior). She later looks at the stars that shine upon her and wishes her later mother’s birthday.
Meanwhile, Chief Hong panicky goes to grandma Gam-ri who hurt herself because of working. He later piggybacks her for a night walk so she won’t feel lonely. We get to see a glimpse of Doo-Sik’s past, how Gam-Ri always feeds him 999 meals after his grandmother passes away. Her kindness touches his heart to the extent that he is willingly to devote himself to help the villagers even though nobody pays him big deals. Loving how the scenes show the intimacy of their relationship.
Though we’ve just started this, Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha season 1, episode 1 already points out the difference between Doo-Sik and Hye-jin in the most realistic way. Both are equally independent and stand by their moral values. But yet, how they approach life is so different. Doo-Sik is more open. He knows the values to give and receive because he receives love in the darkest way, while Hye-jin is more reserved to receive love and kindness since she’s used to coping and dealing with herself alone. It shows when the boy whom she treated before shows his gratitude, and also when Mrs. Kim Yeon-Ok calls her to say her gratitude for saving her from being scammed by her former dental clinics.
The next morning, Hye-jin meets Chief Hong who happens to be selling fish in the market. Well, our Kim Seon-ho might maintain plenty of certificates and jobs’ licenses for this drama. Meanwhile, the electricity is finally back to normal. Hye-jin calls the help center to get her car fixed. On her way back to Seoul, her former boss ask her to kneel before her and apologize if she wants to get her job back. Feeling disrespected, she refuses and declares to run her own clinics rather than working with people like her.
Just like that, she drives back to Gonjin where she goes to see the lady from the local seafood restaurant and asks her ways to open her very own dental clinics. She asks Hye-jin to follow her. They walk upon the hills to meet the so-called realtors. But on their way, the lady urgently goes back due to some issues. She asks her to go straight up to the hill, where she will find a boat, and a man that already waits for her.
Well, of course, he is none other than Doo-Sik. And now, he is not a fisherman, not a repairman, cafeteria man, not even a barista. He is a real estate agent, Hong Doo-Sik. Hye-jin is bewildered and asks him what’s his deal? “I’m Chief Hong.” He smiles.
And just like that, Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha season 1, episode 1 closes with an epilogue that allows us to witness Doo-sik’s POV and how he falls in love at a first sight with Hye-jin, right after their encounter at the beach to when he smiles by watching her smiles while removing innards from squids with the fisherwomen.
What did you think of Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha season 1, episode 1? Comment below.