The typical fairy tale goes like this: a maid of ravishing beauty finds a way to dazzle the prince, the method is unimportant, the crucial thing is that she sweeps him off his horse so that he comes chasing at her like a madman. Note that it’s essential for him to be crazy about her, because that’s how he’s ever going to cross the lava encircled mountain, slay the fire breathing dragon, and ask every girl in town to try on a shoe, get slapped along the way for acting like a total creep with the worse case of foot-fetish and an unexplainable obsession with Jimmy Choo shoes while trying very, very, very hard not to fall in love with the tragic little match girl before he finds the maid.
Planet 612 — S.H.E, from their FM S.H.E album.
The point is, this prince must endure 87283493 obstacles and RESCUE (yes, rescue is the keyword here) the princess, the cinder girl, or the ogre, depending on his hormone flushed brain’s preference at the moment he was bewitched by her radiating beauty, whether inner or outer — before he can finally spit out the line that took him so long to deliver, that caused him all the hardship, that everybody is holding their breath for — “the END”. (Or the happily ever after, if you insist.)
Now, how does that relate to the episode? It doesn’t really. I just like to blabber on. (Which you are free to drop a comment and slap me back into reality, or kindly remind me not to write recaps in the dead of the night.) But if you must, I can somehow make it connect. Say, there is this feminist writer with wild hair, a true romantic at heart, who’s got this grand scheme to lace together a fairy tale while retaining the feminist perspective just for the kicks. So, she decides to experiment with the aforementioned story (after growing tired from experimenting with her hair) by adding a little role switch to it. Then boom, out comes Invincible Shan Bao Mei with Sun Wu Di being the rescuee in question and Hu Shan Bao as the gallant rescuer.
You’re right, that still doesn’t relate to the episode. But shh! I’m getting there. Like finally.
Once the Eight Nation Alliance left the premise, Sun Wu Di, our vain rescuee marches into the kitchen like a commander in office and finds no one there. He is hit by karma (big time) because his entire staff decides that they are going to pull their own leg. They quit collectively, dethroning Sun Wu Di in the expense of Tian Xiang Lou. Of course, no one, not even the serpentine schemer realizes that if they don’t have a Tian Xiang Lou to own in the first place, (i.e they lose the competition and hand ownership over to Eight Nation Alliance) there would be no point to their meticulously laid out plan to replace Sun Wu Di with Uncle Ji. Unless of course, plotting has merit in itself and is considered a sport for these guys who don’t have anything better to do. (Then in that case, watch Ratatouille for the nth time and chant the mentra “everyone can cook”!)
Regarding the boycott, it’s not that big of a deal because the prince’s day is saved by his princess’ rescue. Yes, rescue. Now we’re finally on track. (Besides, they desperately need quality time to bond and realize their feelings.) Shan Bao volunteers Guang Ji to help Wu Di. Even if the whole world deserts him, he still has her and Guang Ji’s warm arms. But our princess in shiny armor must be discreet because she doesn’t want to scare the prince away by being too forward. After all, he is the one with the biggest trust issue in the world and couldn’t get over himself. Like ever. So Shan Bao uses Wei Qing as the shield this time, explaining that the reason she’s reaching out to Wu Di is because she doesn’t want Wei Qing to be immersed in a “bad” environment, whatever “bad” means. (Like he isn’t “bad” enough.)
So the rescue plan is established, now it needs to be taken seriously and take into effect. To do that, Sun Wu Di must first go to Guang Ji and receive Chief Guang’s consent to offer aid. When that’s done, Wu Di dons a marker, a white board, and an air of a well established professor’s self-righteous condescension and educates the spectator of the FCUK (Mind you, it’s read as French Connection, which is surprisingly fitting in the context.) of the Eight Nation Alliance. Aside from the snooty gene these four men inherited from their lineage, they were once famous chiefs and they’ve never lost a challenge ever since assembling the team which they so pompously called Eight Nation Alliance. (Talking about advertising for animosity.) And this cook off between Eight Nation Alliance and Tian Xiang Lou, my dear netizens, is supposed to reflect a larger, philosophical comparison between Easter and Western cuisine. (See, I wasn’t wrong when I told you the writer’s got this grandiose idea. Except ambition doesn’t equate talent nor successful delivery. And unfortunately for me, this BIG idea we’re talking about right now, seems awfully juvenile after watching Gourmet not too long ago.)
Shallow or not, the show goes on. Wu Di predicts that Eight Nation Alliance is bound to use Western food, therefore he will most certainly use Eastern ingredients to combat that. (Although, it seems to me that the writer’s notion of “Western” cuisine limits to his/her understanding of American food. i.e. mayonnaise, fatty hamburgers, and all the other nasty stuff Americans LOVE. On the other hand, I don’t see the drama bashing steak, which is SO Western.) And the lucky winner is Toro fish. Sun Wu Di’s reason for the choice is that Toro grew up in Japan and travel to Taiwan for mating season. How does that relate to the topic of love? Well, because it’s considered romantic (or tragic, depending on your perspective) that a fish traveled across half of the world, dedicating the majority of its life and time to find the love of its life.
After hearing Sun Wu Di’s idea, Chief Guang shoots it down, explaining that purchasing Toro is no problem, but the challenge lies in finding the best quality Toro. Wu Di agrees, it is difficult to capture excellent Toro and the moment it’s captured determines the quality of the meat. The handling may elicit stress responses from the fish, thus disturbing the chemical balance within, giving it a slight bitter aftertaste only noticeable to the experts. (Sounds like the beef competition in Gourmet anyone?)
While everyone’s feeling dejected over the short preparation time and the difficulty of obtaining satisfactory food material, Sun Wu Di is strangely confident. He asserts with authority that his father, who has had the greatest influence on him has this motto: there is no taste impossible to create; no taste bud unable to be satisfied — therefore, the task may prove to be challenging, but is by no means beyond the bounds of possibility.
Wu Di’s rare optimism infects the entire room and brings the feeling of hopefulness. Especially to Wei Qing. He realized that Wu Di treats Tian Xiang Lou with so much love and royalty, it’s as if the inanimate restaurant is the rich boy’s only relative. An idea germinates.
Chief Guang finally agrees to help Wu Di, under two conditions: if on the day of the competition, the best quality Toro still doesn’t appear, they must forsake the idea all together and use an alternative food material — because he is not going to work with second rated Toro. It’s the best or nothing. The second condition is.. Wu Di must chop all the woods outside of Guang Ji so Chief Guang can jump into the challenge without troubling over trivial things like chopping wood. Although Chief Guang states it so, he is in fact testing Wu Di’s determination.
And determined he is. Although physically less capable than his princess, Sun Wu Di is up for the wood-chopping. Shan Bao offers a hand, but Wu Di refuses. Instead, he pulls a corner of his shirt and wipes Shan Bao’s little hands with it. Shan Bao is pleased with the gesture, but she knows a promise is a promise, and Wu Di is not about to go back on his words just because the work is demanding.
While Wu Di is outside spending quality time with wood like a good farm boy, Chief Guang is spending quality with his past.
1977, Cheif Guang was still in Hang Kong, working as the apprentice of a chief. One day, he was waiting for his milk tea in a restaurant. The waiter delivered the order, and everything’s going as usual. The unusual part was that one of the funky guys from Eight Nation Alliance, the wannabe Franz Stresemann, donning a strange wig and carrying a cane for sophistication was waiting in the same restaurant for an order of milk tea that won’t come — because it’s all sold out for the day!
That’s all handy dandy, except when the “European” saw Chief Guang getting the last cup of milk tea, all the hair on his back stood up in a display of aggression. He bared his teeth and went completely ballistic against poor Chief Guang. Sun Wu Di’s dad Sun Yi Qun stepped in and ganged up on the “European” with Chief Guang. The two Asians bonded while the Mixed ran away with his tail tucked between his legs.
If you are wondering how this flash back establishes anything, my answer is nope, it doesn’t establish a thing. It’s just one of the many poorly orchestrated coincidences that contributes to the grand work of filling up the 70-minute-long airing time for the drama. Petty attempt, I say. Feel free to object.
Anyway, Shan Bao and Wu Di ride along to purchase fresh Toro. (Um, all this mention of fish, I’m cooking fish tomorrow.) They walk by a noodle stand and are surprised — to find Wang Ye, the old chief who Sun Wu Di fired, ending up selling street food. Shan Bao recognizes him as the “Toro Grandps” for his specialty in Toro cuisine as he grew up on the island whose main production is Toro. Wu Di recognizes him as the incompetent employee who is surely still resentful towards Wu Di for firing him, thus he wouldn’t even turn to face the poor old man.
Yet, to Sun Wu Di’s surprise and disbelief, the old man disregards the earlier humiliation easily and agrees to help. Only Sun Wu Di’s narrow perspective of human nature keeps him away from accepting the kindness. He storms away after shaming the old man for “trying to take vengeance” on him. The poor old chief stares sadly.
Wu Di is now on his own. He strolls the wet fish market in distaste, clearly out of place. Somehow somewhere, he bumps into a little girl asking his name. Any opportunity of vanity is a self-satisfactory moment for Wu Di. Taking a step further, Wu Di interprets the “deeper meaning” — something only a girl would do in a relationship — and decides that she wants his autograph. (Did I make it clear she only asked to confirm his name?) He busts out a photo of his (vanity can only go so far, and Sun Wu Di’s is further than you’d think) and signs his name with a wide grin on his face — only when he turns, the girl is no where in sight. Instead, he is surrounded by a mob of fishermen and women, holding spears, nets, whatever they can snatch, slightly crouched in a defensive, ready to attack position. And he ruuuuuuuuuuuuns for his life, not concerning himself with composure, not worrying about getting his shoes dirty, not pondering where Hu Shan Bao is right now. After a little hide-and-seek, he finds himself in an impasse with nowhere to run. So he does the only thing a true Sun-Wu-Di-nian would do, beg for the mob not to hit his “beautiful” face.
So now the prince is in trouble, Wang Ye makes a bee line to rescue this guy who needs constant rescuing. Wang Ye makes a sincere explanation to the fellow villagers that although Sun Wu Di heartlessly fired him for something as minute as a dysfunctional timer, when Wu Di is in trouble, he will still be the first to offer his hand. If Wang Ye says so, the towns people have no reason to proceed with the act of violence. They let the spoiled brat go while Wang Ye and Shan Bao then hurry and bring back an unconscious Sun Wu Di to Wang Ye’s little hut.
While Shan Bao is inside taking care of the sleeping-Wu Di, (there is no need to “take care” of him, give him a kiss and I guarantee you he’s waking up.) Wang Ye is outside fixing Wu Di’s shoe. Shan Bao approaches the old royal man and attempts to apologize for Wu Di. The man shakes his head in understanding, saying it’s not Wu Di’s fault that he should grow up to be so bitter and edgy. (If Wang Ye were to have a daemon, his would be a husky.)
The day of the kidnap was also Wu Di’s birthday. Earlier that day, his father fired two employees for engaging in dealings intolerant in Tian Xiang Lou. The two men vowed to seek revenge and the very afternoon, before the father and son can celebrate Wu Di’s eighth birthday, they were kidnapped.
The day Sun Wu Di returned to Tian Xiang Lou, he locked himself in the bathroom, refusing to eat or drink or sleep and cried his eyes out. Wang Ye stayed outside of the bathroom, grieving with his young master until finally, Wu Di walked out of the room. When he finally came out, there was no tears nor expression on his face. He was a changed man. (And a sad, sad, man.)
Wu Di is awake and overhears the conversation, but quickly returns to bed upon hearing the sound of Shan Bao approaching. She takes notice of his dirty feet and realizes that he is merely pretending to be asleep. What a sneaky rascal. Quickly seizing the newly mended shoe, she returns to Wu Di’s side and speaks to the shoe, lamenting the harsh treatment the old man has endured and leaves Wu Di to be.
Later that night, Wu Di, now feeling guilty, walks out to help the old man collect benches back into the hut and says, without looking at Wang Ye that he has no idea Wang Ye had been sobbing with him outside of the bathroom. The old man walks away from Wu Di, when he returns, he presents the jaded prince a wrapped box — the one Wu Di’s father intended to give Wu Di as his eighth birthday present a long time ago. Wang Ye just never found the appropriate time to present it. Wu Di opens it gently to reveal a golden alarm clock, recorded with his father’s voice.
The merit behind the present is explained as the follow: Wu Di has always had the bad habit of oversleeping in the morning. Consequently, his father would wake him up every day. As if hit by a premonition, Sun Yi Qun decided to give his son an alarm clock, just in case when one day, he is not there to wake his son up.
Touched by Wang Ye’s gently royalty and softened by the sweet memories of the past, Sun Wu Di finally opens his mouth to ask for Wang Ye’s help. Wang Ye listens patiently and frankly tells Wu Di that the only way to find premium quality Toro is to enter the village’s tradition — the Toro cooking competition. Because only the winner is entitled to the best Toro. (Some roundabout way of finding fish.) The competition requires a couple to cook together. They are to infuse their love for each other into the dish and achieve perfection, synchrony, and ultimately win the competition. (Lame way x 100 to bring the protagonists together.)
Wu Di and Shan Bao set out to practice. It’s a hot day out there, so Wu Di asks Shan Bao if she’s thirsty. Before he can even finish the sentence, she cuts him off and runs away. When she returns, she hands him a bottle of water. He takes the water and looks at it, perplexed, not knowing this master-servant relationship is a custom Wei Qing established, taking advantage of Shan Bao’s naivety. Wu Di explains that he was going to ask her if she is thirsty (it’s not a rhetorical question!) and get a bottle of water for Her. She misunderstands and wonders if he wants juice instead. Before she dashes away like a little potent rocket, he grabs her and stops her. In the process of which, Shan Bao bumps into the outdoor BBQ set up (Yes, the so called Taro dish is just BBQ fish, which isn’t a part of Eastern cuisine tradition at all.) She bends down to collect the scattered equipment while apologizes incessantly. He bends down with her and helps. She pushes him away, noting that he will get his hands dirty. He holds her hand in his and gazes into her eye, “If you truly like a person, you would not care if their hands are dirty or not. All I know is, the hands that I want to hold belongs to you.” He then takes out a handkerchief and wipes her hand.
Ok that’s the end of my recap for ya. I bet you can tell that I’m totally not up for it and am too tired to even try to cover up the truth that I’m half awake. And the fact that this episode was painfully dull to watch doesn’t help the recap either.
If I keep up like this, sooner or later, I’m going to get an anonymous comment, politely asking me to stop berating the drama (or boycott reading). Till that day comes, or the day when this drama FINALLY gets better, recaps will probably sound more and more deranged as I get more and more stressed over the 101 things I have to do. 😀