So why would a man so experienced in the art of courtship make a choice as far apart from his sleek image as a pair of SpongeBob underwear? Xia Hejie has his own set of dating philosophy. Hear him out:
“The most exciting thing about receiving presents isn’t the present itself; it’s the moment of anticipation as you rip open the wrapping paper.” Conversely, as a woman unzips that fly and finds the SpongeBob underneath, she will also find the man adorable. Because beneath his rough exterior, is a boyish interior. It’s the balance of good and bad in a man that makes him irresistible.
(Guys out there, take note.)
As to what constitutes an ideal (wo)man, Xia Hejie explains,
“There are many criteria out there but there is not a single perfect woman. For instance, beautiful women don’t cook; women who cook aren’t gentle. Gentle women don’t have opinions; opinionated women aren’t womanly. Womanly women spend too much; women who don’t spend don’t know how to look good. Women who do know how to look good aren’t trustworthy; trustworthy women aren’t much to look at.
“On the other hand, men are the same. Smart men aren’t handsome; handsome men don’t know how to make money. Men who knew how to make money aren’t homely; homely men don’t take initiative. Men who take initiative aren’t romantic; romantic men aren’t reliable. Reliable men are overrated.
“Therefore any woman who’s equipped with two of the abovementioned qualities is deemed a good woman. Three, she’s a rare specimen. Four? She becomes a challenge.”
As he speaks, he spots Amanda swinging by the kindergarten for some cheap coffee cart dessert and makes a move.
She rejects him point blank. Undeterred and forever confident, Xia Hejie makes the bet that if he can’t let Amanda fall in love with him at the end of his 158 hours worth of community service, he will put on a leash and let Ma Xiaoqian walk him like a dog. (I’d like to see that.)
From the high-profile confession on national television to the arrogant bet of time stamped objectification of love, Xia Hejie uniquely qualifies himself as a bombastic ass – both annoyingly ostentatious and deserving of a bitch slap. Make that two. (Don’t worry, my impression of Xia Hejie improves with every episode.)
If Xia Hejie embodies a condition of excess (excessively unctuous, excessively showy, and excessively verbose) then Ma Xiaoqian represents the opposite.
She’s frugal; her everyday meal consists of rice, broth (frozen and stored as cubes), and bean sprouts, which she grew herself. She’s idealistic; all her savings are gearing towards the dream of one day opening her own kindergarten. She’s simple — and rarely so –; at age 30, she still hasn’t had a boyfriend.
The strong animosity between Xia Hejie and Ma Xiaoqian doesn’t just stem from their differences. It’s their history — the name calling (“Braces Girl”) and the frequent pranks (gum sticking, bags hiding, and the whole shebang a school boy does to his crush) — that Xiaoqian so aversively remembered after all these years. That is why, when Xia Hejie presents Xiaoqian with a bouquet of conciliatory flowers (“You want to woo a woman? You have to woo her friends first.” And Ma Xiaoqian is that friend.), she smashes them without blinking.
Later that day, after Amanda wraps up work, a private jet lands nearby. Out comes a delivery guy with a plate of rice noodles, obviously sent upon Xia Hejie’s instruction. The plate of cheap street food carries special meaning for Amanda.
Recall when she was just starting out, there was no platform for her to showcase her talents. Scarce working opportunities meant poor living standard. She often skipped meals and when she didn’t, she frequented a rice noodle stand. The noodle vendor was an encouraging lady who cheered Amanda on when she was down. Seeing the noodle now reminds her of the simple old days.
Xia Hejie’s method, however cheesy, however extravagant, scored him a point for thoughtfulness and earned him Amanda’s number.
At the kindergarten, the kids are playing a game of “I love my neighbor” (fun game, I miss playing it). Little Top gets in trouble for pulling teacher Mary’s chair. He’s rewarded with a scold and a trip to the teacher’s office. The child isn’t thrilled to be lectured; he dashes out – moving those stubby little legs like mad — and hides in the school bus before teacher Xiaoqian can catch up to him and bring him back to the classroom. (Sometimes it makes you wonder how out-of-shape or out-of-logic those adults have to be in Drama Wonderland to be so easily out-raced by a kid.)
In her run trailing after Little Top, Xiaoqian steps on the rake lying on the ground. The long handle of the tool swings up and strikes Xia Hejie (who’s just idly resting) squarely in crotch. Da Mao, Xia Hejie’s assistant, swoops in to help his boss, only to step on the rake again, sending the darned handle up Xia Hejie’s manhood a painful second time. (Taiwanese sure do enjoy their genital jokes.)
When Xiaoqian finishes her round of fruitless search and winds up back in front of Xia Hejie, he’s already relocated to a more comfortable place to wait for the pain to pass. He sees her and straightens his spine, trying to hide the embarrassing accident. But his awkwardly crossed legs gave him away. To add to the hilarity, Ma Xiaoqian mistakes his position as one of Xia Hejie’s ridiculous narcissism: always posing for an audience, no matter who it is. Or the lack thereof.
She begs Xia Hejie and Da Mao to help her look for Little Top and tells them with earnest concern that the kiddo has low blood sugar and hasn’t had his snack yet. His life might be endangered if they don’t find him soon.
Xia Hejie regards Xiaoqian for a brief moment, making the latter uncomfortable with his prolonged gaze. At length, he remarks, “I just thought that you are more attractive when you’re invested in something.” Off her blush, he adds, “Just a tad uglier than Da Mao.” Heh.
The three of them divide the kindergarten into regions and disperse to continue their search. In the meantime, the trapped child is feeling queasy inside the school bus. He tries to get out but the minivan is locked. At length, he faints.
It is Xia Hejie who finds Little Top first. He busts the bus window open and carries the child out. Then he and teacher Xiaoqian speeds to the hospital to send the kid to ER. But because Xia Hejie was driving too fast for his own good, he attracted two policemen who ended up following him to the hospital and arrested him there for speeding. The arrest made the news and Amanda sees it on TV. She calls her manager Amy, who confirms that the kindergarten had called about Little Top’s bus accident and assures the model that everything will be okay.
Cheeky Xia Hejie gets arrested? That’s hardly a first. But when do you ever see him mope? Being a writer and all, he has his way of fabricating the “truth” and wiggling out of trouble. The police director is worried about what to tell the media crowding at the door. So Xia Hejie lets him have it: he, Xia Hejie, was rescuing a dying child in need of immediate medical attention. The police station, being dutiful civil servants, sent two brave policemen to open the road for him. But because he’s too keen on making sure the child is okay, the policemen had to restrain him at the hospital to prevent him from interfering with the doctors’ treatment.
The course of events thus established, Xia Hejie walk away free and the police station gets good publicist.
I feel that Ma Xiaoqian would have to have an incredibly small heart to hold Xia Hejie responsible for his childish bullies years ago, which isn’t in accord with her character. The reason that she fixates on that past would then mean that she’s harbored feelings for that boy, however small.
What’s neat about this is the exploration of two people who grew apart and meet again later in life and what they make of their renewed relationship. And because the means justifies the ends in this case, I’m fine with however their relationship will turn out. Even if they don’t end up together.