My Secret Hotel: First Impressions


My Secret Hotel is truly everything I expect from a tvN drama. It has a mix of comedy, romance, petty friendships and rivalries, murder mysteries, and a really fun soundtrack. Just from one episode I’m already getting vibes of Harvest Villa mixed with some Emergency Couple.

We begin with Nam Sang Hyo (Yoo In Na) setting up a wedding and going around frantically to make sure everything is ready. And they all are ready, except for the ice sculpture. Assistant Manager Hwang is supposed to be in charge of it, but he’s seemingly abandoned his post after breaking it. Joy. Then we discover that this is no ordinary wedding, but Nam’s ex-husband’s second wedding.

Goo Hae Young (Jin Yi Han) is getting married to an heiress, Jung Soo Ah (Ha Yeon Joo), and seems like a petty genius. He appears to be a successful architect who also doesn’t mind leaving a trail of women behind. One of them is Joo Jung Eun (Hwang So Hee), a really nasty looking but silly girl who doesn’t want him to get married to Soo Ah because she’s been harboring a one-sided love for him for years. She’s hilarious enough to stop me from smacking her and telling her to wake up and smell the roses. Hae Young wants to send an invitation to Sang Hyo just to see how she’d react to him getting married (even though they’ve been divorced seven years). At this point he should be trying to move on with his life instead of wondering how to annoy Sang Hyo more.

But now… at least he gets to save on the postage…

The wedding seems to be all ready to go, and Hae Young and Sang Hyo have already settled their past. But just as he walks down the pristine aisle, a drop of blood drips from overhead. He looks up, and a body comes crashing down through the frosted glass ceiling.

There’s your wedding and your mystery.

Flashback to two weeks earlier and we learn that Secret Hotel, of which Jo Sung Gyeom (Nam Goong Min) is the managing director, has a bad reputation with its wedding department. Anyone who marries in their wedding hall (under Sang Hyo’s planning) ends up getting a divorce within three months. It’s a bad rumor and Sang Hyo wonders if her rival Yeo Eun Joo (Lee Young Eun), the PR manager, is the one behind it all. She and Eun Joo work to repair that image by nabbing Soo Ah and Hae Young as their clients. They’re both high profile enough figures to get some positive press about the hotel.

Thing is, Hae Young and Sang Hyo initially don’t want to work with each other in any way. Hae Young tries to convince Soo Ah out of using Secret Hotel, but she wants to no matter what. And Sang Hyo doesn’t like that her ex is getting remarried first so her flirtation with Sung Gyeom increases. Which then ups the ante between her and Eun Joo since they’re both love rivals.

Seriously, the two girls should just ditch the guy and go bickering off into the sunset together. I’d watch just them two.

Anyways, we get some more character establishment around the workers of Secret Hotel. Assistant Manager Hwang seems to have some job protection thanks to Director Lee (Choi Jung Won), but also appears a bit of a gangster-slacker with a penchant for hurting people with his awl. And Sung Gyeom seems to be playing both Sang Hyo and Eun Joo, although he could be doing it without realizing that they’re both rivaling each other for him.

In any case, during a drunken night Sang Hyo asks Sung Gyeom to marry her. Knowing that she’s drunk and most likely not going to remember anything, he says yes. Now a new rumor spreads throughout the employees to the hotel, and when Hae Young hears of this he ends up not canceling the contract with the hotel for the wedding. See what I mean about petty?

Overall this drama is cute and funny, but what I really like is that they set up the mystery already without giving you much information. Dating Agency: Cyrano was like this too, though it was lighter on the mystery than it was on the romantic comedy. It’s not as quirky as Harvest Villa though it does present several possible suspects and murder victims already in the first episode.

Personally I think the dead man is Assistant Manager Hwang.

I’ve never gotten to see Yoo In Na in full leading lady action, as in Secret Garden, My Love From Another Star, You’re the Best Lee Soon Shin, and Birdie Buddy she generally played a supporting role. It’s nice to see her in the lead for this drama, and her comedic timing never fails. (Also I seriously envy her fashion. That girl is stick thin but wears clothes really well.) She and Lee Young Eun work really well together, and I’m pleasantly surprised by the latter, whom I haven’t seen since – gasp! – Full House! I would really like it if these girls could just go off on their own without Sung Gyeom and have their petty rivalry over their careers. And then I’d like to see them become really good friends by the end of the drama.

Compare. Left image is from My Secret Hotel, right image from I Need Romance 2013.

Speaking of Sung Gyeom, I’m a bit disappointed in Nam Goong Min because he reminds me so much of his character in I Need Romance 2013. Now I know I should give him more of a chance since it’s only been one episode, and he could change/improve over the series. However every time he acts aloof and boss-like I just get bad memories of his character in INR 2013. Can he not do these kinds of roles anymore?! Or maybe I’d like him to be a little more comedic.

Jin Yi Han on the other hand is so much fun. I just get reminded of Jo In Sung when I see him onscreen (and I’m sure the lanky tall figure adds to that), but he’s the more fun brother. I love that he plays Hae Young as a petty kind of guy who also knows what he wants. I think Hae Young and Sang Hyo must have been a crazy couple together, and I hope we get to see some of that in the coming episodes. Stills on set have shown that we’ll see them getting married in a flashback.

I’m definitely eager for more episodes and more of the mystery to unfold!



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