The Perfect Match continues to pack the perfect amount of drama into one episode. This episode hinted at mysterious pasts and secret lives for some of our characters as people from different parts of Qing and Ting En’s lives start crossing paths.
But first, we have to start with Qing and Ting En struggling down a mountain path. He heroically, but stupidly, gives her a piggyback ride that lasts all of a few seconds before they find shelter and try to come up with a better plan. That plan arrives in the form of Ah Wei, who has taken his own motorbike up the mountain in case Qing got lost. He reluctantly lets Ting En and Qing take the motorbike back down so they can make it back to La Mure in time for dinner service.
The cooking competition continues and this time Qing wins. But it seems rigged in her favor anyway because Ting En had already decided he wanted to take her to the cocktail party the next day. He has an ulterior motive as well: if he doesn’t find a date to the party, his mother is sure to try and set him up with Ru Xi again, and that’s something he doesn’t want. Xiao Bin doesn’t understand: he would date Ru Xi in a heartbeat. But Ting En waxes poetic about arranged dates, free will, and it not being fair for him or Ru Xi.
But Ru Xi must be the devil or something because speak her name and she will appear. She shows up to collect on the favor he owes her for the eggs, and also catches the tail end of his conversation with Xiao Bin. She gets veeery close to him to ask exactly what he meant with his words. He tries to dodge around her physically and verbally, and gets semi-saved by Qing, who shows up asking to clock out early.
Ru Xi collects on her favor by asking Ting En to accompany her somewhere. It ends up being the night market, where she hopes to find the “common man’s Huo Ting En” and try the curry shrimp slider. Since Qing has been working at La Mure, she hasn’t been managing the stall, which is closed. But she clocked out early to go to the night market and help out Ah Wei and hang out with her night market friends. Her friends joke about how her connection with La Mure and Huo Ting En will greatly increase her night market stall sales and popularity, which catches Ting En and Ru Xi’s attention.
Ting En confronts Qing about wasting her time at the night market with her supposed friends who don’t know the value of hard work and instead rely on social climbing and false advertising. Qing retorts that the night market folks are her family and she would pick family over her chasing her dreams if she had to. Ting En escalates the situation, interpreting her words to mean that she would pick the night market over La Mure, a place that so many other people are dying to work at. She says that if she had to choose, she would pick the night market. Ting En is insulted, thinking that she doesn’t appreciate everything he has offered her, and tells her to do whatever she wants before stalking off.
Communication really isn’t Ting En’s strong suit. Not only is he terribly arrogant, but he also has some narcissistic tendencies, such as expecting other people to read his mind and hear words that he isn’t saying. He spends the rest of the night waiting for an apology from Qing, though he was the one who left her feeling confused about whether she was welcome back at La Mure or not. Even though they’re both angry, they both also feel a bit sentimental after reflecting on the nice things that they’ve done for each other. (It’s only episode four — isn’t it a little too early for flashbacks?)
Qing decides to text Ting En, which only makes matters worse because she’s too proud to apologize directly and he expects her to grovel for forgiveness. After a few vague back-and-forth messages, he finally calls her. Yes, a chance for some direct communication! But unfortunately, patience and directness are not Ting En’s strong suit. They each have different ideas of what’s going on, and once Ting En realizes that he and Qing are not on the same page, he hangs up instead of trying to explain himself, because naturally she should be psychic and just already know.
The next morning, Ting En is summoned for breakfast with his mother and Tian Zhi and it becomes very obvious where he gets his sense of elitism from. Ting En’s mother wants him to go to the cocktail party with Ru Xi and is appalled to hear that Ting En plans on bringing one of his kitchen staff. Even worse, Qing is only an apprentice. Ting En’s mother is sure that she will embarrass him at an event like the cocktail party. But Ting En makes some excuses about how, as a manager, he can’t go back on his word to one of his staff, and quickly makes his escape.
Well, it looks like he’s dug himself a hole and now has to figure out a way to make amends with Qing and bring her to the cocktail party.
Ting En heads into La Mure where a surprise is waiting: Qing’s night market friends are there to apologize for their comments the previous night about taking advantage of Ting En and La Mure’s name. He thinks that Qing set them up to it, which isn’t entirely false, but they are being genuine with their apology. Any further criticisms are cut short when they find out that Qing is taking down her night market stall, so they rush to go find her.
Qing explains to her friends that she doesn’t want to make curry shrimp sliders anymore. After La Mure, she plans on switching up her menu and crafting some new dishes that are signature to her instead of copying someone else. One day she wants Ting En to be known as the “rich man’s Wei Fen Qing.” Ting En listens from a distance, then applauds her speech. He doesn’t verbally forgive her, nor does she apologize, but they reach an unspoken resolution. After all, everything she said is everything that he’s wanted her to do.
Meanwhile, we start to see that there’s a lot more to Ah Wei than meets the eye. He seems boyish, especially when fighting with Ting En for Qing’s attention, and Ting En loves to make fun of his young looks, at times questioning whether he’s even an adult. But there’s definitely a part of his identity that he’s hiding.
When Ru Xi and Ting En go to the night market, he spots them from afar and immediately goes into hiding, then watches from a distance as they leave. He didn’t move fast enough to escape Ru Xi’s notice, because she looks back at his hiding spot on her way out. Later, she goes to the night market and watches him from a distance, tears streaming down her face.
Ah Wei speaks rather eloquently about wine to Qing, then clams up when she asks how he knows so much and tries to brush it off as knowledge from catering wine parties. When he finds out that she might miss out on the cocktail party she’s been looking forward to, he dresses up nice and requests a meeting with Chairman Wang, the owner of the winery, introducing himself as Meng Shao Wei. His name must mean something, because he snags two cocktail party invites and excitedly rushes to invite Qing.
Unfortunately, he’s a little too late, catching Qing right after she and Ting En have made up. They proceed to play a small round of Musical Qing, where Qing gets passed around between the two men, who each grab her wrist and try to snag her away from the other. In the end, Ting En wins, because Qing has already agreed to go with him to the party.
Ah Wei watches them go, musing that having a high social status does have its value.
Obviously Ah Wei is related to the Meng family in a way that he’s tried to hide. Is he to the Meng family what Ting En’s sister Ting Li was to the Huo family? A son from a past marriage who ran away from home and wanted to strike it out on his own? We shall see…
Ting En takes Qing out on a classic makeover expedition in preparation for the cocktail party. It’s a fun take on the usual makeover sequences, with both Ting En and Qing joking around with their outfits. That is, until she finds the dress and they immediately jump into acting like they’re getting married or something. In fact, Qing even blurts out “I love you” to Ting En… or does she? It turns out that she said “I hurt you (financially)” which sounds quite similar in Chinese (wo ai ni vs wo hai ni). But that definitely tells us something about Ting En’s mental state…
Qing has never worn heels before and is embarrassingly inept at functioning in them. Cue an entirely gratuitous ballroom scene where Qing learns how to become comfortable in heels by dancing with Ting En.
The cocktail party itself has no shortage of intriguing interactions. We get to see more of Tian Zhi, and we finally meet his absentee fiancee, Yu Qing. I find these two characters and how they relate to Ting En particularly intriguing, perhaps because the relationship dynamics are the least obvious here.
Yu Qing makes her entrance by helping Qing get back into the party when she gets held up at security. She recognizes Qing immediately as “the poor man’s Huo Ting En”. When she and Tian Zhi get snubbed by Chairman Wang, who ignores them completely and beelines to greet Ting En, Yu Qing has more of a stinkface than Tian Zhi does. Tian Zhi merely smiles sheepishly, like he expected it, though he does frown a little when Ting En gets massive praise and all the credit for the gift of brandy that he helped prepare and reminded Ting En about.
Ting En’s original intention in bringing Qing to the party was to educate her on wine, so he takes her over to the table of hors d’oeuvres and teaches her how to notice how the flavors of wine and various foods can complement each other. This involves him grabbing various blocks of cheese off the table and feeding them to her. And… is he just putting them back on the table after taking a bite?!
Anyway, the friendly/educational banter is cute and all, but drama soon strikes when Chairman Wang overhears Qing’s offhand comment on how one of the pastries has a weird flavor. He’s elitist, rich, and loves to show off his money but doesn’t seem to know much about food other than what other people tell him about how expensive and high-class it is. He immediately gets defensive and the conflict quickly becomes the center of attention at the party.
Fortunately, Ting En has Qing’s back and agrees that the flavor of the cream is off, perhaps because it has gone bad, but not without first complimenting Wang on how high quality and clearly expensive it is, in order to soothe his pride. Tian Zhi also steps in to help mitigate the situation by suggesting third parties who might be responsible, so that Wang clearly is not the one to blame. Wang decides to throw out the pastries if they’re so clearly bad, but is now missing a pairing for his new, signature wine that he had just unveiled.
Yu Qing suggests that perhaps Qing could cook up a bite to pair with the wine. After all, she is the poor man’s Huo Ting En. Qing seems terrified, but Ting En agrees that it’s a good idea. It kind of feels like Yu Qing is trying to embarrass Qing, but then she adds that she heard Qing had done very well at La Mure the previous night (with the mayor and his guests in attendance) and must be quite skilled. So… perhaps she’s trying to help show off Qing? She watches Wang show Ting En and Qing to the kitchen with a smile on her face, and it seems like it’s genuine.
Qing struggles to come up with a dish that will pair well with the wine. Ting En watches her, amused. He’s not there to do the work for her, but he does suggest that she try the wines to find inspiration. Or even if the wine itself doesn’t inspire her, maybe getting drunk will. She listens and tastes the wine, then gets struck by inspiration from one of her hangouts with Ah Wei. She decides to make an elevated version of basil fried chicken.
Wang is surprised when Qing reveals her dish, perhaps even offended by the thought of something so low-brow being paired with his fancy new wine. But Qing is able to eloquently speak on the flavor profile of his wine, which convinces him to try the dish with anticipation.
He takes a small bite of chicken and a sip of wine, then immediately takes a large gulp of wine and gargles it (?!), exclaiming “What flavor is this?!” with an agitated expression…
I find Tian Zhi and Yu Qing to be the most interesting characters right now. They seem nice but all my drama instincts are telling me that there must be some nefarious scheming going on behind those smiling facades! So what’s their angle?
We saw hints of discontent when Wang snubbed them in favor of greeting the eldest Huo son, Ting En. But Tian Zhi always seems to back Ting En up with family and business, and Ting En also is always sure to include Tian Zhi, such as introducing him to Wang. There doesn’t seem to be any tension between them, which I would expect to see, but it’s also pretty clear that they aren’t super close either. Their interactions are rather formal for brothers (or stepbrothers).
Yu Qing is also difficult to read in what we’ve seen so far. Is her recognition of Qing’s Internet moniker a way of mocking her and trying to embarrass her? Or is she actually a proponent of Qing and trying to help launch her into the spotlight? Her smiles seem genuine but I’m yet to be convinced that there isn’t some NEFARIOUSNESS going on here!