First Impressions: “Clean With Passion For Now” Is A Wacky Dose Of Fun And Warmth

A germaphobic, clean-freak CEO meets a girl who sports week-old stains on her clothes, showers every few days at best, and can’t seem to land a job. This is the premise for “Clean with Passion for Now,” JTBC’s new Monday-Tuesday drama based on the webtoon by the same name. And if the premiere is any indication, it’s going to make for a delightful story that will warm our hearts this winter, with laugh-out-loud comedy that gives way into wonderfully heartfelt moments.

So get your sanitizing spray ready, and let’s dive into our first impressions!

Warning: the rest of this article contains slight spoilers for Episodes 1 and 2.

Right away, we meet Jang Sun Kyul (Yoon Kyun Sang), a CEO with a bad case of mysophobia, the fear of germs. The man takes “neat freak” to a whole new level, and no fingerprint, speck of dust, or microscopic particle is safe from his compulsive cleaning.

Cleaning is so much Sun Kyul’s thing that his company is actually a crew of handsome “cleaning fairies,” teams of housekeepers with idol-like visuals in neon pink jumpsuits.

Which honestly sounds like a great idea. Can this be a thing?

This is in stark contrast to Gil Oh Sol (Kim Yoo Jung), who doesn’t care much for hygiene and whose employment prospects are bleak. She’s the kind of awkward that is funny until it goes horribly, sadly wrong. Exhibit A: When Oh Sol fills in for her dad at work cleaning up garbage, she spots her long-time crush and, embarrassed, dons a horse mask to hide her identity. As Oh Sol gallops away through the crowded street, trash cart in tow, a large-scale chase ensues as hordes of bystanders join in curious pursuit of the wildly running horse mask. It’s all absurdly hilarious…

Until it becomes the most embarrassing moment of Oh Sol’s life when she gets in an accident and her mask is removed, revealing her identity to her crush — and to dozens of bystanders.

The down-on-her-luck, spunky, but slightly awkward female lead is a familiar face in the K-drama universe, but few of these characters achieve their full potential in the way that Gil Oh Sol is shaping up to. The always wonderful Kim Yoo Jung brings a special dimension to Oh Sol, expertly portraying the uncertainty of young adulthood: the frequent oscillation between the lows of frustration and despair and the highs of positivity and tenacity, with just the right amount of spunk. This girl faces more than her fair share of misfortune in the opening episodes, cries it out, and then gets back up again to fight some more.

And, not to be outdone, CEO Sun Kyul is equally as nuanced — which is a refreshing break from the archetypal haughty, cold CEO. Sun Kyul’s good nature is hidden behind a thick fog of sanitizing spray, but it is definitely there, and “Clean with Passion for Now” wants us to see it. Sun Kyul is still too distant to be completely likable yet, but we admire his moral and sympathetic nature. When he witnesses Oh Sol’s long-time crush being a complete jerk to her, then finds himself in an elevator with the boy (now shamelessly flirting on the phone with his third woman of the day), Sun Kyul has just as much disgust for this human filth as he does towards the microscopic, bacterial kind.

While Sun Kyul’s excessive cleaning can often be funny, “Clean with Passion for Now” does not use his germophobia entirely for comedic purposes. It also shows us the nuance of a character who has an actual, debilitating psychological condition. Sun Kyul’s compulsion to clean severely impacts his ability to live normally, and especially to form relationships. This is nowhere more apparent than in Sun Kyul’s interactions with his family, who show a complete lack of compassion towards him. No K-drama CEO would be complete without daddy issues, and for Sun Kyul, these come from his grandfather. The man, a CEO himself, more or less abused Sun Kyul as a child and continues to treat him cruelly, scoffing at his germophobia.

Yoon Kyun Sang’s forlorn expressions perfectly convey the duality of Sun Kyul’s germophobia: he is aware that his condition is a hardship for himself and for those around him, but he also simply can’t do anything about it. He’s trapped in his own head, and it hurts my heart to watch!

Oh Sol’s family also hurts my heart, because while she and her father (Kim Won Hae) have a loving relationship, she’s just found out that her sweet, hardworking dad has lost his job, which is not going to be easy on a family that is already struggling to make ends meet.

Final thoughts

Rom-com though it may be, the first week of “Clean with Passion for Now” was the most enjoyable in its non-comedic moments, when it was sketching out the characters and their vulnerabilities. Some of the comedic scenes felt a little too drawn-out or ridiculous, although maybe that’s a matter of personal taste; I found pink elephant underwear one level of absurd too much to be funny.

But the slice-of-life scenes showing the characters’ struggles with their misfortunes, their families, and their own insecurities were especially compelling. And in this alone, “Clean with Passion for Now” promises to be a delightfully charming drama as Oh Sol and Sun Kyul face these challenges and learn and grow together.

The comedy likely has more potential as we get to know the characters better, especially the second male lead Choi Kun (Song Jae Rim), who made only a few appearances this week. The quirky new upstairs tenant in Oh Sol’s house, Kun always seems to have run-ins with Oh Sol at the least opportune moments, which promises more fun in the coming weeks.

All in all, I’m excited to see more of these wacky characters, and watch them overcome their personal hardships… one sanitizing spritz at a time!

Hey Soompiers, are you watching “Clean with Passion for Now”? What are your thoughts on the premiere? Let us know in the comments!

hgordon stays up way too late on weeknights marathoning K-dramas and trying to keep up with the latest K-pop releases.

Currently watching: “The Last Empress,” “Mama Fairy and the Woodcutter,“ and “Clean with Passion for Now.”
All-time favorite dramas: “Scarlet Heart: Goryeo,” “Goblin,” and “Hwayugi.”
Looking forward to: Death Song.”

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