Drama Recaps, Taiwanese Dramas

Recap: The Wonder Woman (Ep. 1)

The Wonder Woman (跟鲨鱼接吻, lit. Kissing a Shark), starring Aviis Zhong as Du Ai Sha and Wes Lo as Yi Fei Yang, sounds like a rather standard corporate romance based on the synopsis. And perhaps it is, but I’m loving the execution! Du Ai Sha is my favorite kind of protagonist, and if the rest of the show is able to maintain the energy and execution of this episode then I’m sure this will become one of my favorites.

Recap

A young Du Ai Sha goes to the aquarium with her father, where he brings her to the shark tank and points out how other fish get out of the way whenever a shark comes near. At first, Ai Sha also jumps away as a shark swims near, scared, but her her father explains that sharks only attack when they’re hungry. She learns that sharks have to keep swimming otherwise they’ll drown.

In modern day Taipei, Du Ai Sha (Aviis Zhong) is well-known, well-respected, and well-feared in her sphere of the corporate world. When she steps into an office building, people stare at her in recognition and a full elevator vacates when she enters.

Ai Sha is ruthless and always on-the-go. She strolls into a release event for a new aggregation platform called My Way that stole corporate secrets from her own company, Chic Fashion, and tears down the CEO in front of the media, threatening him with a multitude of copyright infringement lawsuits if he doesn’t shut down his company. If he can’t beat her, he shouldn’t try and be her enemy.

She casually topples his champagne pyramid by grabbing a glass from the base, taking only a sip before tossing the cup onto the pile and strolling out as purposefully as she strolled in. An attendee of the event (Wes Lo as Yi Fei Yang) watches her with interest.

On her way into her office, Ai Sha makes a pit stop at a bakery, where she snags a doughnut from in front of a little girl contemplating the snack, and leaves her with some life advice of “Don’t hesitate.”

At the office, Ai Sha dresses up as her assistant, Tang Xiao An (Lan Zhang), in order to scope out a pair of influencers waiting to sign a contract. She quickly figures out the influencers resell fake products and boots them from the office, to the annoyance of Ai Sha’s office rival, Chic’s business director, Wen Jing Jing (Demi Yin).

Ai Sha’s direct reports prepare a birthday surprise for her, complete with a candle, cake, and song. But she blows out the candle before they finish singing, telling them that she appreciates the sentiment but that they should go to work. When they insist she make a birthday wish, her wish is for them all to be more competent at their jobs.

Jing Jing complains to Chic’s CEO, May (Heaven Hai), who is used to their bickering but calls Ai Sha into her office anyway. Jing Jing wants to open up the Chic platform to include men’s products, but Ai Sha is opposed because Chic’s brand image is centered on women. May reminds them that she cares only about results, then leaves.

Jing Jing, always trying to one-up Ai Sha, tells her that the Golden Man company will be moving in next door tomorrow, and Chic will be collaborating with them whether Ai Sha likes it or not. Ai Sha responds that Jing Jing might be used to relying on men, but she relies only on herself. But Jing Jing just smirks and says that there’s nothing wrong with relying on men: a woman like Ai Sha, who doesn’t understand men, will never beat her.

After she’s gone, Ai Sha looks straight into the camera and says she understands men all too well. Men are creatures forever stuck with the maturity level of an eight-year-old. All men under the age of 40 are underdeveloped: their minds are simple and develop at a slower rate than women, which is why they’re always relying on the latest tech and gadgets to try to make themselves feel smarter. Their only purpose in life is to reproduce, and in order to find a mate, they act like peacocks and are constantly working out and drinking beverages that look like vomit. But once they’re married with kids, they become couch potatoes.

As she narrates, we see a montage of Yi Fei Yang exemplifying everything that Ai Sha understands about men.

Ai Sha goes to the aquarium and visits the shark tank, remembering a childhood birthday with her father. He gave her the shark necklace she still wears as an adult, but his attention was focused on his new wife and crying child. Adult Ai Sha is surprised to find herself crying, her smart watch telling her that her heart rate is elevated. She closes her eyes and evens her breathing. When her eyes open again, she’s back to being an impenetrable ice queen.

Yi Fei Yang’s house is outfitted with smart home technology powered by a moody AI he’s named “Madonna.” She doesn’t notify him about his assistant, Ni Mo, arriving, and he’s startled to see him in his living room. Ni Mo brings the latest “Black Shark” series of shoes from their manufacturer for Fei Yang to try on. The shoes include a signature shark-shaped trinket that catches Fei Yang’s eye.

Ni Mo, in collaboration with Madonna, has also scheduled Fei Yang to go on three back-to-back dates later that night: first with his ex Betty, then with a flirtatious employee Gigi, and last a break-up with current girlfriend Amanda.

Ai Sha nervously waits at a restaurant for a birthday dinner her ex, Mark, invited her to. But he doesn’t show, and instead, she ends up eavesdropping and rolling her eyes at Fei Yang’s three dates, which all happen at the table directly behind her.

Fei Yang keeps shoving his chair into Ai Sha’s. At the end of his last night, she’s finally had enough and stands up to confront him about it, but instead gets a face full of red wine. His girlfriend–now ex–tried to throw it at him, but he dodged just in time.

Fei Yang offers to get Ai Sha some dry clothes, or at the very least, lend her his jacket, but she refuses with her head held high. On her way out of the restaurant, the hostess stops her, saying that a man requested she be given a cake and a card and apologized for not being able to make it. Ai Sha rejects the gift and walks out. Fei Yang takes the gift from the hostess and follows.

Fei Yang squeezes into the same section of the revolving door as Ai Sha, and they end up stuck. He tries to push the door, getting uncomfortably close to Ai Sha. Ai Sha wants to flag down a staff member and finally makes eye contact with someone, but Fei Yang waves him away.

When he finally pushes them free, the momentum sends them both flying toward the ground. He valiantly cushions her head with his palm so it doesn’t hit the pavement. She shoves him off, accidentally headbutting him in the eye.

Ai Sha finds some eyedrops for Fei Yang. He convinces her to put them in for him, then feigns continued discomfort so she’ll have to drive him home. She rolls her eyes and knows that he’s faking it, but lets him get into her car anyway.

But they haven’t even gone a few blocks yet when Fei Yang starts playing a game on his phone. His eyes are clearly fine. Ai Sha pulls over and tells him to get out and call a taxi. When he doesn’t respond, still focused on his game, she leans over and opens the door for him.

He finally looks up from his phone and closes his door, saying he hasn’t introduced himself yet. He starts to introduce himself, but she interrupts him. She already knows his name and that he’s the CEO and lead software architect of Golden Man. He asks why she didn’t say anything if she already knew who he was. She says she doesn’t like talking to strangers. She knows that Golden Man is moving into an adjoining office on her floor tomorrow and hopes they won’t see each other again.

Ai Sha reopens the door for Fei Yang. He finally gets out after leaving a small birthday gift on her dashboard–the small shark trinket from earlier–along with a “happy birthday” and a wink.

Ai Sha watches him walk away, then observes the shark. She tosses it out the window. But a street cleaner sees her and hands it right back, telling her not to litter.

Ai Sha’s watch chimes, letting her know that her heart rate is elevated again. She centers herself with a few breaths, then drives home.

A gift bag and note are tied to the handle of Ai Sha’s front door. It’s from her friend Ye Xuan, who made sandwiches for her because he knows she doesn’t like cake. He waited until midnight for her to come home before giving up and leaving behind the note. She smiles and goes inside, where her house is dark, empty, and messy, full of empty wine glasses, beer bottles, bowls, and piles of fashion magazines she uses for research. Her fridge is empty except for some bottled water and a few cans of beer. She trashes Mark’s card and gift without reading either and instead takes a bath, singing “happy birthday” to herself while studying the shark charm Fei Yang gave her. She suddenly realizes she lost her shark necklace at some point in the night.

Meanwhile, Fei Yang swipes through a slideshow profile of Ai Sha and stops on a large photo of her face. He contemplates it, saying her name thoughtfully, then looks at the shark necklace that had fallen off her neck during the fall, which he had pocketed.

The next morning, the men of Golden Man stroll into their new office building with synchronized walk that makes the women of Chic swoon. They gossip about how nice it would be to have some men around. Vicky says that the “Great White Shark” (da bai sha, phonetically similar to Ai Sha’s name) must be menopausal or have some other hormonal imbalance that requires some testosterone to balance out. If Jing Jing is able to finalize the collaboration with Golden Man then they can go over and…

Ai Sha walks up behind Vicky, having heard everything. Everyone immediately clams up upon seeing her. Yuki tries to cover by saying that they wanted to go to Golden Man to scope out the competition. Ai Sha tells them to focus on their own work, then heads out for lunch.

She doesn’t eat with her coworkers. Instead, she has lunch with Zhen Zhen, the office cleaning lady, who shares the Golden Man’s office plan and leaks to Ai Sha that Fei Yang is in a contract talk with a winery.

Ai Sha rushes off to try to intercept Fei Yang. Before she leaves the office, Xiao An reminds her that there’s a video shoot at Ye Xuan’s restaurant she’s supposed to attend. Ai Sha tells Xiao An to go in her stead and change her clothes — she can wear Ai Sha’s outfit.

There’s only one parking spot left at Ai Sha’s destination, but Fei Yang snags it before she can. She decides to park in front of his car instead, blocking him in, and takes off running for the elevators. She manages to make it onto the elevator before Fei Yang gets there, but with her added weight, the elevator is over capacity. She’s forced to step off and wait for the next one with Fei Yang, who smirks.

He’s heard about her reputation in the industry as a “great white shark” but now he’s seen it in action. He asks what she wants to do now: collaborate on the winery case or compete fairly to win it? Ai Sha doesn’t want to talk to him, but coldly responds that there are no fair competitions in the world. History is written by winners.

Fei Yang agrees, and then grabs Ai Sha’s bag and hurls it away the moment the elevator arrives. She’s forced to go retrieve it, making it back to the elevator in time to have the doors close in her face while Fei Yang waves mockingly.

By the time Ai Sha makes it up to the winery and pushes her way in past the secretary, Fei Yang is about to put pen to paper and sign the contract with CEO Lan. Ai Sha doesn’t have a meeting with Lan until the next day, but she knows that if Lan signs with Fei Yang and Golden Man today, there won’t be anything left for her tomorrow. Lan claims that he has another herbal product lined up for Chic, but that Golden Man will get the red wine contract. After all, men understand wine better than women. Ai Sha’s eyes sharpen at that statement.

Fei Yang and Lan are about to complete the contract signing, completely ignoring Ai Sha, when she interrupts them with some strong data backing why Chic is better suited for the red wine contract. She guarantees Lan that if he signs the contract with Chic, his sales will go through the roof.

Lan decides to create a fair way to determine who gets the contract: a wine tasting contest. The first person to tell him the origin of a glass of wine he pours will win the contract. While Ai Sha studiously looks at, smells, and tastes the wine, Fei Yang simply stares at his glass thoughtfully.

He pushes the glass away and then says that he gives up. He makes eye contact with Ai Sha and says that the contract is hers.

Xiao An oversees the short video shoot at Ye Xuan’s restaurant, then helps clean up. Ye Xuan chivalrously starts putting an apron around her to protect her nice clothes. She freezes, flustered at his proximity. Looks like someone has a crush. But he soon pulls away when his phone rings. It’s Ai Sha, finally calling back.

Ai Sha tells him about winning the red wine contract and says she’ll bring him one of the bottles of wine she was gifted so that he can cook with it for her. He tells her that her mom called, looking for her. She realizes the date, the fifth, and rushes off.

Fei Yang beats up a punching bag, Ni Mo bracing it nervously, while still dressed in his work attire. Two of his employees, Steven and Liao Xi Jun, run up and demand to know how he lost the wine contract to a woman. Steven is mostly concerned about a leak: how did Ai Sha know about the meeting in the first place? Xi Jun, on the other hand, laments that the scariest thing is having a woman steal their business.

Fei Yang shows up at Chic, where he struggles to find someone to help him because all the women immediately freeze and swoon when he approaches them. Everyone assumes he’s here looking for Wen Jing Jing, who has had made no secret of her friendship with him, but he’s actually looking for Ai Sha.

Ai Sha hasn’t been at the office for a while, so Jing Jing tries to drag Fei Yang over to her office for a chat, but Xiao An is nearby and immediately jumps in, introducing herself as Ai Sha’s assistant and offering to let Fei Yang wait in Ai Sha’s office.

Ai Sha braces herself before entering her mother’s house. She finds a pot burning on the stove, unattended, and throws it into the sink. When her mother finally gets back into the kitchen, she blames Ai Sha for not coming home earlier to help. Ai Sha knows that her older brother comes home once a month on the 5th for a family dinner. Her mother can’t do everything alone.

But it’s not like her mother is alone at home. Ai Sha points out that her younger brother, Dong Xue, lives at home. But her mother says that Dong Xue needs to focus on studying so he can get into college (he’s tried multiple times and failed.) She complains that Ai Sha always complains about doing housework. But Ai Sha ends up doing all the chores around the house, folding laundry, mopping the floors, clearing up all the clutter that she never bothers with in her own apartment.

While cleaning her childhood bedroom, she accidentally knocks over an old second place award from her elementary school days. She remembers being proud to show her mother her award, only to get lectured that no one remembers the people who finish second.

Meanwhile, Fei Yang pokes around Ai Sha’s office, where her shelves are full of awards: first place only. Xiao An tells him that Ai Sha won’t be at the office until late, and offers to reschedule, but he says he’ll wait. She trails him nervously as he picks up each of Ai Sha’s trophies, afraid he’ll drop them. He comments that it must be tiring working for a boss who always wants to win. She stares at the awards as she responds that Ai Sha is the reason that Chic is successful; she may be demanding, but Xiao An knows that she’s also right. Fei Yang watches her with amusement. Her answer almost seems rehearsed. Or like she’s brainwashed.

When Ai Sha’s older brother, Du Nan Cheng, gets home, her mother dotes over him. Her younger brother doesn’t come downstairs for dinner, and her mother makes excuses for him, saying he must have been up late studying, and delivers a bowl upstairs to him. While she does that, Nan Cheng tells Ai Sha that he’s recently invested in a facial mask manufacturer, and tries to convince her to list his product on Chic.

Ai Sha refuses, saying Chic has strict standards for their products and she’s not going to make an exception just for him. Besides, facial masks are a very saturated market and she warns him to be more careful with his money. He has a history of poor investments and always ends up begging her or her mother for money.

Ai Sha’s mother hears them arguing and blames Ai Sha for not being more accommodating toward Nan Cheng. Nan Cheng complains to their mother that Ai Sha won’t do him the favor of listing his product on her site. Does she want him to kneel and beg? He drops to his knees. Ai Sha’s mother immediately pulls him up, saying that men shouldn’t have to kneel, then turns on Ai Sha, asking her why she can’t just do her brother a favor.

Ai Sha claims that her company has its own regulations and she’s not going to open a back door for her brother. Nan Cheng angrily says that Ai Sha is full of herself because their father spoiled her. Ai Sha tartly responds that at least she can feed herself.

Her mother slaps her. Ai Sha promptly stands up and leaves.

Nan Cheng convinces their mother to eat dinner and ignore her. Her mother watches her go with a sigh and disappointed shake of her head.

Ai Sha ends up buying a cold Pocari Sweat (Product placement? I love Pocari Sweat though!) at a vending machine and using it to ice her cheek. Xiao An texts her that Fei Yang is still waiting in her office.

Chic is dark by the time Ai Sha gets into the office, Xiao An the only one still there with a desk lamp on. Fei Yang lounges on the couch in Ai Sha’s office, playing a game on his phone. Ai Sha dismisses Xiao An and asks Fei Yang what he wants.

He puts her on hold while he finishes his game and texts proof to his employees that he was the first of them to beat the level. She rolls her eyes.

He finally turns his attention back to her and invites her out to eat. She asks him to leave if he has nothing important to say; she still has work to do.

Fei Yang asks Ai Sha if she actually knew the origin of the wine at the winery earlier today. Did she think that was a fair contest?

Ai Sha responds that a competition is only fair if both parties start in the exact same place and make it to the finish line on their own. But in this world, there is no fair competition for a woman. She is not like him, who can so easily succeed while putting in minimal effort. She needs to win. She can’t lose. She doesn’t care if no one wants to eat with her or get into the same elevator as her. She doesn’t care that she has to work so hard just to get a little bit of praise. But she can’t lose. The moment she loses, she will be seen as incompetent. Everyone pretends that the world is fair, she pretends that the world is fair, but it’s all a lie. This world has never given her a fair chance. That’s why she will do whatever it takes to win. She warns him not to become her enemy, because he will lose, badly.

She’s so agitated by the end of her rant that tears of frustration start slipping down her face.

Fei Yang asks if she’s okay. She catches herself and wipes away her tears, then silently starts to walk away. He grabs her wrist and pulls her toward him, wrapping her into a hug.

What a solid first episode! I am so ready for more.

Like I mentioned at the beginning, Du Ai Sha is my favorite kind of protagonist: well-known, well-respected, and well-feared. She is a woman clawing her way up in a man’s world, and I love that she is unapologetic about it. It’s clear that all of her life she’s only been let down by men (seems like her father was absentee and cheated on her mother, and her brothers are… useless) and viewed as second to her brothers by her mother despite her own success.

The writers are really laying it on thick with the shark metaphors, but I like it. Everything about Ai Sha shark-like because she needs to be, from her name being a homonym for “great white shark” to how she’s always on the move, never stopping, with people scattering before her like scared fish

I loved seeing all the contrasts in Ai Sha’s life this episode. She holds her coworkers at a firm arm’s length distance, yet seems lonely celebrating by herself at home. Her apartment is wildly messy, yet she dutifully helps clean her mother’s house and does domestic work that she would otherwise eschew.

Yi Fei Yang is looking like the classic rich tech bro man-boy right now. And I love it. I think he and Ai Sha’s chemistry and dynamic will be so fun to watch and so cheesy, but in the best way.

I’ve never really paid much attention to writer/director/production companies until lately, but it actually makes so much sense why I’m enjoying this drama. Ker Choon Hooi is a prolific drama director. He directed Back to 1989 and one of my inexplicable rom-com favorites, Just You. In fact, the writing team on Just You is the same team for this drama, Yaya Chang and Lee Chieh Yu. I pretty much only loved that drama because of the lead couple and their chemistry, and I hope that there will be more going for The Wonder Woman than the lead couple and their chemistry. Hopefully the writing team has developed their secondary character-writing and plotting abilities in the seven years since!

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