Watch enough dramas, and everything becomes familiar. They all become variations of the same recipe: similar ingredients, just the order and what you do with them becomes slightly different. That’s how I’m feeling about The Perfect Match so far, but it’s not a bad thing!
How many drama ingredients does this episode have? Let’s see…
Ting En comforts Qing after his lights-off prank ends up scaring her more than he intended. Xiao Bin spots them and smiles knowingly before letting them be. But the moment Qing finds out that Ting En was just trying to prank her, she gives him a firm elbow to the chest. That’s not the only thing Ting En does to annoy her: she spots her contract out on the table for the whole world to see. Furious, she stalks off to confront him, only to physically run into him. They freeze for a moment, lips precariously close, but then Ting En starts falling. Qing saves him, but that only makes him fall toward her instead. He catches himself — with a hand on her chest.
Well, as far as falls in dramas go, the accidental groping is only slightly more plausible than the accidental kiss, which this scene definitely teased at as well. Still, this is a key ingredient in a rom-com!
Qing has a rather reasonable response to this unwelcome intrusion into her physical space: she grabs Ting En’s arm and slams him to the ground.
Ting En tells Qing to text him when she gets home. She forgets to, so he ends up calling her, demanding “Didn’t I say to tell me when you got home?” before hanging up. Qing rants to Ah Wei about all the weird things Ting En has been saying, such as calling Ah Wei her boyfriend. Ah Wei fixates on this, completely ignoring everything else she says, and asks if he should just introduce himself as her boyfriend from now on. She quickly shoots him down, saying that they’ve been friends for too long for that. She views him as a brother.
Ah Wei tells Qing that Ting En is obviously interested in her and is trying to pursue her. She spits out her drink and shivers in disgust at the thought.
Another key ingredient found: the friendzoned best friend.
But the idea of Ting En being interested in Qing is not as far-fetched as she thinks it is. That night, he can’t help but think of her and how close they were to kissing. He calls himself crazy and says that she’s “just a girl” (versus a woman), but chuckles as he does so.
Meanwhile, we learn a little more about why Qing gets so terrified of the dark. As a young girl, the power went out right after she found out her father passed away, so she has since associated the lights going out with the fear and sadness of her father’s death and being all alone.
Past trauma in both main leads? Check.
Ting En calls Qing out to meet him by the docks early the next morning. He educates her on lobsters — which are key to his curry lobster dish — and gets veeery close to her, distracted by her lips and chest. She wraps a brace onto his wrist for him. The fisherman they’re with mistakes them for a couple, which they’re both quick to deny, but their body language with each other is captured by a mysterious bystander…
Right as they’re both about to leave, Qing gets a call saying that Mr. Chen, the night market’s gas supplier, is in danger. Ting En overhears and insists on going with her. They join up with the night market vendors, who have gathered all cooking utensils that can be used as weapons, and march to rescue Mr. Chen from the loan shark who took him hostage.
None of the night market vendors have the ability to fulfill the loan shark’s terms of paying the money that Mr. Chen owes. Ting En can tell that the shark is a gambling man, so he challenges him to a gamble: if he makes 180 knife marks between his fingers in under a minute, then the shark must release Mr. Chen. Everyone thinks he’s crazy, but when he succeeds, the loan shark is so impressed that he not only lets everyone go, but shakes Ting En’s hand and asks him to come back and teach him.
Afterward, Ting En lectures Qing on helping people like Mr. Chen whose troubles are solely their own responsibility. But Qing is of the philosophy that she will always help one of her own people, which includes Ting En, too. Ting En lets the matter go, but tells Qing to let him know if anything similar happens again. He grabs her wrist so they can go retrieve his car, but gets called out by Ah Wei for dragging her around.
Ah Wei calls Ting En aside to tell him about a paparazzi photo of him and Qing at the docks that has been going viral. People online are trashing Qing and calling her a gold-digger.
Which key drama trope do we have here? Does this count as a celebrity-normal person relationship? Rich guy meets poor girl? Teacher + student? All of the above?
Ah Wei thinks that Ting En’s presence is only hurting Qing, but Ting En claims that he is helping Qing fulfill her potential as a great chef; it’s people like Ah Wei and the rest of the night market folks who are hurting Qing by holding her back. If Ah Wei really wants what’s best for Qing, he’ll let her keep learning from Ting En. Ah Wei has nothing to say to that, but after Ting En and Qing leave, he promises to himself that he will be the one to help Qing become successful.
If all that drama wasn’t quite enough, let’s up the ante by also throwing a cooking competition into the mix!
Ting En announces that he wants all of his employees to make an exotic fruit flambe. The winner will not only get the chance to personally serve the mayor (tonight’s VIP guest), but will also receive a “special (day) off”, which is a one-on-one “date” with Ting En and a chance to pick his brain and gain valuable insight and skills as a chef.
Qing tries to switch up her flambe by experimenting with a different liquor than the one Ting En used, but fails miserably. Ting En calls her dish the worst of the bunch, but is generally so disappointed with his staff’s work that he tells them all to remake the dish again for a second round.
Ting En goes into his office and muses over this newfound knowledge that Qing lacks knowledge about wine and liquor in general. He thoughtfully looks at an invitation to a tasting event at a winery on his desk.
Tian Zhi shows up with a bottle of brandy from Ting En’s mother to give to the winery tomorrow, and a report that he’s sent flowers to Ru Xi in Ting En’s name. He’s clearly eager to expedite a wedding for Ting En, and Ru Xi needs no encouragement, having already reported to her father earlier that Ting En will be his future son-in-law. The flowers are well-timed as well: Ru Xi receives them in the middle of an interview, just as the journalist is about to ask her what she thinks of the rumors that Ting En and Qing are an item.
Ting En isn’t interested in Ru Xi and doesn’t want her to misunderstand his intentions, but it’s too late because she shows up to personally thank him for the flowers and the card. Tian Zhi warns Ting En that it’s best to let Ru Xi keep thinking the flowers and card are from him. He does his best to dodge around Ru Xi’s questions, but gets distracted by the sight of Qing perusing her father’s notebook.
Qing, realizing that her ignorance about alcohol is one of her big weaknesses, browses her father’s notebook looking for notes, but finding none enlists Xiao Bin’s help in teaching her about different liquors. Unfortunately, Ting En immediately jumps to the conclusion that Qing is relying on her father’s notebook. He criticizes her for not having her own thoughts and opinions and not taking advantage of the opportunity that he’s giving her to learn, then threatens to throw away the notebook. Naturally, this makes Qing furious. She comes from a humble background and doesn’t have the worldly experiences or French training that Ting En does. A lot of things she only knows because of her father’s notes. More importantly, the notebook is also a memory of her father. She storms off, right as Xiao Bin returns and tells Ting En that he misunderstood Qing — she is trying to take advantage of her resources to expand her culinary and tasting horizons.
Ting En finds Qing getting ready to leave and tries to speak to her, but she refuses to listen. She starts riding off on her motorcycle, but Ting En’s pants get stuck so she ends up ripping his pants off.
I’m not sure if losing one’s pants is a key drama ingredient, but it is definitely one of those things that can only happen in drama land!
Ting En tries to apologize for his earlier actions without actually saying sorry, perhaps because he’s not used to apologizing. But he’s in a paretty embarrassing position and Qing isn’t doing anything to make him feel more comfortable, so he finally mutters a quick “sorry” and Qing lets him off the hook.
Apparently, Ting En has never realized that he may have had a more privileged upbringing than other people. (Does he live in a bubble? It sure seems like it…) But that doesn’t stop him from feeling sorry for himself. Even though he’s had all these opportunities, few would guess that the past ten or so years have been hard for him and he hasn’t been happy.
While Ting En is feeling sorry, the kitchen has no shortage of drama. The restaurant’s supply of limited edition Lingzhi eggs have mysteriously been damaged and they are essential to making La Mure’s signature egg custard dessert. Qing gets dragged into the mix because she was the one who transported the eggs that morning. Ting En hears the commotion and says that he’ll take care of it.
Lingzhi eggs are notoriously difficult to acquire. Ting En calls in a favor from Ru Xi, whose family company has connections to suppliers, and manages to get a crate of eggs from a remote mountain farm. But our leads suffer from no shortage of drama, because Ting En gets into an accident on his way down the mountain and his car breaks down. He has no cell service in the mountains so he decides to start walking down the mountain in the pouring rain. He doesn’t see a soul until he almost runs into a motorcyclist.
That motorcyclist is Qing, who wasn’t able to focus in the kitchen without knowing whether the egg issue was resolved, and decided to try and acquire some eggs on her own. Unfortunately, she also crashes while trying to avoid Ting En, rendering her motorcycle useless. They both start walking down, struggling to keep the cardboard box of eggs dry under a half-broken umbrella in the high winds and rain. Qing injured her leg in the crash and starts hobbling. Ting En notices, then kneels down to offer her a piggyback ride…
Oh man, this show is too much! I am amazed at how much content and drama was packed into this one episode. This was easily five episodes’ worth of content for any other show.
I made a big deal of how cliche some of the plot points were this episode, but it’s all in good fun. Ting En is annoyingly pretentious but I like that he is far from perfect and that he and Qing continue to challenge and educate each other. After watching Back to 1989 where Marcus Chang’s male lead was the all-around perfect guy and where Ivy Shao was reduced to a one dimensional love interest, it’s very refreshing to see more personality!