I’m not sure what it is about Cheese in the Trap that appeals to me the most, or how the production team manages to turn a story that looks ordinary on paper into something that’s so riveting to watch. Centering around poor-yet-hardworking girl navigating through college, trying to make it out alive, whose (campus) life is further complicated when the popular-yet-mysterious guy is having special interest in her, the plot sounds as banal as ever, yet this drama is anything but.
In any other romance drama, i find the courtship phase to be the most giddying that i’m no longer enthralled by the couple moments, mainly because they either milk and stretch the “will they won’t they” period too long or end shortly after the two leads officially become a (reunited) couple. In Cheese Trap, the courting lasted only briefly that Seol/Jung becoming an item (at the start of episode 4) is the beginning of the story. In fact, they agreed to go out so quickly that i wondered if Seol already liked Jung at that point when they barely knew each other. Well, they have the rest of the series to do that, as we see them slowly getting closer and loosened up through texts, calls, and dates. And guess what? Those scenes are far from boring!
Who knew slice-of-life romance drama can be this addicting to watch?
Gone is the day when Seol felt super uncomfortable with her date. Though still adorably flaily and easily mortified, she has made a big step forward when it comes to communicating and speaking her mind, which in turn prompts Jung to open up. Both have shown signs of positive personal growth although i feel like Seol puts more effort in keeping the relationship afloat while Jung seems ready to give up following the littlest fallout. It’s she who reaches out first, tries to understand him, and eventually decides to let niggling matters pass or not bring them up at all, either to keep the peace or because she convinces herself that’s the right thing to do. She has jumped to conclusion on more than enough occasions for her to choose not to question him for the nth time despite keep having second thoughts about his real colors. Her doubts and sometimes fears aren’t totally groundless though; at times Jung isn’t fully in the clear, and his side of the story doesn’t complete the picture as he craftily omits certain details or facts where it concerns him.
That is why i still can’t put my guard down when it comes to their couple scenes. Something keeps me tense, because one moment it can be thoroughly cute or swoon-worthy and then uneasy or even chilling the next. I thought we’ve had Jung figured out, but no, he’s still as enigmatic as ever, which goes beyond the notion of he means well but acts on it badly. He may be warm and sweet toward Seol, but i can’t overlook the fact that he’s kind to Seol only (okay, he’s super gentle with animals too), which happens only after he started having feelings for her, while treating everyone else as less than human. (This was the issue i was having with She Was Pretty.) He may be a weirdo who’s rather be misunderstood than clearing the air unless directly asked but he’s also a master manipulator who doesn’t understand why people deem his actions problematic.
Bad news is, he isn’t the odd one out. Cheese Trap‘s dramaverse is littered with weird, creepy, and manipulative individuals that the ‘normal’ ones are represented merely by Seol, Bo-ra, Eun-taek, and In-ho. Seriously, i don’t know what those people’s deals are that it’s invariably gladdening whenever a combination of these four appears on my screen because then i can have a good time.
Speaking of In-ho, i probably jumped the gun about the love triangle. At midway point, it has yet to come into play — the drama is in the thick of Seol/Jung coupleship; In-ho doesn’t seem to like Seol any deeper. I actually don’t mind even if we never go there. The relationship between Seol and In-ho has evolved from pesky strangers to reluctant neighbors to good friends. They click, understand each other, and influence each other in the best way possible i am perfectly pleased with their platonic friendship.
That said, i can’t help thinking of the possibility of him being the leading man and Jung being the two-faced antagonist in a different drama. This thought just kept coming to mind for some reason. Admittedly, In-ho isn’t the swoony/dreamy type and is rough around the edges in addition to being immature and impetuous as well as having a sharp tongue, but he’s also an amiable brat who wears his heart on his sleeve. These attributes paint him in refreshing strokes to Jung’s hot-and-cold bearing. Both the model student and the punk are not bad though, so there’s that.
We have yet to get more information regarding the gang-up fight which crushed In-ho’s hand. Jung has claimed it wasn’t his doing, though seeing the extent of the strings pulled by him, i’m not entirely convinced. There must be a reason why In-ho suspected him, and given his rashness, he must’ve confronted Jung about it previously, although in the present they are skirting around the issue as if both were somewhat in the wrong.
What we did get is the backstory on the Baek Siblings, which explains In-ha’s parasite persona and In-ho’s self-reproach to a certain degree. I’m still itching to know why In-ho eschewed rehab and chose to give up piano given it was something he’s passionate about and having talent for (before i can decide if he’s indeed someone who blames others for his misery and refuses to man up). With psychopathic Jung who merely looked on as he’s being beaten down and ornery In-ha who was so close to heel his hand after her drawing was panned around In-ho, the odds are endless.