Friday, April 19, 2013

TwDrama Review: Summer's Desire (2010)

Summer’s Desire


Summer’s Desire is pure crack. A guilty pleasure like no other – a shameless soap opera chock full of birth secrets, back stories, long flashbacks, hideous characters, dangerously dramatic scenes, and a whole lot of romance mixed with revenge, and revenge mixed with romance.

It’s a classic love triangle. What else? Boy loves girl, girl likes guy, new guy likes girl, girl loves new guy? Uhm, it’s kind of confusing, but for sure I know one thing. Both male leads are and always have been head over heels for Yin Xia Mo, played by the gorgeous Barbie Tsu. Peter Ho plays the rich young master Ou Chen, heir to a fortune, and hopelessly jealous and possessive of the girl he met and loved as a child. Huang Xiao Ming is Luo Xi, a briefly adopted son in Xia Mo’s family, now a top movie star and heartthrob to a generation.

More than that, however, viewers cannot be sure of. Summer’s Desire is captivating in its buildup, and sizzling in its prime. Why did Luo Xi leave Taiwan all those years ago before he became famous, and why is Ou Chen already suffering from amnesia – no secret as of the first episode. What’s more, he can’t even remember the girl he loved and lost (?) all those years ago, or why. Will he recover his memories first to recover his most prized possession, and will it be in time, before Luo Xi’s own feelings reawaken? Hey, it’s a Taiwanese drama. That’s anyone’s guess!

Hang on there.  I'm not sure whether I like you or love you anymore...
Just let me think about this for a few more episodes. 

Read more for the rest of my mostly Non-Spoilery review!

Actors Being Actors

There are several aspects to this drama’s plot that I think are worth taking a separate look at. The first is Xia Mo’s own story as set aside from the love triangle. For whatever reason, she wants to become a singer/actress and once given the opportunity, she runs for it! Her career as a newbie celeb takes us through some of the most traumatic scenes I’ve ever witnessed (and completely enjoyed!) in a drama. Because does a soap-opera drama need more? A whole slew of bitch-slapping, back-stabbing actresses abusing our lead girl! You know, all those behind-the-scenes stuff that the media never catches, that we all hope aren’t real but know must exist in some form. It makes me shudder, even on the small screen where we know it’s being over-hyped for the purpose of emotionally accosting the viewer, but somehow knowing that doesn’t necessarily make it easier to watch. 

I'll teach that b**** to slap me in front of the
cameras again... You. Just. Wait. 
Not that not every female relationship portrayed in Summer’s Desire was of the murderous type. Surprisingly there are genuine friendships made and kept throughout, and this made for some nice consolation – even if it did get a bit cheesy at times.

Watching Barbie Tsu though, as actress Xia Mo, was also rather interesting. For most of the drama Barbie keeps a stern, almost expressionless face in keeping with Xia Mo’s reserved and consistently stoic attitude. And yet when it’s Xia Mo’s turn to act she really does light up the screen with whatever emotion is required. Almost as if she puts more into her character’s characters than to her own – a strange configuration for a drama. 

Hot Romance 

Everything Kdramas cut out, meaning – the sizzle. I think it all went to Taiwan for this production. Holy smokes were there some hot make-out scenes in this drama! And not the pretty ones where people’s heads are always in the most attractive angle – we’re talking noise-bruising kisses, though not always well-received.
Exhibit A

Sadly, most of the time our heroes try too hard to 'possess' the girl of their dreams, without properly showing her any tender love and care, as Luo Xi tries to demonstrate (above).  As a female, I rarely enjoy storylines where men are constantly testing the waters of how far they can go with a woman. But in the case of Summer’s Desire, you almost can’t blame the guys for forcibly testing their boundaries. Xia Mo seems unable to give straight answers, either to them or to herself. 

Luo Xi: "Why didn't you hit me? Isn't it the norm for girls who've been forcibly kissed to slap the guy?"  
Xia Mo: "I didn't want to hurt my hand." (ep. 8) 

Because, then there is:

Exhibit B

Which expression is the genuine one?? Same couple, two entirely different scenes.

Mystery Within the Love Triangle?

I often pride myself for always being able to tell just where a story is going.  Of course, if we're talking about typical Kdrama-esque love triangles, it's not about pride or even knowledge. It's always dead obvious which guy the girl will end up with.  Not so with this drama (unless I'm just completely blind... and that's always possible too).

Truth is, everyone's stories were just so much more complicated than they originally appeared.  Maybe you'll figure out how it's going to end, but getting there... phew! What a rollercoaster.
"In life there are more important things than romance." (ep 19)
Really? I don't believe you.  I'm watching a melodrama, dear, and you're the starring role.  I absolutely believe you care about romance. Just, with who?!? Do explain yourself!

I can't decide! Both of them have the hair and personality of
a cactus!  The sex appeal is too overwhelming!

Too Many Heroines?

If I have any problem with this show, it's actually all to do with Barbie Tsu's character Xia Mo.  I'm not even sure how much is the actress's fault, whether Xia Mo was just too layered to be properly portrayed, or if the writers were too bipolar when they scripted her role.  From meek career woman, to bold and fiery singer/actress, to sweet and loving sister, to the cold lover - Xia Mo seems built from the scraps of a million different characters, all meshed into one.  Complicating the matter too is her role as an actress in the drama itself.  Maybe it's part of the mystery, but when even the men suspect she is 'acting' a part, how on earth are the viewers supposed to know what's going on in her head?  Throw in her backstory as the prized girlfriend of a rich boy, and I'm just never sure which environment Xia Mo is most suited for.

I forgot... Was I going to be a singer, an actress, or a gardener??


Summer's Desire is still a tad bit too long, and features few too many random story arcs for my liking. I didn't have to fast forward through too many episodes, but I did learn how to multitask using Pinterest for a few eps near the end.  I've a mind to overlook those faults though.  It's easy to do when the show features so many charismatic actors (in the male department) that while I couldn't technically love everybody and their deeply selfish motivations - I didn't dislike a single person. Shocker! I also spent a lot of time thinking how much I was going to hate the ending. Not so this time. It's not perfect, but at least it showed some concern for loose ends. Audience appeasement without totally screwing over the feel of the drama. I was satisfied.


  1. You had me at hello on this one ;) I'm so watching it next.

    1. Hahaha.. Well, I hope it's enjoyable for you. :D

  2. Ah, this drama. It really was like crack. A horrible, melodramatic crack that left you wondering just what was what. I must say that I read the novel-in-translation that some kind soul was nice enough to undertake and post. That actually made the drama more understandable than what was actually presented to us, which is frustrating on a different level.

    I had never seen Peter Ho in such a role and I'd never seen Huang Xiao Min before either. So seeing Peter Ho acting the evil heir with a heart of gold underneath the jealousy, rage and amnesia was new and interesting and he did a good job. As did the second male lead who was all tormented and angsty and very playful - a good foil to the consistently angry Ou Chen.

    And Barbie Hsu...wowza. Her emotionless doll portrayal of Xia Mo was deadpan. And you'd think that would turn me off, but those moments of genuine (or acting) emotions really shined in comparison.

    1. Ahh, now that you mention it, I do remember hearing something about there being a novel. Maybe I will check it out sometime. xD

      Both of the actors were totally new for me, so I had no idea what to expect from either of them. All I know is that they both just nailed their roles. I jumped ships waaay too often throughout the course of this drama. Proof that even with the deadpan Xia Mo, her chemistry with Both men was off the charts.

      You're right though - normally I'd be really frustrated with such acting from a female actress, but it more just mystified me than annoyed me. Stone cold and emotionless is sometimes more intriguing to watch than a character who constantly overacts, because then you never know what's going to happen, or what she's thinking, and you're always waiting for her to show soooooome hint of her true self. It keeps you properly interested, which is probably why I gave this a higher score than I normally would for melo of this caliber. :)

  3. I just finished watching Summer's Desire today. To be honest, I agree on most of what you said. It was a bit too much, too exaggerated perhaps but it was addicting. i've never seen Peter Ho and Huang Xiao Min before so I don't know what to expect. but Barbie Xu was a familiar face to me. i've been watching her since Meteor Garden 13 years ago.

    Her performance in this drama was exceptional. I've always saw here as someone who reacts so much especially her roles was usually the fierce and full of emotion lead. But I've seen her play victim before. But this role in SD gave me another face of Barbie. How someone could keep a cold stern face but show another emotion in her eyes was beyond my comprehension. Her face matured as well, I really think she gained weight there. Her dialogue, her emotions, her acting was very mature. Even her singing voice was mature. Having listened to her past albums, her rendition of Diamonds, the song that Xiamo's mothere sang, was amazing! Full of emotions and the quality was simply impeccable. Although, this gave me a hard time to warm to her character. Objectively, Barbie was a great actress, proven by her excellent performance in this series. But subjectively, I would have preferred it better if Xiamo was more relatable character.

    I really want to buy that novel. I think it was a manga-ish book before the drama. Ming Xiaoxi was the author, jsyk. :) great review btw.

    1. Barbie was stunning in this role. She had me completely freaked out wondering what was going on in her head. If only the role had been better overall.. Shame

  4. Hi i just found your blog and I am going to watch this drama, i just finished Inborn Pair, it's a long ass T-drama so i skipped a lot of repetitive scenes, but nevertheless I enjoy it. I like the songs in Inborn Pair.

    I am starting ep 1 of Summer's Desire and OMFG i know the opening song, it's by Peter Ho. I hope this will catch my attention.

    1. Ooh enjoy! I may rip this drama to shreds on a critical level, but when it's not being repetitive and occasionally boring (a staple trait to most Twdramas I think) it's rather enjoyable!

      I've never heard of Inborn Pair. Maybe I'll go check it out next :)

    2. OMG!! Summer's Desire is so good, i love the romance it. I don't know who to ship with anymore, Xia Mo and Ou Chen or Xia Mo and Luo Xi. Seriously, like you said, it's hard to predict wht Xia Mo is thinking. And I feel really bad for ou Chen now, he's super nice to her. I am mad at Xia Mo for saying she's never fallen in love with Ou Chen.

      For Inborn Pair, I quite like it in the beginning, but i haven't finished last ep yet, it gets boring now. :)

    3. I seriously don't know how come Xia Mo never express her sincere love for Luo Xi.
      She said she never loved Ou Chen so her interactions with him is solely based on her father's job?
      I want Xia Mo to be kind with Ou Chen, he's so pitiful.
      Well, Luo Xi has a painful past but I m more on Xia Mo and Ou Chen.

    4. I am sorry for ranging at you, but i must say i am glad i found your blog and started watching this amazing and awesome drama. I technically finished watching in 3 days. I agree with you so much on what you said, all 3 of the leads portray their characters so well. At first, i didn't know Xia mo didn't love Ou Chen at all, and yet she fell for Luo Xi., i was actually rooting for Luo Xi and XIa Mo after watching 2 or 3 eps, but no man, i can see Ou Chen undying love for Xia Mo, his character is perfection, i can ignore his flaws.

      Ou Chen is really obsessive and selfless when it comes to Xiamo. he's willing to give up everything for her. (I would be happy if there's someone who love me half of Ou Chen character, well,..we are talking about drama here, hello, wake up XD)

      After like 13 eps, i started hating on Luo Xi, his love is not love anymore but mere jealousy and hatred to get revenge on Ou Chen, Xia Mo was really Ou Chen girlfriend to begin with.

      I cried my eyes out in the last ep where Ou Chen left the letter for Xia Mo, that's the only scene i cried for the whole 24 eps. I really satisfy with the ending.

      I am going to be really mad if Xia Mo didn't really fall in love with Ou Chen coz he's really ready to give up everything for her. It would huv been better if Ou CHen and Xia Mo have more lovey dovey scenes, seriously though, LuoXi kissed XIaMo more than 3 times yet XiaMo won't kiss Ou Chen until the last ep. I hate writer for doing that.

      Regardless, i found this really sad, emotional, and heavy melodrama. thanks to this, i am really lost in their characters and roller coaster ride throughout the drama. Thank god, it's summer so nth affect to my study.

      I think Summer's Desire will be my fav T-Drama along with Autumn's Concerto.