EXO’s Xiumin has been involving himself in more than just music. 2015 has taken an interesting turn for him, in terms of his onscreen rolls. He was in School OZ and a guest on Crime Scene 2, Korea’s Mickey Mouse Club and EXO Lives Next Door. Now, he is starring in a web drama entitled Fall in Challenge. As for the rest of the main cast, he’s joined by Kim So-eun (who recently finished filming Scholar Who Walks the Night), Jang Hui-ryeong, who starred in Day6’s MV “Congratulations,” and Jang Yoo-sang, a familiar face from EXO Lives Next Door.
Fall in Challenge is a six episode web drama sponsored by Samsung. The plot involves Ban Ha-na (So-eun) and Ki Yeo-woon (Hui-ryeong) who are students at a university trying to stop their club, Once More, from being shut down by their chief club advisor. Ha-na recruits Na Do-jeon (Xiumin) who dresses up as a Pierrot, and Yeo-woon brings in Nam Dong-jae (Yoo-sang) — who proposes he is royalty on the purity of his manliness.
Episode 1 – 2: Getting to know the Once More club members
Do-jeon is the stereotypical ‘nice guy’ who can’t face Ha-na, the girl he’s falling for, directly. He acts for her in Pierrot when they first meet and when he’s in a mascot costume, he comes to her aid and scolds the boxer for hitting a girl. Without his ‘mask’, he comes off very timid and meek. Even when he joins the club, he’s soft spoken and not sure of himself.
Xiumin, as Do-jeon, brings his powers that were introduced during “MAMA” into play. As a Pierrot, whom are known as illusionists and communicate through actions, he pours Ha-na a glass of water and covers it with his hand. Once he removes his hand, the plain glass of water becomes a glass of water with ice. Good play, good play.
Probably to the viewer’s surprise, but when it comes to Do-jeon’s Pierrot communication skills, Ha-na can perfectly translate Do-jeon’s actions…except when he’s clearly acting out that he’ll think about the offer to join her club; she misinterprets it as him playing hard to get. The one time the viewer understands what he means, she’s clueless.
Ha-na, on the other hand, is the president and co-creator of the Once More club. She has a strong personality, doesn’t fall into the typical weak girl lead, and is a relatable character. While she’s steadfast, she has worries and moments of uncertainty. This shows especially when she and Yeo-woon, her best friend since middle school, get into an argument about shutting down the club. Ha-na wants to be a good leader but doesn’t want to push her ideals onto others. Essentially, she believes they can continue living their lives to the fullest without needing to use the club as a means to do so. This could suggest that through their friendship and encouragement, they could still support each other. It would feel less of a job — especially for the two new members that have no Once More club back history. No one would have to feel a sense of obligation to anyone.
Yeo-woon is the co-supporter of the Once More club. She too, has a strong personality, but comes off more aloof than anything else. She follows her heart more so than her mind, which is the opposite of Ha-na. That’s why when Ha-na suggests closing the club, she’s quick to defend their ideals behind it. Even though Yeo-woon tells Ha-na not to give up, Yeo-woon takes the stance of “if you’re not going to it anymore, then neither am I”, which quickly contradicts her “it’s okay to fail, but let’s not give up” sentiments expressed prior.
Dong-jae is an egotistical self-imposed VIP, who says even if you threaten him to take action, he won’t do it. But probably not to the surprise of anyone, he winds up doing everything he says he wouldn’t do. No one alongside him seems to be able to catch onto his wishy-washiness. For example, he turns down Yeo-woon’s offer to join the club, but instantly reconsiders upon seeing Ha-na — his focus and motive very clear as to why he changed his mind.
One last bit from these first two episodes, Ha-na announces a very important catch phrase for their club: do it while we can. Also, she tells their club supervisor, “There are many people these days who challenge things to live life to the fullest.”
This ties in with their slogan quite well. They’re at a point in their lives where they’re young and they need to live life to the fullest. You don’t want to look back at yourself in old age regretting things that you should have done when you were younger. Do what you can, while you can and have the time so you’re able to live your life without any regrets. Simple slogans with a powerful impact work best.
Episode 3 – 4: Information gaps and four-way discord
There are major gaps that emerge between episodes two and three. Unless the viewer is supposed to assume a role as a fellow university student or club member to know what occurred the days in between, it is a strange plot hole.
Do-jeon suddenly becomes outspoken, which is the complete opposite of his personality when he wears his ‘mask’. It catches Ha-na’s attention and she says, “just after showing us the Pierrot act, you’ve become another person.” Even when she suggests her food truck application over considering to do Pierrot, he ignores her completely and changes the subject. This is probably because Ha-na seemed to be in total support of the Pierrot idea but now is bringing up concerns as to if the club will be able to prepare in time for it. Essentially, it’s a lack of faith, which puts a downer on his feelings for the girl.
As more of the drama unfolds, Do-jeon slowly shows more emotions. He depicts anger when he and Ha-na get into a tug-of-war with the picture of him and his father. Within the same time frame, he expresses regret for being angry towards Ha-na. Later on, he shows sadness and indecisiveness when talking about his girl problems to Seol-ri, a seven year old girl going on fifty seven. Seol-ri is wise for her age, do not judge her. Judge Do-jeon who goes to someone so young about his relationship, or lack there of, problems.
Given the nature of the club which is to challenge themselves, the two episodes makes it clear that all the members have different goals. Ha-na wants to open a food truck, Do-jeon wishes to continue with Pierrot, Yeo-woon craves to film a documentary, and Dong-jae desires to run an extreme marathon. While Yeo-woon knows of Ha-na’s dream to do a food truck, they never seem to act upon it. So while Ha-na wants to do her challenge, she’s been unable to follow through because she doesn’t want to come off like she’s forcing others to take part because she’s the president. So all this time, she’s been following along with Yeo-woon’s documentary idea.
But because of this, when the decision is made to do Pierrot and the club goes through training, Dong-jae and Yeo-woon bail out believing they’ve become third wheels because no one decided to go with either of their ideas. This is another lesson in of itself: you can’t always get what you want in life, especially in the work force. There will be times that you will have to do things you don’t want and will have to endure situations. But considering this is a recreational club and not a job, this situation is easily solved by rotating challenges. The voting could have been a matter of which challenge to do first. Quitting because yours wasn’t the first pick is quite immature. And out of their options, the food truck and Pierrot are the only announced challenges the club hasn’t tried. Before Dong-jae and Do-jeon joined up, Ha-na and Yeo-woon both attempted a documentary and an extreme marathon.
Yeo-woon quitting seems like a slap in the face. All this time she’s been able to try out her challenge. She recorded footage of Ha-na running the marathon. So technically, she’s had her chance. And she chose to join someone who was using her for information (which she was offended by) than support her best friend. Was she expecting Ha-na to quit too? Was she anticipating the opposite situation of what happened earlier between them? Is that all their friendship amounts to?
Episode 5 – 6: Plot hole hell is fixed…sort of and everyone wins!
Because of another unexplained time skip, the viewer is now to understand that Dong-jae and Yeo-woon are dating. Dong-jae clearly expressed he liked Ha-na and not Yeo-woon and she had sent subtle hints that she liked him. So where did this development come from? They suddenly bonded over their not wanting to do Pierrot and then went back to the club together with their tails between their legs? Nothing is explained about this and don’t expect it to be.
Dong-jae’s egotistical features comes out to play again, which at this point is annoying. First, Do-jeon blows up on him for not taking the job seriously. He’s more upset about dispelling the illusion to the children than him taking a break on a store’s bed. As usual, Dong-jae misses the point and uses his high horse as an excuse. And just like him, he reflects on what he did and knows he was wrong, so when the children approach him, he’s quick to put back on the costume and play along with them, but they’re really just playing along with him.
Second, when he decides and says he’s quitting the club (for the fourth time now?), he tells Yeo-woon to choose between love and friendship. That sounds like the basis of a controlling relationship. But being the type of person to repeatedly go back on his word, he rejoins the club after hearing the others will have an after party with his share of the money, despite him saying that he didn’t want the pay during his and Do-jeon’s argument. The boy who cried wolf act is getting old here.
Another mysterious sharing of information makes the after party scene uncomfortable. Dong-jae brings up that his aunt wanted him to act in a birthday party but he recommended Do-jeon because he comes from a family of Pierrots. The only way Dong-jae would have known this information would be if Ha-na told him, considering Do-jeon isn’t close enough to anyone else in the club to divulge that aspect of his life. Thankfully, what fills the gap is Ha-na’s sense of guilt, when she takes his hand, and thanks him for enduring the rift in conversation.
A turning point for Do-jeon is when Ha-na comments on how he’s changed; he simply says it’s because of her. While he’s joking, it’s the truth. He’s the most confident and straightforward when he’s in her presence, in Pierrot makeup or not. It might run into the stereotypical “you changed my life” trope, but it wasn’t just because of his feelings for her. Unknown to his feelings, Ha-na shaped Do-jeon into a better person, or at least, worked on his people skills if anything else.
While Once More club didn’t perform at the event they trained for, the group makes a stage of their own locally. And thanks to Yeo-woon videography, they were able to submit their performance to Samsung’s Play the Challenge. So while the group ‘failed’ their initial challenge, they were able to turn that failure into the success of something more.
In the end, Yeo-woon is the only one who was able to succeed at an additional challenge on top of the Pierrot one. She was able to film a documentary and have it submitted for others to see.
Overall, the drama was cute, the acting great and characters believable, but the storyline falls short of being completely coherent. The episodes are best grouped together two by two, but when the next set comes up, it acts as if it’s a week or so later, and with no information as to what transpired during that time. By the time episode five hit, the writers might have noticed it, so when the characters are talking to the camera, they’re filling in the information in between.
The drama, to escape all the missing information, could have been at least eight episodes. But I feel like they left out pivotal information to the plot and then crammed a lot of information in the last episode to have a proper conclusion. Granted, all the loose ends were tied up, but not without a proper understanding of how events came to be. Time constraints of EXO’s schedule probably played a good part into what seems like a rushed drama.
What can be said is about Fall in Challenge is that it succeeded in living up to its title and succeeded in sending across the message of the Once More club: you only live once so do what you can now, take risks, and challenge yourself. Don’t look back on your life with regret on what could have or should have been. Look back and see all the times you were able to achieve goals and discover unknown aspects about yourself. It might have a bigger impact on your life and wellness than you think.
What are your thoughts on Fall in Challenge? Did its storyline capture your attention or did it lead you astray?