Review: Bottled Passion (by Funn)
Bottled Passion <我的如意狼君>
Producer: Lee Tim Shing
Genre: Pre-Modern Drama
Number of episodes: 21
Cast of Characters
Raymond Wong – Tung Boon Sin/Lee Ho
Eric Li – Lo Yat
Mok Wai Man – Uncle Sek
Yoyo Chen – Chan Yuk Fong
Unknown – Sophie (the secretary)
Ching Hor Wai – Lau Suet Ling/Mrs Tsui
Raymond Cho – Tsui Ping
Claire Yiu – Wan Yau
Niki Chow – Tsui Sum
Vin Choi – Tsui Onn
Lee Sing Chueng – Hui Chun Ting
Cecilia Fong – Tam Mei Yan
Chan Jin Man – Hui Man Hon
Samuel Kwok – Ko Siu Tong
Rebecca Chan – Tung Kwok Hing
Joel Chan – Ko Yi Tai
Traci Ip – Foo Bak Wai
Jack Wu – Yuen Yau Hin
Elaine Yiu – Ko Yi Kiu
Katy Kung – Ko Yi Nga
“A good and trusted formula should never be dismissed as same old, same old. As long as it is a good story well told, why not?”
SPOILERS! SPOILERS! SPOILERS!
The Title Deciphered
I get what Bottled Passion means even though the only kiss that the two main leads have in the end is a very chaste and bland one. However, the Chinese title is as if this series is a very lighthearted one. “Ngo D Yu Yi Long Guan.” Ordinarily, it means “My Ideal Husband” to be very simplistic although you can say lover, but lover seems a bit too immoral in the context but the “long” in here is that of a wolf so it kind of means “My Ideal Wolf-Husband,” which denotes a very sinister character, wolf usually denoting someone who lies. What I don’t get is this is a serious drama, never a funny moment and yet the title is way too lighthearted. For me one of the worst title.
The Poster Deciphered
It’s a lovely poster. Color is nice; cute. So dreamy, so romantic, so romance like… yes yes BUT FOR THE WRONG SERIES!! Never had I seen a more WRONG misleading poster than for this series. At least not a bunch of heads crowding the poster or a bunch of them holding flowers smiling happily. That would be absolutely wrong.
From Wikipedia at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bottled_Passion
Mrs. Ko, Tung Kwok Hing (Rebecca Chan) adopted an orphan and claimed he was Ko Yi Ho (Raymond Wong), the illegitimate child that her husband Ko Siu Tong (Samuel Kwok) had been searching for many years. Tong believed Ho was more suitable than his oldest son Ko Yi Tai (Joel Chan) to be his successor, which later led to discontent. Eventually Ho was kicked out of the family, leaving him homeless. Living out alone, Ho got a taste of the bitterness in life and was determined to return home and take revenge on his adopted family under a different name Tung Bun Sin. Under his new identity, he vowed to give them a taste of losing their loved ones. Meanwhile, he meets his childhood best friend Tsui Sum (Niki Chow) again. The good-hearted Sum just took over the family soy sauce business, but Ho did not hesitate to take advantage of his long time friendship with Sum, deceiving her money and heart. Ho also plays Ko Family’s two daughters, Ko Yee Kiu (Elaine Yiu) and Ko Yee Nga (Katy Kung) in unscrupulous ways. Ho has his own mechanism and plots, which turns him into the biggest love cheater…
The summary at Wikipedia is wrong. First there is no such word as cheater. It is cheat but that is English.
The summary itself is quite simply Mrs. Ko brought home an orphan named Lee Ho claiming him to be the long lost illegitimate son of the very rich Mr. Ko, in order to please him. She didn’t expect Mr. Ho to like the boy so much and preferred him over her own son, Yi Tai that one day she exposed the boy as a liar pretending to be the long lost son. The 8-year-old Lee Ho was cast out after being beaten, kicked and insulted. He came back and overheard how it was Mrs. Ko who arranged the adoption and decided to expose him to protect Yi Tai’s share of the inheritance. She saw Lee Ho and chased after him and ended up throwing him into the back of the cliff and he fell into the river. Some 20 years later or so, Lee Ho came back as an adult with the adopted identity of a rich privileged man named Tung Boon Sin to exact his revenge. With that, he needed to gain the trust of the Ko family by befriending them and then betraying Tsui Sum, the young owner of the local soy sauce company whose land is the one Mr. Ko desired to build his silk textile factory. What he didn’t expect was he was more involved emotionally with Tsui Sum whom he was slowly falling for as he plotted his revenge against Mrs. Ko by using her two daughters’ affections for him, whilst at the same time he searched for his childhood friend and love, Milk Candy Girl, whom he befriended at the orphanage.
I posted some ramblings under a specific Bottled Passion post here at http://www.point2e.com/2011/12/bottled-passion-tvb2011o.html which contains some spoiler but of course not as much as this review.
What To Expect
I rarely put the producer’s name in my review, in part because I don’t care, but I decided to put Lee Tim Shing’s name because his name will reveal several things about this series:
1. It is a family drama/conflict minus the handclapping and Har Yu’s incessant laughs and no Moses Chan (that is Mui Siu Ching’s forte).
2. It is always serious drama with a bit of lighthearted moments so that you won’t get too stressed watching it.
3. The main protagonist is always the one with struggling family business who has to battle other people to make sure family stays afloat.
4. Reminiscent of any Jin Yong series, expect a lot of people in one particular expose scene that is bound to be explosive minus the bombs.
5. A rather romantic chaste love affair between the two main characters who will almost always be parted longer than they’re together. Some may feel even though the brief reunion is nonetheless a happy one, in the end the way to the relationship is too difficult, too brief and frankly almost always childless. In that regards, Safe Guards is the happiest of his produced series but to me No Regrets was most romantic.
What Not to Expect
1. Wayne Lai. He is not in here.
2. The main protagonist and story are neither struggles to keep the family afloat nor a woman’s struggle against injustice and fighting the Japanese. It is a man’s plan for revenge and his search for his one true love.
3. It is 21 episodes but in my book, this series ended at episode 20. Episode 21 was in Chinese speak “Tor yu,” meaning waste of film. I shall explain more but beware of spoilers.
I am glad I avoided all spoilers for this series since I suspected a certain ending, which would be tragic. Although, I expected at the end, a happy childless reunion. In that regards, I was wrong and so be prepared, this is not a happy ending. For me, however the unhappy ending is not the supposed tragic end of a main character, but rather how the writer chose to end that life.
Can I just reveal the spoiler? Because I can’t write this review without discussing the last episode and I can’t discuss the last episode without revealing who the heck died. So if you want spoilers free, best avoid this review from this moment onwards.
Tung Boon Sin dies in the end. That is supposed to be tragic, only if how he died is well written but it isn’t. To me the most tragic thing about the ending is how ridiculous it was. Imagine: for 20 episodes, 20 glorious exciting episodes, this series can do no wrong. It was engaging, it stopped at that right moment that made me go, “DAMN IT!! Have to wait tomorrow!” I was excited for the next episode, the next, and another. Some characters ended brilliantly; some you knew could have been better. Twenty amazing episodes and then came episode 21. That ruined it all. So in order to enjoy this series, ignore episode 21. It does not exist. It has been sucked into the black hole of “That Episode Did Not Exist” portal. Just pretend episode 20 is the ending. Done. Period. And then you will wanna know why the heck it ended the way it did? I think I know why, but before I reach that point, can I just write something positive about this series. Let me start by explaining why I even watched it in the first place.
I had nothing to watch except for Ghetto Justice, but this series came before Ghetto Justice. I am neither a fan of Raymond Wong nor Niki Chow and the title deceived me into thinking this is a light hearted romance story. The poster didn’t help, but I knew it was a Lee Tim Shing’s production and frankly like his production, so I switched on.
Episode 1 was engaging, but I was hooked from episode 2 onwards. I like the story of an anti hero and everything pointed towards that with regards to Tung Boon Sin. I was curious who Milk Candy Girl was, although I should have known better. I suppose what engaged me was the story of Yoyo Chen’s pitiful character and what Tung Boon Sin had to do with her tragic end. Some parts are told in flashbacks, neither lingering nor repetitive and this being a typical Lee Tim Shing story, you’ll get the bottom of things within no time. I absolutely enjoyed the first few episodes that I decided to catch this series as it is broadcast, becoming more and more immersed into the web of lies concocted by Tung Boon Sin and his treatment towards the many women in this series. I am pretty sure viewers will be shocked at what he went through as a child and will generally agree Tung Kwok Hing is the ultimate villain in this series. I am also pretty sure viewers will agree that the seduction scenes between Tung Boon Sin and Ko Yi Kiu is pretty seductive except if you’re not a Raymond Wong fan you will feel there is nothing sexy at what you will see, like myself. One particular scene which was rather memorable was Ko Yi Nga on a swing, swinging herself towards a squatting Tung Boon Sin, as she grabbed him and he pushed her away, grabbed him and he pushed her away and finally she fell on top of him. Again the problem will be if you feel nothing for the actors, that scene would be seductive but not sexy.
And this is one series that tries very hard to make such seduction scenes sexy. The music for one; every time Ko Yi Kiu appears with Tung Boon Sin, it is that music that connotes a seduction scene. Every single time. Whether it is actually sexy or not is entirely up to you as the viewer. For me, I find it not that sexy. I am never a fan of TVB kissing scenes and here, there is one supposedly passionate kissing scene between Raymond and Elaine and frankly I thought a CPR scene is sexier. But still kudos to the “foreplay” leading up to that scene, how he looked at her, how she looked at him, how he talked to her, put on the flat shoes for her, touching her feet, etc. He is seducing her, she is trying hard not to be seduced. For Ko Yi Nga, it is her doing the seducing, he pretending not to be seduced.
As for Tsui Sum, that is typical Lee Tim Shing love story; entirely chaste and yet something deeply romantic. They’re mostly apart, standing apart, talking apart, sitting apart and yet there is intimacy in their relationship, a lot of teary eyed stares and in the end culminating in deep embraces and still look chaste. I would say in a typical Lee Tim Shing love story, what is profound is the respect and love between the main couple; kissing, embraces, etc rarely happens because the intimacy comes from the fact that they genuinely love one another. It is what I consider the purest form of love between 2 unrelated people, and none more so than for in the series of No Regrets. The union is always brief, the reunion in this series however is even more short-lived than I expected, and I do believe the ending is of course to illustrate the nature of the character of Tung Boon Sin; he mysteriously appeared in Tsui Sum’s life and in the end he mysteriously disappeared from her life. Doesn’t mean I like it that way though. I was hoping for fewer metaphors. Why does love need to have metaphors anyway? Just bloody give them a happy ending, instead of the metaphors of this life, next life, the life after. At least this isn’t some Korean drama series where dying is as happy as living. No suicide here for the lead characters (well maybe you can consider it suicide but I let you decide), we have very strong female and male characters in here and credit to Lee Tim Shing, his female characters are often stronger than they look and this is what I like about Bottled Passion. For all the betrayal that Tung Boon Sin has chosen to unleash upon Tsui Sum, and she was depressed, she doubted, she questioned, she wondered, but in the end she still sees things with a clear mind and never once did she consider jumping into the river to end it all. She was pushed down, she stood back up again, she got cheated of her land, she found another, her company went bust, she created another, she was cheated of her love and her heart was stolen, she chose to find out what made him do what he did although she disliked him at first, never really hated him. She loved more than she cared to hate and generally she is a strong character that does not wallow in self pity for too long. Even if in this series she plays second fiddle to the main guy that is Tung Boon Sin, her character nevertheless is pivotal in all his later decisions and to her credit, the questions she demanded an answer for are legitimate ones and later she learned to trust her gut instinct and thereon she never once asked him any questions she knew he wouldn’t answer or that she knew he would later give her an adequate answer. You can say she is naive, she is trusting but I feel her entire family is naive, her entire family is trusting but Tsui Sum is above that in the sense she chose to trust Tung Boon Sin and let him do whatever he needs to do when thereafter he will return to her. There is a promise between them two and she waited for him to fulfill his promise. In that sense this is one very romantic pair, a very old fashioned love story created at first by deceit and in the end liberated by the truth; he told her who he was, he told her what he was doing, for the rest he didn’t tell her, she simply told him she will wait for him. Maybe I am old fashioned, but I really find them to be terribly old fashioned romantic.
The other characters are memorable as well and I do appreciate that every character in here however small a role plays a significant part that has some meaning in it.
I always have a soft spot for Raymond Cho but I always dislike the weak elder brother character that depends on his sister for survival and saddled by a very demanding noisy bitchy wife. It appears so for the first few episodes but luckily it didn’t go that way. Tsui Ping is a weak man, and he knows it and he highly respects his much smarter younger sister who basically is the head of the family. However there was no jealousy, although pushed by the wife to gain control of the business, the best thing is Tsui Sum doesn’t actually usurp the brother’s position in the family. She remains respectful to him and to her sister in law and as the series progresses, you will see Wan Yau the sister in law isn’t so bad after all. She is that sort that isn’t very educated, sees things in a straightforward way and when it comes to crunch time, she stands by the family, no matter what. Tsui Ping never wavers from his loyalty to his family and he really loves his sister; he treasures her, protects her as best as he could and displayed such brotherly affection for her despite his cowardice in the beginning that in the end you will like Tsui Ping very much. The youngest, which is Tsui Onn is also a nice young man, who was tricked into owing massive amount of money and is involved in Tsui Sum selling the soy sauce factory land to Tung Boon Sin, already a shareholder at that time which ultimately led to Tsui Sum’s heartbreak when he betrayed her by reselling the land to the Ko family and then disappearing. However again Tsui Onn in the worst of time displayed a certain integrity in character; he owned up to what he did to his family, he found a job, he supported the family for a certain period of time. Basically the Tsui family consists of good decent hardworking people and the family trusts one another, protects one another, loves one another.
Contrast that with the Ko family. Everybody scheming against everybody, primarily the mother Tung Kwok Hing against everyone, even her own daughters. From what was shown, Tung Kwok Hing was from a rich influential family who married Ko Siu Tong presumably of lower birth and with her money and his ability he founded his company and built his fortune. Tung Kwok Hing wants to appear as the supportive wife, so she appeared encouraging towards the husband’s endeavour, including searching for the long lost illegitimate son. But the truth is she will do everything in her power to secure her son’s position. She doesn’t seem to care much for her daughters; they were her pawns in gaining the favour and fortune of her husband. Ko Yi Tai was her primary concern; I assume since he is the only son. One very realistic scene or several realistic scenes involved Ko Yi Tai pushing the more able sister, Ko Yi Kiu to marry her fiance, the sickly Man Hon who was the only son of the police commissioner in town, I think. Anyway very powerful connection there. It is realistic because he would always remind her that being a daughter, she will have no lasting hold on the father’s company since daughters are to be married off. How unfair for Kiu since frankly she is the one running the company for a few years, she is more able than her brother whose only advantage is he is a son. I sort of pitied her; no matter what she does, however well she does, in the end she has no share in the fortune and is doomed to marry a sickly man and probably doomed to a lifetime of widowhood. So in her heart she knows her position and she also knows her mother will make sure of that. Between them two, there is no sincerity in their relationship. Same with Ko Yi Nga who appears to be the baby of the family, everyone dotes on her but in the end it was like a forced sort of relationship. The family is unraveling anyway, from the strict control of the mother, the unfairness of everything so Tung Boon Sin’s appearance is not the reason the family fell apart but you can say he is the cause of it. I find the Ko family fake; fake in appearance, fake in so called professed love and respect for one another. As opposed to the Tsui family who sticks together, the Ko family falls apart at the slightest drama although Tung Kwok Hing tried her best to keep the family together. She just doesn’t realise she is the reason the family was falling apart. A control freak. The only redeeming factor in the Ko family was Dr Yuen Yau Hin, the illegitimate son who valued his relationship with his father above all. Frankly Mr Ko does not deserve such a good son.
Another more family than the Ko family consisted of 3 people who are not related to one another; that are Uncle Sek who saved Lee Ho’s life and gave him a new identity that is Tung Boon Sin, Tung Boon Sin himself and the younger man he saved many years ago and became his loyal friend, Lo Yat. These 3 stuck together at the worst of time; one helping the other and for me I was very moved by Lo Yat’s loyalty to Boon Sin and Boon Sin’s care for Lo Yat. I find these 2, even if including Uncle Sek to be more genuine as a family than the entire Ko family.
This series illustrates sometimes being related need not mean closeness and sometimes being unrelated can still forge a tie closer than that of blood ties. Maybe I am sentimental but I am moved by the relationship between Tsui Ping and Tsui Sum and Boon Sin and Lo Yat.
But let’s not move away from the primary romantic love story that is Boon Sin and Tsui Sum. Like I said, I should have known from episode 1 Tsui Sum is the Milk Candy Girl. I knew that about quarter of the series because this series doesn’t seem to want to suggest a 2nd unknown female character. I wished it had. It would have made it more difficult for Boon Sin, to choose between his real love that is Tsui Sum and his long lost love, Milk Candy Girl. But the aim of the series is not a choice between 2 loves but rather a choice between persisting with revenge and giving up. At times I was imploring Boon Sin to give up on revenge; no better revenge than to live a happier life than your enemy and there is Tsui Sum, the ideal of happiness. But I also understand his need for revenge; after all that despicable Mrs Ko did throw an 8 year old defenceless boy into the ravine, nearly drowned him as well. But as I remember, he probably only stayed there for couple of months, so it was just a couple of months of deceit compared to a lifetime of happiness; so why persist on revenge? As this series explains, in the end he persisted because to save Tsui Sum; if he doesn’t destroy his enemy, his enemy will use his beloved to destroy him. And the one enemy he wants to destroy is Mrs Ko. To get to Mrs Ko he needs to use her 2 daughters; between them two, I consider Yi Kiu the innocent one even though when she was a kid she also hit poor Boon Sin.
Ko Yi Kiu is a rather interesting and somewhat complex character. She epitomizes the idea that she can’t love enough, she can’t hate enough but in a more negative way than Tsui Sum. Boon Sin is quite a bastard when it comes to Yi Kiu; he made her fall in love with him, even when she was very reserved about that, knowing that she will have to throw her future away if she chooses to be with Boon Sin and she didn’t make that choice lightly. One good scene was her running to him with a luggage bag declaring she shall follow him wherever he goes despite going against her mother’s wishes and in the end Boon Sin checked her luggage and in it were files. No clothes, not even a luggage, which meant she didn’t mean what she said, and he will have to make sure the next time she does mean what she says. I never thought she was capable of anything beyond being in love, but in the end she was so in love she lost the will to live so to speak. Such a selfish self centred woman and yet in the end she could love him enough to kill him. Selfish sort of love. Very dramatic stuff too. I was expecting great things from Yi Kiu though. I expected her to want to revenge by ruining Boon Sin and Tsui Sum business wise, I expected she to run back to Man Hon begging for a 2nd chance so that she can salvage her image before her father and mother. She did none of those which to me were a twist. In the end she just popped 40 pills, whilst dying met with Boon Sin and stabbed him once in the stomach. I don’t think she died in the end; she was on the hospital bed presumably dying. Funny though that she chose to kill herself the same way her jilted fiance did when she left him.
Ko Yi Nga is an even worse character, which unfortunately was underdeveloped. When things with her got interesting, she had to run away to Shanghai after hurting Tsui Sum and never to return. Thereafter nothing more from her. I was expecting to see a 2nd Mrs Ko in the making, but in the end she was just this nasty little girl; that was how Boon Sin called her anyway. However her ending is interesting; I thought mother died, father had stroke, older brother dead, younger sister tried to kill herself, half brother almost burnt to death, Boon Sin went missing and all these on the newspaper and she just flicked a callous glance and moved on. Quite a vicious girl. She maintained her life as a mistress to a rich man and interestingly, has a lover on the sideline as well. Rather immoral decadent lifestyle for a girl who has neither remorse nor conscience whatsoever. If Ko Yi Nga were to be developed more, she could have been the ultimate villain. Unfortunately her story stopped all of a sudden but to me ended well; that sort of life she had in the end couldn’t have been a good life.
Ko Yi Tai is another fella that is not the worst but one of the worse. He is stupid. Simple. If he is any smarter, he would not have ended up the way he did. The way he treated Yuk Fong (Yoyo Chen), it was despicable. And I thought at first it was Boon Sin! Then the way he treated his sisters, despicable. The way he treated his father, also despicable. The way he treated his wife… well she sorta deserves it. I find her most annoying. The way he treated his servants, oh so despicable. The way to describe Ko Yi Tai is despicable on top of another despicable. I like his ending though, dead with money pouring down onto his body. If he had shown a wee bit of kindness to those in need, he wouldn’t have ended up dead in some god forsaken place.
Yuen Yau Hin, the illegitimate son is a boring man, boring character, by a boring actor but pivotal to the story. His most interesting moment was when he was bound, fainted and in a burning building because 2 men risked their lives to save him, one of whom my most favourite character in this series. He didn’t die; in the end he took over the business, and a hint of a possible union with Tsui Sum as Tsui Sum asked him when is he getting a girlfriend and he replied “Not yet, but soon”, hinting at Tsui Sum who by that time realized she has to move on in life which she did but no clear answer as to this pair though.
Tung Kwok Hing to me is the ultimate villain. The way she pushed her daughters, the way she protected her son, the way she does things, this woman’s only concern is her son and herself. She seems to be enemies with her own daughters. I wonder did she truly believe half the things she said? Did she ever love her children? And if she did, isn’t her love the wrong sort of love? Was her concern ever genuine? As Boon Sin told her “You fell in the end not because of me but because you never learn to let go” which is true. The last scene before she had a heart attack that ultimately killed her showed her dreaming of Boon Sin as a child running away from her and how she treated him; juxtaposed with Yi Tai struggling with a thief and then falling off the hill and hitting his head on the rocks and died. I was thinking was that to show her guilty conscience? That innately she knew she had done Boon Sin wrong but can’t bring herself to acknowledge it? Or perhaps it is just a scene to show her nightmare, her fear of Boon Sin now returning to hurt her and her family and that Yi Tai was getting his just end because of the sins of the mother? The deeper meaning or the simpler one? Knowing TVB, probably the simpler one. But I find this villain the most interesting to watch.
Ko Siu Tong is just there. He has very little to do towards the end, and not that he could do much since he had a stroke, he couldn’t walk, couldn’t speak. I never thought he was formidable in the first place; his wife was more formidable.
My most favourite character is the cute Lo Yat. Every single scene except for later parts he is always eating and always a full meal. At the beginning I thought he would turn traitor due to the actor playing him, at one point I said “A HA!!! TRAITOR!!” but 5 seconds later it was explained why he did what he did. A loyal friend, a brave man, an intelligent guy, I was chanting the mantra “Don’t let Lo Yat be a traitor”, “Don’t let Lo Yat be a traitor”, “Don’t let Lo Yat be a traitor”. Later on when I am satisfied he is not a traitor, my turn to chant “Don’t kill Lo Yat”, “Don’t kill Lo Yat”, “Don’t kill Lo Yat”. At one point I thought “He’s dead! He’s dead!” and I had to wait 1 day to find out he didn’t die. In fact his ending is a happy one. After episode 21, I was like “At least it is not Lo Yat, anyone else I don’t give a damn!”. I like him because I always like the nice sidekick who proves his unwavering loyalty by action. I also like how Boon Sin sees his best friend; secretly apologising for the troubles he has caused him, sending his best friend away as his plans for revenge reaches its final stages and suddenly the best friend appears, refusing to leave. I quite nearly cheered. And at that point I was as emotionally vested in this series as was Lo Yat with his best friend in the world. My only complaint with this relationship is how Lo Yat addresses Boon Sin; Mr Tung. A bit too formal for such an informal relationship but I suppose he only does so in front of strangers. I never paid enough attention to hear whether he calls Boon Sin as Boon Sin in private.
Which is why I suppose I like this series; it is littered with many characters, each interestingly is given some ample time to develop, and not just any walk on ke-le-fes sort of role. Most often the main leading characters have little to say, it is everyone surrounding them that talks a lot, some way too much. You see their personalities and in some ways the dialogue is interesting without being overbearing. It would be too simplistic to say this series is simple; the contents are simple; the dialogue is same old. Yes it has all the hallmarks of a Lee Tim Shing series, but thankfully without the Mui Siu Ching over cheeriness or over gloominess. It has the right balance to make you like or dislike or hate a certain character. Not all characters are perfect though; even Tsui Sum can be annoying at times. I love to compare Tsui Sum to that of Ruoxi from Bu Bu Jing Xin aka (urgghhhh) Scarlett Heart. The latter says to herself that she can’t hate enough, she can’t love enough and so tortured herself and those she loved and those who loved her endlessly with her indecisiveness whether to follow her heart or follow her conscience. The former is someone who decides on whether that someone she loves is a good person or a bad person and if she believes him to be a good person, she will stand by him no matter what he does, and that includes cheating her family land. Of course you can say Boon Sin and the 4th Prince are in different circumstances but the point here is the reaction of the women they love; in that sense I like Tsui Sum’s more straightforward view of love; you stand by your man no matter what. That of course I must stress Boon Sin ain’t a bad guy, he is just exacting revenge for what he suffered at the hands of Mrs Ko that is Tung Kwok Hing. His body has scars to prove what he went through and basically Tung Kwok Hing is such a nasty woman you can’t help but agree with what he was planning to do to her, that is to destroy her family and thus destroy her, even if it includes walking all over the 2 daughters. And just so you know, anyone who watches Bu Bu Jing Xin will argue either for or against the 4th prince, and one major event that divided fans was the steaming of a well liked character, Yu Tan. I am one who agrees he should not only steam her, but kill off 9 steps of her family line for what she did was inexcusable. And so frankly I am not against what Boon Sin did to Yi Nga and Yi Kiu. A pity that he didn’t do anything exactly to that bastard that is Yi Tai because he is one nasty piece of work for the things he said, the things he did and the one woman who died because of him and that is Fong played by Yoyo Chen, a very naive but in the end pitiful character. In fact, it was this character that made me suspect Boon Sin is a villain since this series in the beginning loves to tell a story by first showing the present and then explaining everything through flashback and it was in flashback you know of Boon Sin’s motive.
I don’t have any particular love for the flashback mode of storytelling. I felt impatient and I thought how much flashback to tell a story. But some are told effectively; Lo Yat’s past, Boon Sin as Lee Ho and his relationship with Milk Candy Girl, how he was thrown into the river by Mrs Ko. What is missing of course how the heck he survived THAT. Not told at all. And I must add one scene is a direct copy from Kung Fu Hustle but not that I am complaining; it was rather fitting even if a bit embarrassing to watch.
But generally the storytelling in this series is well paced and it stops at the right climax; making you want to know more and can’t wait for the next episode. I had the good fortune of watching with very little spoilers found online so the story was kept exciting and intriguing for the most part. But even if you know the ending, it doesn’t matter; you can enjoy the story nonetheless for the process of it even if I do agree knowing the ending will spoil the mood. But seriously, if you are an avid fan of Lee Tim Shing series, you would already know even if this couple ends happily, it would be a very short happy ending. And in true Lee Tim Shing fashion, when Tsui Sum and Boon Sin whispered sweet nothings to each other in episode 20, I knew episode 21 will be a death sentence for either one of them. And with the exception of Safe Guards, every of his series almost always end with the woman surviving and the man dying. So I expected nothing less for Bottled Passion, but at least I said to the TV “Let them have children!!!!”. Ahhh, cruelly, no children, and cruelly, not even anything except for a very chaste kiss.
And now the ending. Episode 21. The one single episode that quite nearly destroyed the entire series, and makes me yell out “OI! WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON MR TIM GOR GOR?!?!”
And to know why I said what I said, you need to know the ending. Spoilers ahead.
Boon Sin got stabbed by Yi Kiu who herself took 40 sleeping pills or whatever pills she took. He rushed out, knife deeply lodged into his stomach, and dripping with blood and one supposedly dying at any minute. But he didn’t die, not yet. He met no less than 2 people; one a passerby whom he urged to go save Yi Kiu first. And then he staggered away and fell to the floor and met with Dr Yuen. When Dr Yuen returned with help, he disappeared and we see him struggling to walk away from Guangzhou, do remember the knife still in his stomach and from dead at night with NO ONE on the streets to morning light as he struggled to get into a boat, even managed to get the boat to float to middle of sea or lake or whatever and then as he laid flat on his back looking up at the sky, again the knife still in his stomach he finally died, one would assume from major blood loss. Because no way he can die of the knife wound if he can still walk around Guangzhou for at least no less than 6 or 7 hours.
And why I wonder for that 6 or 7 hours did he not crawl to the hospital?!?!?! Why did he chose to die? Why didn’t he save himself when at least 2 people could have saved him? Why?
One theory fans say is because he didn’t want to die in the hospital and then have Yi Kiu charged with murder, since if there is no body, there can not be murder, at least back then. I can debunk that. Why? Because if he had gone to the hospital within 2 hours or so, he needn’t die at all and he can lie about how he got stabbed, so Yi Kiu can get away with it.
Another theory fans say is he didn’t want Tsui Sum to know he died, as in actually died, so as not to crush her hope. I can debunk that and I can only say “Because if he had gone to the hospital within 2 hours or so, he needn’t die at all and he can” then be happily ever after with Tsui Sum.
Some more theory fans say is to show the mysteriousness of his character. Since he appeared out of nowhere and caused quite a scandal with no less than 4 women (try figure which one!), the fact that he disappeared so mysteriously is only apt. You know, like a magician and the tricks Boon Sin love to pull sort of nonsense. Yes, nonsense. This is not some mystery series; we know where he comes from, so why the need to make him just die the way he did?
A more credible theory is that because of a conversation he had with Tsui Sum where Tsui Sum said, “You’re not Lee Ho anymore, and I am not Milk Candy Girl. That is our past life. We had a chance back then, now we are given a second chance at our present life; you’re now Tung Boon Sin and I am Tsui Sum.”
So in the end Tsui Sum said to herself their destiny for this life is over, she will wait for him for the next life.
Fans argue a sequel is a must to show just that and my argument is when did this series turn to supernatural element?! He is DEAD! DEAD! DEAD! This is no Laughing Gor resurrection again and again and again and again. DEAD! MATI! SI LIAO! What more can be more obvious than a man stabbed in the stomach crawling half of Guangzhou and onto a boat for more than half a night and then DIE? Of course he died looking into the sky but still, he died!
My theory at this ending is 4 fold:
1. To shock – I was shocked, at the stupidity of it
2. To lend credibility to what Tsui Sum said about past present life except poor Tsui Sum, didn’t she realise the past and present life she spoke of is of the same person in the same life? Anyone has the heart to tell poor Tsui Sum that it is THE END?
3. To increase the level of mysteriousness of Boon Sin’s appearance and disappearance, even if Tsui Sum had to wait 6 long years to know he is deader than the deadest dead. But I wonder, why the mystery when in the end the whole mystery is debunked when Dr Yuen told us what he saw and later we are shown how Boon Sin died? If you want mystery, leave it at what Dr Yuen said; he saw, he turned, Boon Sin disappeared. The end. Why bother explaining until the intestines?
4. My choice of Tim Gor Gor sudden madness at this ending, that is to create a sad sad ending. My reaction is to laugh and laugh and laugh. It was stupid. Entire episode 21 was flashback, more flashback and then he died and then we find out how where when why. And I laughed some more. For me episode 21 does not exist. It ended with episode 20, Tsui Sum and Boon Sin, happily ever after. Episode 21 was like that relative you never want to see suddenly showing up at your doorstep with a major shocking revelation and then disappeared and you are left wondering who the heck was that and what the hell just happened. A certain sense of anti climax.
Exactly my reaction to episode 21. Take my advice; ignore episode 21 exists. There is nothing poetic with that sort of stupid ending. I would rather Yi Kiu stabbed him, he rushed to somewhere and die from blood loss instead of crawling here, there, like a scenic tour of Guangzhou before his death.
And of course ignore the inconsistencies; one part Dr Yuen was supposed to have left the city with his father, then suddenly he is still there. Or the ever changing outer coat of Tsui Sum in a single scene. Leave the technicalities aside and frankly the story is pretty solid in this series.
And that is why I love this series. The story and the storytelling; it doesn’t meander, it doesn’t go round and round, it doesn’t leave any guess work, it is straightforward good old storytelling, except for the stupid episode 21.
I must mention one thing that I didn’t see in TVB for a very long time and in here I see more of it, and that is the act of smoking. In here, it is used to show the loss of innocence and the craftiness of Yi Nga and then it is used to show the stylish and adult way of Boon Sin. You must watch how Raymond Wong lighted his first cigarette in this series; with such force and such style, I quite almost celebrated the return of smoking in a TV series.
Performances wise, I was very impressed with a few of them and lament the fact that by next year this series and the wonderful performances will be forgotten, if the episode 21 has yet to kill off the series’ credibility.
The children who played Tong Tong and Lee Ho. Cute children, can act, and I dare say Tong Tong’s performance of a limping leg is more consistent than Niki Chow’s performance of a limping leg.
Raymond Wong Ho Yin portrayed the complexities and the sufferings of Tung Boon Sin very well. I like particularly those scenes where he silently cried, whilst eating the soy sauce meal. If you’re Tsui Sum indeed you will wonder what is bothering this man, why he is as such. He did the mysterious Tung Boon Sin even better; and like a hurricane he swept into the lives of the Ko females, seduced them and toyed with their hearts. It is the gentle caring Boon Sin that I find convincing as well as the angry shouting Boon Sin, the way he shouted at Tsui Sum, scolded her, all for her own good. But it is the seducer Boon Sin which I find hard to believe. Raymond Wong is a good looking guy but he is hardly sexy. When he removed his clothes, internet wrote of his “amazing body” but I was busy looking at the scars. He had spray tanned himself for sure but I still find his pale and sickly looking. Half the time I thought Boon Sin just emerged from a long illness or is about to be really ill. That being said, what I love about Raymond Wong himself is he can act, no doubt but he found his perfect niche in characters from this series’ era because the way he speaks, he is very clear in his pronunciation and yet there is a slight cute accent but then accent or no accent, the way he speaks, one word at a time, makes me think of him as an honest guy. There is something very old fashioned about him and that is what I like most about him. Anyway even with episode 21 he gave an excellent performance although the kissing and seduction scenes were merely adequate but not enough. Maybe in a more sexier actor, Tung Boon Sin could have been a more animalistic sort of guy and with a title like Bottled Passion, I would expect Boon Sin to be someone oozing with sex appeal, and not just good old fashioned good looking.
Raymond Cho, the other Raymond in this series gave one of his best performance in his career. His Tsui Ping is cowardly, he is at times you may think useless but Raymond Cho gave Tsui Ping a certain sense of honesty and goodness that you can’t help but like the earnest Tsui Ping. I love how his character progressed to be stronger and stronger for the sake of his sister and how he defended her in front of Boon Sin or his family in front of the Kos.
Claire Yiu impressed me with her guest performance in Ghetto Justice and I suppose I haven’t seen much of her because I was very impressed with her performance as Wan Yau, the nosy talkative but in the end harmless sister in law. My only problem with her is her dialogue is too much at times and also her pregnancy seems to be slow mo, as if she was carrying Ne Zha instead of a normal human baby because she is pregnant for the entire series which mean whatever happened to Tsui Sum and Boon Sin, it can not be more than 1 year less.
Joel Chan was at first quite impressive as the disgusting Yi Tai. He seems to make a career out of being disgusting. But after a while, I don’t know, I laughed very hard when he was arguing with Tracy Ip who plays his rather irritating wife and he was shouting so much his voice broke in mid shout, like it went to falsetto for a moment. It was very funny, reminds me of Kevin Cheng shouting until his voice hoarse in I believe Last Man Standing or something like that. But it was a credible performance.
Tracy Ip as Bak Wai the wife is a bit too stressed for my taste. Her every scene she seems to look stressed and delivered her lines like she is very stressed which she is. But I don’t even like her Bak Wai in the first place. I find her rather dumb and of course how interesting she should think of punishing her philandering husband by sleeping with a homeless dirty guy and got pregnant because of that.
Samuel Kwok was a miscast. I didn’t find his Mr Ko scary or authoritative.
Rebecca Chan as Tung Kwok Hing deserves an award. First of, I find her very beautiful in the way she dressed and her hair and make up. Her Mrs Ko is enigmatic and scary as well as insufferable and a control freak. She gave a whole lot of layers to her Mrs Ko and I find her character and her performance fascinating. I also like her ending; a rather mundane death you know for such a cruel highly strung person.
I still remember Elaine Yiu’s performance in Safe Guards, I believe her first? Anyway she was god awful in there but Safe Guards will always be one of my top 5 favourite series of all time despite her god awful performance. In here, she has improved so much I could hardly recognise that’s her. She plays the suffering and controlled Yi Kiu very well, and even her look of disbelief that Boon Sin loved her so was well done. However the seduction scenes, kissing scenes and her act of stabbing Boon Sin were not believable. But I suppose even a very strong career minded selfish woman such as Yi Kiu could fall deeply in love, enough to want to kill herself for him but also reveal her selfishness by stabbing him as well. There is nothing selfless about Ko Yi Kiu. Anyway a fantastic performance by Elaine Yiu and I believe one of best.
I do not know who is Katy Kung, I just remember her from her guest appearance in Ghetto Justice but in here she has a substantial role until suddenly disappearing and then reemerging in the end with a rather fitting ending for such a selfish cruel girl. First of, I don’t find her pretty. In fact I find Katy very weird looking; her nose, her eyes, her face, everything. I don’t find her remotely pretty at all. But that doesn’t mean she can’t act. I find her raw, but in her rawness there is a certain I suppose earnestness in the way she acted. I don’t find her pretentious nor acting like she is acting. She has potential but still a long way to go. At least she doesn’t have the habit of looking at the camera unconsciously. And she does have a difficult role to do; the amount of scheming, conniving, seducing she had to do, I will say she did very well for someone I believe as inexperienced as her.
I have no comment on Vin Choi except to say he has that perpetual look of a worrier. But he is rather good looking and tall and fair and a good face for such a period as depicted in this series. A pity the acting itself is a bit debatable.
Eric Li as Lo Yat is my most favourite performance in here, not because he was the best but because I like Lo Yat the best. Eric Li has the face of a villain, and he has acted in many villainous role, too many to count. To my memory I can’t remember him as the good guy so when I saw his face in here, I predicted he will betray Boon Sin. He didn’t. He in fact remained loyal which made me like him more. Who knew Eric Li could he cute with a simple bowl of noodles in his hands? And he ate a lot. He was always eating which added to the casualness of his character. It just shows a well written character can turn an actor into any personality the writing dictates; I do think of this casting as against type. Lo Yat still looks like a traitor which I suppose why Eric Li was casted in this role; to confuse us all. Fantastic performance though.
Everybody else did well, and I have no comment.
Now… Niki Chow, fans love her will love her, fans dislike her will dislike her. I am one of those who dislike her because I think she is not just a poor actress, she is a bad actress. She is not the worst actress. I wouldn’t even say she is one dimensional with a singular feature at any one time. She can cry, she can laugh, she can praise, etc but she doesn’t do anything much to any particular character she is portraying because each expression is rather… amateur. She didn’t interprete the role much; she just I suppose read script, see role, act. I find no depth in her performance. And she was supposed to look at our hero with I suppose bottled passion (ALL THE PUN INTENDED) but she looks… interested. When I read this character was written specially for her as her comeback series to TVB, frankly I didn’t expect much. She looks better now, fuller face, fuller body, she is prettier than she was before, as maturity gave her face a sense of gravitas as an actress. Acting wise, I admit she improved. But her improvement is minimal. I can imagine someone else as Tsui Sum; she didn’t own this character but she went along with it. She did better in later scenes as she cries but throughout every time she utters a line from the script, it felt like “pui ging”; meaning someone reading her lines. I find the way she speaks too lazy, her expression between happy and pained. She did not give Tsui Sum depth, when in a better actress’ hands, this character would be more complex than Niki Chow presented. I do find her performance at times bland, but her best moment is when she has to be angry or tough, there is a little personality showing through but most of the time, it is to me a “just enough” performance; just enough to make do; just enough not to destroy the series. Just “just enough”. At some point I did feel her performance should have derailed this series’ engaging storytelling but it didn’t not because she was amazing but because thanks to the story and the storytelling. She is almost always never alone in a scene; she is almost always surrounded by veterans who had more lines to utter, so frankly sometimes your attention will be shifted to other people. If you just sit down and focus on her, ignore everyone else and I can’t imagine you can ever say she was a fantastic actress. To me she was a “just enough” actress. And I long for more than “just enough” although her “just enough” performance did not in anyway kill this series. The ending did, if ever there was any such element. However I must add I thought she was very beautiful in the last scene, her hair and her make up was just right.
I know many fans will think “Aiyah! Same old! Same old!” True. But good and trusted formula should never be dismissed as same old, same old. As long as it is a good story well told, why not? More so it has some of the best performances of 2011, memorable characters and notwithstanding the stupid ending, it is by itself one of the best if not the best TVB series of 2011. If you wish for something different and you think I want more, let me assure you this is not the run of the mill series. It has every element; love, hate, revenge, forgiveness, fate, destiny, everything! And you know what I love most about Lee Tim Shing series apart from the whole family drama and the sometimes inspiring dialogue? The love story. In every one of his series, his leading characters are often involved in chaste but deep love and respect for one another, Bottled Passion is no different. I find Tsui Sum and Boon Sin very romantic as a pair; the things they do for one another, the things they sacrifice and the things they utter, however forced in this series (the part about past present life), they’re still in essence depicting a good old fashioned love story. Kissing is not expected; embrace maybe. But the longing, the stares, the shy meeting of the eyes or the passion in the form of love turning to hate turning to love back to respect and in the end the all encompassing trust is in itself one of those rare sort of love relationship seen in TVB series. They’re so chaste at times you wish for that passionate embrace, not just grateful embrace, but that all passionate roll on the grass embrace. There is more passionate display in this series than in many of his previous productions but still all very chaste. I still find his other productions’ heroines and heroes more passionate without touching, more romantic without being physical but Tsui Sum and Tung Boon Sin are pretty close in being die hard romantics.
And that is why I really like this series.
Good old fashioned story well told in good old fashioned way supplemented by good old fashioned performances depicted good old fashioned characters, even the villains seem good old fashioned with a love story which is touching and … good old fashioned.
Which basically means it is entertaining, emotionally affecting, generally well acted, memorable characters with memorable lines, with climatic ending scenes in almost every episode leaving you wanting more, almost well directed and somewhat well written (as I shall remember bitterly how the last episode nearly pulled down this series and buried it deep with it in the deep dark Pacific ocean and shall become a stuff of legend, like Atlantis except I shall never ever want to find it).
I highly recommend this to anyone who wants to watch .. what I call a good story well told.
Just ignore episode 21. Chant this with me, “It does not exist; it does not exist; it does not exist!”
This review was written by Funn Lim, a Contributing Writer at JayneStars.com. The review was first posted at Point2e.com.