1박 2일 1N2D Harbin

I thought that Kim Joo Hyuk’s decision to leave the program would affect 1N2D’s group dynamics but while we all miss Gutaeng hyung’s charming awkwardness, the remaining members and the whole team behind Season 3 continues to one-up itself.  This episode proves why the show totally deserves its Viewers’ Choice Best Program in last year’s KBS Entertainment Awards. And Kim Jong Min, his Top Excellence Award.

The team flies all the way to the northernmost province of China which known for its rich history, Russian architecture, and harsh winter conditions. Sans Kim Joon Ho who still has a schedule to finish in Seoul, the members arrive in Harbin in their furry, Big-Foot lookin’ outfits, with a crowd waiting for them at the airport. Jung Joon Young has lived in China but Kim Jong Min is surprisingly the crowd favorite. Apparently, the latter is starting to reap the fruits of his labor. He’s been in variety shows for ages and he’s been a solid 1N2D member since Day 1, I admire his hard work and dedication. With his knowledge in history and manliness in arm wrestling, people have been seeing him a new light recently.

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The crew seriously set up a tent in the middle of a cold busy street in Harbin. Battling the cold with bare bodies isn’t something new for the members so they hilariously play strip rock-paper-scissors in the middle of a busy foreign street while enduring an almost -20 degree temperature. I wonder why they didn’t get a flak for doing so, while the boys from Reply 1988 were reportedly criticized for taking off their underwear underwater during their trip to Africa. I guess that’s just how good-natured the whole 1N2D team is, for them to be able to get away with something as crazy as that and people just laugh it off.

And of course the craziness doesn’t stop with the stripping as the show also features some famous food that originated in Harbin. However, instead of focusing on Guobaorou (sweet and sour pork), these “little kids” continue to dare each other to eat the exotic turtle dish instead.

The whole “going to Russia” set up is quite exciting. Too bad, it is just a lie and Jung Joon Young figures it out easily thanks to his street smarts and Chinese knowledge. The excitement kicks back in when they hear about the nerve racking, individual survival challenge that awaits them. Each member would be blindfolded and left in different areas of a wide Russian theme park. The goal is to find their way back to base camp. It’s quite obvious who’d win this race but this is where the Season 3 members show off their variety skills. I imagined that if Season 2 members were to do this, this race would simply have an “I win-you lose” ending but Season 3 members being naturally mischievous, they themselves made the twists for an awesome “I thought I won but I found out I didn’t so I have to trick the next member to think he won only to find out that he didn’t” kind of ending.

This episode takes a more serious tone as the members trace the steps of famous Korean independence activitist, Ahn Jung Geun. Jong Min breaks his idiot TV character once again and shows the world his appreciation and knowledge of history. He is even aware of the fact that he is born exactly 100 years after the hero they’re featuring.

Being a non-Korean, I don’t really know much about Ahn Jung Geun, but since I am from the Philippines, I greatly empathize with the Korean people, as we have also learned about the horrors of the Japanese occupation in our country.

Time makes a hero and a hero makes time.

Ahn Jung Geun’s refusal to accept colonialism pushed him to plot an assassination. He was only in his early 30s when those trying times have awakened his patriotic spirit. But then again, if he lived in our current time, people would probably regard him as a mere assassin instead of a martyr.

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For those who have never heard of Ahn Jung Geun prior to this, 1N2D manages to introduce him with careful thought as well as evoke a powerful message that this episode isn’t simply about a tale of a Korean hero. It is a story that goes beyond the borders of a country. South Korea and China has joined hands to build the Ahn Jung Geun Memorial Museum not far from where he assassinated the then Japanese governor of Korea, Hirobumi Ito.  However, Ahn Jung Geun’s personal wishes of being buried in his hometown couldn’t even be granted since he is from North Korea. And well, we all know how bad its current relationship with the South is.

Cha Tae Hyun proves that he is indeed the heart of the show. When he laughs, I laugh. When he cries, I cry too. Reading Ahn Jung Geun’s exchange of last words with his mom made me tear up but I bawled my eyes out when Cha Tae Hyun chokes up as he pointed out what Ahn Jung Geun did from a devoted father’s point of view.

We are reminded that freedom fighters risked their lives so that we don’t need to continue living in the “hell” that they’ve experienced then. At the same time, we are reminded that 1N2D is not only an entertaining show but an incredibly poignant and informative one as well.

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시그널 (Signal)

Signal stars Lee Je Hoon in the role of Park Hae Young, a criminal profiler who has a bitter past connected to an infamous gang rape case in the fictional city of Inju. He meets a veteran detective named Cha Soo Hyun played by Kim Hye Soo. Turns out their fates are intertwined and is connected by a person from the past, Detective Lee Jae Han, played by Jo Jin Woong.

The unexplainable occurrences start when Hae Young receives a transmission via an old walkie talkie- a broken piece of evidence that’s supposed to be thrown away. To prove that he hasn’t gone in sane, Hae Young reluctantly goes to the mental hospital following the directions of the detective on the other line. Hae Young confirms that he hasn’t gone nuts, but he too, finds out that he just actually communicated with someone from the past. The transmissions from the past continue as Hae Young becomes a member of a special cold case squad. Coincidentally (or not), the unsolved cases are exactly what Detective Lee Jae Han been investigating during his time.

Who would’ve thought that solving a mere burglary case could lead to the revelation of a string of more serious crime and corruption. One case has suddenly become connected to the next and the next and the next…

It’s quite difficult to nitpick at this drama since it is set in a parallel world of a different time so focusing on one scene would mean you’d have to think about its origin as well as several possibilities had the main character made a different move. The important thing for me is that the narrative and the actors’ performances were as solid as when it began until the story has come in full circle. There might have been some loopholes here and there but we have to admit that dealing with temporal paradox is not that easy especially if it involves some serious crimes  based on real Korean cases .

The main characters are flawed but determined, all of them admirable for fighting for their loved ones and carrying out justice at all costs. And these actors impressively played their characters like real relatable people. Jo Jin Woong may not have Lee Byung Hun or Jung Woo Sung’s looks, but he has his own police charms. That’s what makes him convincing as Lee Jae Han.He’s ordinary looking, no 6 pack abs, awkward with his first love, earnest at work and he’s no superman. He makes mistakes and gets beaten, but never once thought about losing hope even if moving forward means giving up his life.

Kim Hye Soo smoothly goes back and forth as the timid rookie and the badass squad captain. She represents a real woman who hasn’t changed on the inside, still has moments of vulnerability and loneliness from a lost love but has managed to be in control of her life and has toughened up over time.  The drama is fast paced but still, there was some ample time to show her relationship with Lee Hae Jan and how he learned to care for her in return.

Lee Je Hoon tends to be theatrical at times but not to the point where he becomes unbearable. His character is smart but he’s not the usual know-it-all genius that most dramas give us in an instant. We witnessed how he how he struggled in life til he realized that being a delinquent wouldn’t change anything and so he worked hard to get to where he is.

Signal proves that a drama doesn’t always have to include a flower boy alpha male and a whole lot of tropes to be successful. It’s enough that it has some solid storytelling, character development and consistent action/visuals that would excite the viewers and make its long running time go unnoticed. Even the amount of romance here is minimal yet effective. No need for blaring senti background music.

An episode is a chock full of suspense from start to finish and the level of intrigue is constant until the finale. Though, I have to admit that an open-ending is quite unsatisfying for me. But for a story as complicated as Signal’s, I’d take it rather than them forcing an unrealistic happily-ever-after. Even better is the fact that they’re hinting at a possible second season.

*walkie talkie smiley 🙂 *

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Dear Writer, You had one job.

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I saw this article posted on Korea Times and I just can’t help but write my reaction about it because it lacks proper introduction and background check on the actor’s achievements. Indeed, It’s a huge advantage that Song Joong Ki just got discharged from the army before doing The Descendants of the Sun. But even if it weren’t a post-army project, even without “the bittersweet experiences in the barracks”, I’m sure he would still nail his role anyway. He never lived during the Joseon Dynasty before he played Lee Do in Tree with Deep Roots and he certainly didn’t live in the woods like a feral animal before he played Chul Soo in A Werewolf Boy.

“One critical element missing: good acting.”

Song Joong Ki was so good in Tree With Deep Roots that he received an offer to play the role of a king again, the lead in The Moon that Embraces the Sun. But he declined. So the role went to Kim Soo Hyun instead. Kim Soo Hyun even admitted that he used Joong Ki’s young King Sejong performance as a model and inspiration for his role as Lee Hwon.

“He faced difficulty in expanding his fan base beyond young women.“ 

Song Joong Ki is an original member of Running Man, a well loved variety show that draws fans of all ages.

“Some might have assumed he would never return to the screen.”

People have been anticipating his comeback. Joong Ki left with a hit drama and a box office movie before he entered the army. Innocent Man reached 20% ratings while A Werewolf Boy surpassed Architecture 101 and was regarded as the most successful Korean melodrama of all time. So why would anyone assume that the lead in these successful projects will “never return”?

The writer should have cited at least one of Joong Ki’s previous works to justify the unnecessary acting criticism; but this article is so lazily made, it annoys me that my favorite actor is described here as someone who merely relied on his looks. Yes, he’s undeniably good looking but his acting skills and strong onscreen presence allowed him to get away from the stereotypical, alpha male, chaebol roles usually played by “flower boys”!

꽃보다 청춘 (Youth Over Flowers in Africa)

I obviously can’t get enough of the reel and real bromance among the boys of Ssangmundong. Na PD continues his variety magic as Youth Over Flowers Africa opens with his scene showing how he conspired with Reply 1988’s Shin PD to “kidnap” the boys during their reward trip. That reward trip happens to be in Phuket, Thailand where I just had my own vacation exactly one month ago! The show just had to remind me that I was at the right place at the wrong time. Oh well, I guess it’s not meant to be. 😐

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The boys of Reply 1998 Ryu Joon Yeol, Park Bo Gum, Go Kyung Pyo and Ahn Jae Hong aka Jung Hwan, Choi Taek, Sun Woo and Jung Bong went straight to Namibia.

I loved how the whole hidden camera was carefully planned and executed. Na PD went to Thailand but couldn’t go out of his room so as not to get caught. He also knows that the moment the boys see him, they’d immediately figure out that something fishy is going on. Na PD sent a PD spy to work with the Reply 1988 crew for months. Actor Kim Sung Kyun was informed about Na PD’s “small event”.  Ra Mi Ran and Kim Sun Young also became accomplices. I miss the Ssanmundong ahjummas and Madam Cheetah Ra Mi Ran is just as funny in real life as she was in the drama.

When Na PD walked in as if on cue, the boys were left with astounded reactions. The hidden camera event was a huge success! Ryu Joon Yeol was in denial and joked that it must’ve been just someone who looks like Na PD. Ahn Jae Hong was initially all concerned about the heat in Thailand but now his sweat from high temperature turned into sweat from utter shock. Then Go Kyung Pyo’s eyes just started to well up with tears. Aww, Sun Woo. Later on, he explained that only people who are “loved” by the public gets to be in this show and he feels unworthy to be in that position. Given his previous roles as well as his recent SNS issues with netizens, I can somehow understand why the whole surprise became overwhelming for him. I personally didn’t care about him that much before. He didn’t stand out in most of the dramas I’ve seen him in. Kim Ji Hoon’s charisma overpowered him and the other flower boys in Flower Boys Next Door and I was totally disappointed with his portrayal of the Korean version of Ryutaro Mine in Naeil Cantabile since that role was originally played the talented Eita.  In the film, Coin Locker Girl, he played a villain. But it only takes one good role to turn things around and I’m glad that things are now going well for Go Kyung Pyo.

Ryu Joon Yeol was completely unknown before Reply 1988. He is totally the older brother type in this trip. He has some obvious passion for travelling and his conversational English skills come in handy, but what I love more about him is that just like the rest of the world, it seems that he hasn’t gotten over the fact that Deok Sun ended up with Taek. “He took away my wife and now I have to pay for him too.”, he said jokingly when they arrived at the data plan counter in Namibia. And when he had a heart-to-heart moment with Bo Gum at the desert, he said he just can’t use the word ‘nampyeon’ yet.. Totally not over it. LOL.

Ahn Jae Hong is just like his comic relief character in Reply 1988. He made a distressed Joon Yeol post-car-rental-fail smile again by suggesting they take a groufie, then there was a hilarious bathroom exposure moment when he mistakenly changed the camera angle. He brought out the most laughs when he accidentally ripped his one and only pants. He’s also the designated chef. I wonder how his msg-sprinkled dishes taste like.

Maknae Park Bo Gum was ambushed in Seoul separately. “Omo! Omona!” He had the cutest reaction when he received the guys’ phone call from Phuket and when it finally dawned on him that he is really going to Namibia all of a sudden. Being sweet boy is not a mere image he’s portraying. With the way the other guys make fun of his constant gratefulness and how the staff reacts to him, it is apparent that Bo Gum is genuinely kind and well-mannered. He’s type who’d apologize to his kidnappers and even offer them drinks. The staff even felt bad about ambushing such a kind person. haha. I remember that time when 1N2D wanted “Choi Taek” to appear on their show. I thought,”How can a gentle kid like that survive the harsh eating and sleeping conditions in 1N2D?” Who would’ve thought that Bo Gum would actually go for something as extreme as 10 days in the desert. I just wanted to give him a hug when he missed his flight and is all teary eyed.

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I love how the hyungs took care of Bo Gum the way they took care of baby Taek. I feel like I’m watching a Reply 1988 spin-off that focuses on their bromance. My favorite scene is Yoon Jeol and Bo Gum’s heartfelt one-on-one while watching the sunrise.

Youth Over Flowers is a show that reveals the side of the actors that we’ve never seen before. Flaws and all, we get to appreciate their real life personalities and now I love the Reply 1988 boys even more.

怪盗 山猫 (The Mysterious Thief Yamaneko)

kamesato.jpgBased on the novel by Manabu Kaminaga, The Mysterious Thief Detective Yamaneko is directed by Ryuichi Inomata and written by Shogo Muto, writer of the first two Crows Zero films. That explains Yamaneko’s badassery and I was amazed at how Kamenashi Kazuya pulled it off. He is quite adorable despite being too theatrical at times.

Until now, it seems that a lot of people can’t immediately tell the difference between Kamenashi Kazuya and Sato Takeru. Their resemblance becomes more noticeable in this drama. I’m a bigger fan of the latter though.

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The drama opens with Yamaneko being captured and tortured. Then we get a time skip to present day where we see Yamaneko as a skilled thief. He loooves ramen, he’s tone deaf but insists it’s just his vibrato, he’s funny, quite eccentric, and totally hard to predict. He values the ways of a warrior as he literally carries the book, Bushido, at all times. His past still remains a mystery and it makes Kamenashi Kazuya exude darker and manlier charms here compared to his previous androgynous, cool guy shoujo roles.

Another Gokusen alum Narimiya Hiroki plays Hideo Katsumura, a reporter whose published articles caught Yamaneko’s attention. Yamaneko, however, doesn’t have any qualms about showing him their hideout and revealing his identity. Katsumura eventually ends up becoming a member of Yamaneko’s team, though the poor guy usually becomes the scapegoat who gets all beaten up on the job while Yamaneko escapes unscathed. From simple bets to dangerous operations, Katsumura always gets a string of bad luck. His toughest experience occured in the most recent episode where he infiltrated the mafia but got framed for murder. The scene when Narimiya ziplined his way to freedom and his tears just automatically fell down his face at the sight of Yamaneko proved his acting range. He’s probably one of the best supporting actors out there given his long list of films and dramas as well as the diversity of the roles he’s played.

A team of thieves isn’t complete without someone to work on data acquisition, security breach, and technical issues behind the scenes. Mao Takasugi played by Hirose Suzu is just the right person for it. She is the lead actress in Gakko no Kaidan where she starred alongside Kamiki Ryunosuke. Due to Mao’s father’s greed, she once became Yamaneko’s target. Corporations faltered and employees’ lives were lost because of her hacking skills. When Mao found out the truth about their family, Yamaneko helped her come to her senses. I love their intense confrontation scene in the first episode. I think it brought out Kame’s dramatic flair. It’s a little off-putting with the pushing and hair grabbing but it was a raw and emotional scene that made this series become something I’d look forward to.

Drama: Kaitou Tantei Yamaneko 。。 -narimiya hiroki and kamenashi kazuya are great in this, fantastic acting I must say... Other actors in here from tumbling, rich man poor woman and more 🐼 Watch watch watch!!! #kamenashikazuya #kazuyakamenashi #narimiyahiroki #hirokinarimiya #suzuhirose #hirosesuzu #kaitoutanteiyamaneko #thief #yamaneko #drama #jdrama #japanesedrama #asiandrama #dorama #asian #blackandwhite

I would’ve complimented Kaito Yamaneko so much if I wrote this immediately after watching the first episode but since I’ve already seen ’til the 6th episode, my thoughts have changed. Kame just had to do the whole dramatic preachy speech whenever they catch the culprit of a case. Just then I remembered that not only did this drama’s writer create Crows Zero, he also wrote Wakamonotachi. I guess I’d have to stop blaming Satoshi Tsumabuki now because it seems that the soap opera-ish arguments and the constant yelling are parts of the writer’s style.

On the side of comedy, I like Narimiya’s acting more than Kame’s. He’s a natural in that genre while Kame tends to exaggerate to the point that I feel like he’s almost cartoon-ish. Nanao who plays a policewoman with an obvious crush on Katsumura does some random monologues that are meant to be funny but it just doesn’t work on me since Ikuta Toma has done that many times in Hana Kimi. Hana Kimi’s female lead, Horikita Maki, who also starred in Kame’s 2005 drama had a cameo appearance in Kaito Yamaneko. The whole Nobuta wo Produce reference was awesome and I wish the show will just keep its comedy in this level: reference-filled, natural, and not overdone.

For a series with the words “mysterious” and “thief” on its title, the show sadly falls short of mystery. Fortunately, the chemistry of the leads and the bits of comedy make up for what’s lacking.

치즈인더트랩 (Cheese in the Trap Final)

I have a feeling this is going to be some sort of a rant post. Did the show really just end that way?!

I wasn’t aware of the behind-the-scenes issues going on with Cheese in The Trap until I’ve noticed that Park Hae Jin has been getting less and less screen time. I thought Yoo Jung sunbae just went a little off the radar for a while only to come back full force and steal the whole show again for a couple more episodes. I thought the Sang Cheol-notes-stealing issue would be the start of a bigger turning point but it all stopped there and just veered off course towards more exposure on Baek In Ho and Baek In Ha.

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In Ha has the potential to be the best antagonist considering how much she knows (and claims to understand) Yoo Jung. In her own crazy way, she can probably make Yoo Jung realize how much he’s scarred the people around him, but the way things wrapped up were just quite incomprehensible and too disappointing that I don’t even know what to write here anymore. Those who have read the webtoon are probably just as disappointed as Park Hae Jin. I read that some of the scenes he filmed were even edited out. I admire him all the more for handling these unfair treatment and controversies like a class act.

Cheese in the Trap started off really strongly – a highly anticipated drama with a fresh, good looking and talented cast in a slice of life romantic comedy with a touch of psychology. All the actors suited their roles and lived up to the hype. I appreciated all of them, even Lee Sung Kyung, who was initially criticized for her exaggerated performance. She was a bit annoying in the beginning but she’s beautiful and she managed to control her acting as the show progressed. In spite of her deviousness, In Ha handled her past really well and used it as means to survive and keep her luxurious lifestyle. If only more people cared for her, she is easily a redeemable character.

The show has these good actors with interesting background and story arcs that started out with Yoo Jung being a mysterious character and Hong Seol, an exact opposite of his personality who turns out to have a lot more in common with him than expected. She serves as a catalyst to unravel his unusual way of thinking and start his eventual change but instead, the focus of the story got stuck on Hong Seol being caught in a love triangle. Second lead Baek In Ho got more screen time and a proper closure. Not that I hate him. Seo Kang Joon is really attractive in this drama and Baek In Ho is badass and interesting, it’s just that I felt that the story crumbled the moment the show shifted its attention to In Ho’s journey instead of Yoo Jung’s.

I’ve been curious all this time and I’ve been anticipating the episode where we could finally get an explanation as to how Yoo Jung’s mind works and how to find a way for him to let go of his painful past, his insecurities, his pride, and all things that might have contributed for him to bottle up his feelings. He may have been strange in the way he tries to suppress his resentment, but somehow, I don’t completely blame him since he grew up being reminded that expressing himself would tarnish their precious chaebol family name.

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We were given proof of Yoo Jung’s manipulative ways but somehow were eventually justified when his side of the story revealed that he only acted upon things when they get out of hand. It’s not like he would plot revenge for trivial things. He just thought he was serving justice and honestly I enjoyed watching those annoying characters get humiliated. I feel like I’m with Hong Seol in this because while we know that what Jung’s doing is bad, we also know that those people deserve it. His confrontation with Sang Cheol is a great example. Yoo Jung gave his notes to Hong Seol and this fat lazy sunbae stole it. Yoo Jung took revenge by manipulating his job application. Then he asked, “What’s it like to lose a measly job?” That was one hell of a life lesson for Sang Cheol so why is Jung the bad guy?

I’m not glamorizing the “hot psychopath” stereotype, though. I think Yoo Jung isn’t even exactly as pyscho as the drama paints him initially. He once said he is unsure of himself and sadly the show is also unsure about what to do with this character. The resolution for Yoo Jung, which is supposed to be the drama’s main story arc, was not made clear. In the end, the writer simply decided to just send him to an internship while the other main characters are in school. Finally, he goes overseas so he could just figure things out on his own! Off screen!

I thought we’d be getting the whole “slowmo, running and finding, and stopping the love of your life from boarding the plane” fluffy Kdrama cliché but no, Hong Seol just unbelievably let Yoo Jung leave just like that. I get that he broke up with her and that she has decided to let him go but she could have at least send him off with whatever cheesy gesture to reassure him that not everything is his fault and tell him she’s waiting for him instead of stupidly staring at unread emails. Until the end, Jung was depicted as a “bad guy” who didn’t check up on her when she woke up from the accident and broke her heart immediately after she healed her physical wounds. And all these happened while Seol’s family eats noodles with the brother of the woman who pushed their daughter into a moving vehicle and possibly to her death.

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The show is from Hong Seol’s point of view so it gets quite frustrating that her voice-over in the finale is like more of a recap of the first half of the drama (mentioning Min Soo, Young Goon, and Sang Cheol) instead of how her relationship with Yoo Jung changed her life. At least Yoo Jung realized the consequences of his past actions but in Seol’s case, her life went straight back to where it was, just in a different setting. 3 years have passed and she thinks her life is as fierce and repetitive as ever, surrounded by the same annoying stereotypes. I thought the whole point was that she’s already learned how to handle these people but she seemed just as indifferent as she was before. I thought she realized and understood that Min Soo couldn’t have done what she did if only she accepted her friendship but when this nerdy coworker with glasses approached her, Hong Seol just lazily answered and shrugged off the compliment.

Jae Woo hits the jackpot and surprisingly ends up dating In Ha but we don’t really know if she really fell for her or if she’s just dating him for money. People don’t change overnight.

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And of course, there’s Baek In Ho who returned to his glory days as a pianist but hasn’t really figured out why or when Jung started to hate him. It would have been better if they shared the responsibility for that broken friendship.

I haven’t read the webtoon and I heard it’s not even finished yet. The latest news is that the PD apologized to Cheese in The Trap‘s writer,Soonki, for refusing to share the script for the second half of the series and for making an ending that’s close to what she intended to do for the webtoon. Whatever Soonki has planned, I’m sure it’s not as disappointing as the drama. This live-action adaptation is an utter disappoint since it had an amazing start but eventually, it simply ended with a female lead who experienced a challenging and life-altering relationship only to go back to who she was in the beginning; and a male lead who has just started opening himself up and yet decided to just do the whole personality development away from people whom he’s supposed to learn to coexist with.