Xiao Qing is an exchange student in the US. The daughter of a heroic prosecutor back home, she takes extreme pride in her father’s work. Her dad is an incorruptible arbiter of justice, and Xiao Qing lives her life with the same principles.
Shu Che is Xiao Qing’s classmate. Unlike Xiao Qing's father, Shu Che’s dad is a little less pure. As a government official, Shu Che’s dad has taken part in quite a few shady deals. With these deals, he has opened many doors for his son. But Shu Che doesn’t want any part of that.
When Xiao Qing and Shu Che meet, they fall in love. But when their fathers clash in a legal battle, the lovers’ relationship is forever changed. As they struggle between their duty and their love, the two realize that they can never again be the way they once were.
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1) If you are a Tiffany Tang/Luo Jin enthusiast, you should note that although Tiffany Tang is listed as the lead role, Director Liu Jiang stated in several interviews that this is NOT a show with a clear female lead, and this is not one of those romances where two female leads fight over some guy. It is also not a show with romance as its key.
2) I've seen people comparing the title of this show to the Taiwanese show "The Way We Were" and the classic film "The Way We Were." Both of these comparisons are wrong, because the show's title is lost in translation. Its Chinese title is a line in a classical poem by Tao Yuanming. The poem talks about the poet's own experience as a government official, and all the corruption and nepotism he witnessed that ended up angering him and leaving him to give up his title and "return" home -- which is the true meaning of this show's title, and the concept this show is based upon.
"To get out of this and go back home! [This line here is the show's title.]
My fields and garden will be overgrown with weeds--I must go back. [Because corruption rots you from the inside.]
It was my own doing that made my mind my body's slave
Why should I go on in melancholy and lonely grief?
I realize that there's no remedying the past
But I know that there's hope in the future.
After all I have not gone far on the wrong road
And I am aware that what I do today is right, yesterday wrong."
Now that I've got that out of the way, let's get on with the review.
The Acting: All right, so, I have never been a fan of Luo Jin or Tiffany Tang (that's not to say I don't like them, I'm just ambivalent and don't go out of my way to watch their shows) and to be honest, I was not floored by their acting in here. On the contrary, I was pleasantly surprised by the acting of Female 2. I think her name is Amelie Xu... a quick search on Baidu tells me that she's a newbie in the ent. circle, this might be her first major TV role. Extremely impressive, imo. In fact, I think it would have been better to name this girl as the female lead, but obviously for marketing reasons they wouldn't have since as a newbie, she wouldn't bring in ratings. The actors of the parental units are all very well-known "old" actors with impressive careers -- I wish I had seen more of them, especially the two corrupt fathers. It would've made the show more bearable for me. Another actor that surprised me was that of Shu Che's father's mistress. Also, obligatory: The English in here sucks. I know it's not their native language, but you'd think these actors would've put more effort into comprehensible English pronunciation considering they're acting as graduate students who are good enough to get into fake-Stanford University. There's a difference between speaking English with an extreme accent and just vocalizing the sounds of English cus you have no idea wtf you're saying and you're just bs'ing your way through your lines.
The Story: It's hard for me to review the story without going into specifics that may or may not be considered spoilers, so I'll just say that the concept of this story could have, and should have, been great. (If I took a shot for every time I thought this about a cdrama, I'd be dead, honestly.) I thought the title was clever, and it even amazed me that they drew from a classical Chinese poem lol. You don't get a lot of cdramas these days where the creators put *that* much thought behind their stories. I could even have handled the extremely slow pace, if only it had used the slow pacing to flesh out important things that contributed to the story somehow. Think about it, this could have been a really deep show using Tao Yuanming's poem as its linchpin, discussing the issues of nepotism and corruption by those in power. I actually think the writers and the director genuinely tried, otherwise they would not have included the poem in the first place, but for lack of skill or whatever reason, they didn't succeed. Ultimately, this is (or rather, is supposed to be) a story about morality and ethics.
Should you watch this?: Listen, if you're a *die-hard* fan of Tiffany or Luo Jin, or both of them, as I am assuming the vast majority of those who have this show on their list are, skim for their scenes. If you're the average c-drama viewer, I'd suggest not wasting your time. Unless you're like me and like to drown in the sorrows of lost potential. However, I do recommend watching Female Lead 2. I see great things in her future and I hope better scripts are coming her way, given the positive attitude Chinese netizens have towards her acting in this show.
The synopsis is highly, highly misleading.
The way the actual story goes is like...
A couple of episodes to set the stage for the story...
Skip all the way until like episode 20 something to continue the story...
Then after watching a few episodes, you can go ahead and skip some more.
About when you reach 40-ish that's when the story really picks up again.
The way the synopsis depicts this show is more like... the stuff after episode 40-ish is where the story begins.
Now to comment on how the actual story is... well, there's so much filler content that is simply just skippable and irrelevant.
Although I do have some qualms with how much this took from the show, I liked how they depicted two people deeply in love, the situation which tore them apart, and ultimately the way they found each other as confidants rather than never seeing each other again or forcing them back together somehow. This section of the story took about like 40 episodes.
The last 10 episodes contained the love story that everyone was actually looking for when they saw the main cast. I think... It's done interestingly. I can't deny I felt more feels during the last 10 episodes than the preceding 40 episodes.
The side characters Cheng Ran and Green Card's (Lu Ka) story... is really, just, really... questionable. It was kind of like... yeah... I don't really know what to say other than I didn't enjoy this aspect of the show at all.
The two main actors that everyone was looking forward to Tang Yan and Luo Jin performed very well! I liked them a lot. Although they were the two main characters, their romance was definitely not a main plot point in the show until much, much later. I feel like despite this, their acting in their respective roles and their somewhat exclusive story lines during the first 40 episodes was really great.
I really loved the two villains in the show. Their showing was really good. I don't have much to say besides this. I liked their performances.
I initially disliked Xu Lingyue's character but she grew on me later throughout the show. Her acting was pretty good, but at times, it felt a tad awkward.
Yu Jiwei was also a character I disliked a lot for the weakness of the character... but in reality, this character was one of the strongest characters. This character embodies the strongest, purest form of love and self-sacrifice. I really enjoyed the way he acted out the stories. Brought a couple tears to my eyes.
The other characters... are not so important to me.
However, I must say that this show seemed to cast quite stiff American actors... It may have just been the best they could get for this show which is primarily Chinese but set in America.
One big qualm I had was the classic portrayal of like Japanese being heartless and evil. Another big qualm was their depiction of an extremely ignorant and vulgar African American... I don't know what these castings were meant to do other than to fan the flames of stereotypes... I don't know why... But... They did it.
Most of the music from the show is not very memorable. Yes, they have the background music which helps queue certain emotions like sadness, happiness, playfulness, etc. But those are largely subconsciously felt songs, rather than songs one would go off to listen to later.
The opening theme song was really bad and unfitting. Same with the opening video. Just bad.
What was memorable for me was the two renditions this show had of its song "Say Something" (pinyin: kai kou = open mouth). The first version was sung by Zheng Xingqi (female) and the second version was sung by Pin Guan (male). These were quite memorable for me. I actually went and downloaded the both of them the moment I heard them.
The ending theme song didn't really click with me until about episode 49. A little too late I'd say...
I do not believe this has rewatch value really. Besides some really good lines in episode 13 on love and then a few more in later episodes, all spoken by Ning Ming, I think there's nothing much to rewatch.
I think my rating of 7.5/10 is a bit high, actually. But I liked the show minus the fillers. I can attest that I did a lot of skipping. A lot, a lot of skipping. You don't miss much.
I'd say... give it a shot, feel free to skip around.
The ending was quite nice although questionable!