Just how overdramatic can this drama get? Episode 2 of The Perfect Match already has me rolling my eyes, but I’m still liking it.
We left off with Ting En calling Qing to get his phone back, only to hear her scream “Help me!” The line goes dead. Ting En flashes back to a similar situation with his sister, and at that time he had ended up finding her bedridden in the hospital. Plagued by the past guilt and projecting it onto the present situation, he scrambles to figure out Qing’s address (the handwritten contract she wrote comes in handy here) and rushes to go find her. He has the building number, but no apartment number, so he resorts to yelling her name on the street and then starts trying to climb up the side of the building before a helpful neighbor simply lets him in.
It turns out that Qing is hanging up laundry and perfectly fine — until Ting En startles her and she flails backward, off the edge of the rooftop. He tries to catch her, but instead they both end up falling off the side of the building. What!
They fall several stories, but thankfully there’s a truck right under them that catches them and they come away with their lives intact, though Ting En has injured his left wrist. Qing insists on giving him a ride to the hospital on her motorcycle, which terrifies him more than his injury.
Ting En asks Qing what happened to her that morning, but the story is pretty boring: she was startled awake by the phone call and then fell out of bed. She asks him why he showed up at her place. Embarrassed, he claims that he just urgently needed his phone. She thanks him for saving her life and says she’ll take responsibility for his injury, in the process shaking loose a lock of hair. She tries blowing it away, a mannerism that is exactly like what Ting En’s sister used to do. He tenderly brushes it out of her face for her, then tells her that she needs to learn to take responsibility and take care of herself before she tries to take care of other people.
It’s clear that the words are not really meant for Qing and instead Ting En is just projecting his guilt over his sister onto her. This becomes a recurring theme later in this episode as well. I find it a bit weird that Ting En becomes attracted to Qing because she reminds him of his sister… though I guess at this point in their relationship, it only explains his interest in her and not so much an attraction. Still–weird! But it’s clear that Ting En’s family issues extend beyond just his sister.
Xiao Bin shows up at the hospital to pick up Ting En and beg him to go into the office. Ting En doesn’t want to, but ends up making a big show of walking through the office and greeting all the employees. It’s clear that he spends very little time at the company and his role there is largely nominal. He doesn’t even know his secretary has changed and spends only a few minutes physically in his office, most of it stamping his approval on documents prepared by his younger stepbrother, Tian Zhi, who drops by to say hi and report on Gina’s glowing review of La Mure. Ting En tells Tian Zhi that he just wants to focus on La Mure and that Tian Zhi can handle the business side of their company. But he also can’t resist giving his own opinion on what the business plan of an upcoming event should be, and leaves without letting Tian Zhi get a word in.
At the restaurant, Ting En finds out that one of the richest men in Taiwan, Tang Da Chuan, has booked his 30th wedding anniversary dinner that night and is expecting a recreation of his wedding banquet menu. Having a fixed menu contradicts La Mure’s concept, and Ting En is pissed that the reservation and requirements were booked without his knowledge. But Tian Zhi shows up, saying he was the one who agreed to the Tang reservation (via his girlfriend, Yu Qing), and Ting En is immediately all smiles and pleasantries, saying that the fixed menu will be no problem.
The kitchen staff scramble to figure out what the Tang’s wedding banquet menu could be. Their search isn’t fruitful, until Ru Xi drops by, having heard the earlier commotion outside. She helpfully gives them the answers they’re looking for: Tang wants to taste a special laksa entree that he had at his wedding banquet. The entree was specially prepared by the head chef of Wu Family Restaurant. Ting En thanks Ru Xi for her help and tells her he owes her dinner.
The problem is, Wu Family Restaurant has since closed and no one knows who the head chef is… or do they? Qing finds the name familiar and confirms with her mom that her father used to be head chef at Wu Family Restaurant. In fact, he was the one who cooked for the Tang wedding banquet before Tang became rich. Qing and Ting En go to her place to try and see if they can find more information on the special dish. Ah Wei drops by looking for Qing and immediately gets hostile toward Ting En. Qing finds mention of the banquet in her father’s notes, and Ting En drags her out so they can do more brainstorming, much to Ah Wei’s alarm. Qing’s mother is not nearly as concerned, and instead comments on Ting En’s social status and good looks to a dismayed Ah Wei.
Ting En and Qing try to brainstorm menu ideas by the river. More accurately, Ting En tries to brainstorm while claiming that Qing is distracting him… by breathing. He waxes poetic to her about how precious and rare it is to have survived 30 years of marriage with someone and how he wants to capture all of that feeling in the menu–which gives him a sudden spark of inspiration.
The kitchen at La Mure that night is chaotic. In addition to the Tangs’ fixed menu, they still have to prepare a separate tasting menu for all the other guests in the restaurant. Ting En is more demanding than usual and takes Qing off cutting duty because her knife skills are poor and he needs everything to be perfect.
Qing reflects on the Tangs, her father, and the dinner menu, and suddenly realizes that Ting En is missing something in the meat preparation for the laksa dish. She tries to tell him, but he shoots her down, saying that she has no right to tell him how to prepare meat when she can’t even make a basic curry. But Qing won’t be cowed by his harsh words and instead stands up to him, saying that she knows her father’s cooking and knows that Ting En is wrong. Ting En tells her to prove it.
Qing calls up Ah Wei asking for a special delivery of pork sirloin. He drops everything to hop over with her request. Ting En watches their interaction from a distance with crossed arms, but his presence doesn’t go unnoticed by Ah Wei, who stares him down.
Back in the kitchen, Qing marinates the meat from memory of cooking in the kitchen with her father, while Ting En watches. He asks her why she made the choices she did, such as using pork sirloin instead of pricier tenderloin. Her response is confident, tying in knowledge of her father’s cooking style as well as the Tangs’ financial circumstances at the time — they weren’t rich then, so leftover ingredients from the rest of the wedding banquet dishes were used in the laksa dish.
Qing is insulted when Ting En refuses to even taste her meat, telling her that he already knows what the result will be. But he also has Xiao Bin bring her out to watch as the Tangs eat the laksa dish and react to finding that taste they’ve been searching for. Qing realizes that Ting En had listened to her after all.
Or something like it. Afterward, Ting En praises Qing for her effort, but tells her that she did one thing wrong. He has her taste the dish, and she realizes that it’s not the meat she marinated. Ting En tells her that she was so wrapped in the past, she forgot about present circumstances: the Tangs are on a low-sodium diet, so her exact meat would’ve been too salty for them. He had followed her methods, but reduced the salt and other strong flavors so it would suit their present palates.
Ting En asks why Qing put in so much effort — was it just to recreate her father’s dish and preserve his memory? Qing says that was part of it: but she also didn’t want La Mure’s reputation to suffer if they weren’t able to fulfill their guests’ wishes, an echo of what Ting En had told her earlier.
Thinking of his sister, Ting En asks Qing why she insists on working at the night market. It’s clear that she has talent and is capable, so why does she work at the night market instead of chasing her dream working at a real restaurant? Is it because of her boyfriend? He tells her that she’ll never be able to make a name for herself if she sticks to night market cooking. Qing is insulted, but more so that he’s looking down on night markets more than her. Seeing her anger, he switches course and tells her to forget about it and work on her knife skills until he tells her she can leave.
Ting En goes over to Ru Xi’s for the dinner he owes her in exchange for her help with figuring out the Tang dinner menu. She plans on cooking, but he volunteers instead, which was her plan all along. While they chat and drink wine, he peers at the livestream of a security camera he has in his restaurant and watches Qing practice her knife skills, then tells Ru Xi he’ll have to head back to the restaurant for something. It’s a little endearing, but also a little creepy.
Qing chats happily to herself while she practices cutting. Ting En watches, then shuts off the lights to mess with her. (That’s so mean!) He only means to tease her, but she’s so terrified that she crawls out into the dining room and hugs herself, shaking. He tries to comfort her and she clings to him, still scared, so he bends down for the hug…
Is this just Ting En’s convoluted way of making moves on Qing? I don’t think so. But his attitude toward her is definitely complicated by his guilt over his (presumably dead) sister, which he projects onto her a bit too much. It often feels like he’s only tender toward Qing because he conflates her with his sister, but I love that Qing doesn’t really need him to go easy on her. I’m so used to seeing female leads who cower or run away when the male leads yell at them, but Qing doesn’t back down. She fights back, and that makes this show so watchable!
I’m really enjoying the focus on food and how food is so important to culture, memory, and bringing people together. I’ll be pretty okay with it if each episode we have a new food or guest challenge to tackle…