Friday, January 3, 2014

Recap:// Boys Before Friends Episode 1

F4 and Zoey from Boys Before Friends
No one is more surprised than I am, that I'm actually doing a recap for episode one. Okay, maybe Batzy-chan is more surprised than I, especially since she knows I could not get past the first 20 minutes of this when I tried to watch it last week.

However, I took some time to reflect, and I've come to think of it as providing a service for those fans who can't bring themselves to watch the American version of Boys Over Flowers but want to know in some detail how it was portrayed (at least for the first episode), and for those who aren't familiar with the original storyline and are therefore completely at a loss as to what is going on in this program!

Sunset Blvd, beach volleyball, Lost Angles and the Hollywood sign.

The drama opens with establishing shots of California. So far, so good.

Zoey Taylor, played by Claude Racine, gets ready for her audition.  Piper David played by Jackie Averia says farewell from the kitchen.

Piper, Zoey's best friend and roommate, wakes her up to go to her audition. There is only one camera angle covering Zoey in the bathroom as she does her makeup and hair, so there is no closeup of her face in the mirror or anything to draw the viewer into the scene. Piper cheerfully sees her out, though the camera stays on Piper even when Zoey is speaking.

Zoey arrives at Ellison University for her dance audition.

Zoey arrives at a deserted school and is impressed by the hallway.

Zoey's informal dance is obscured by the blurred backs of the judges.

The dance audition is shot entirely from one angle behind the judges, so at times Zoey is hidden from view. The dance itself didn't show any classic technique and seemed more a job tryout at a club than a routine to get into an elite university.

The production team's amateur work on Boys Before Friends was distracting.

There is a sudden jump to the back of a blurry head looking through a doorway. Oliver gets up, comes to the door and closes it. Nothing in the rest of the episode explains the scene.

Footage of Zoey arriving at Ellison University from six months previous.

"Six Months Later" flashes on the screen and the same footage of Zoey arriving for her audition is shown.

Student kneeling on the floor picking up his books.  Zoey watches.

A student gets tripped and falls to the floor. Zoey, suddenly in a new outfit, watches him.

Chris and Riley at the table. Nikki's back is shown as she slaps the card on the table.

Cut to two months earlier. Chris and Riley (I found their names on the production website since they are only revealed later in the show or not at all) are hanging out at the cafeteria. Or it could be a nearby cafe, there are no establishing shots of the building's exterior to tell you where they are. A loud clop clopping can be heard and what looks to be a waitress comes to slap the bill on the table. However, this is actually Nikki, one of F4's groupies, who is delivering the F4 card to Chris.

If you haven't read the manga or seen any of the adaptations, this scene will be thoroughly confusing. Students who are targeted for bullying receive a notice first, originally it would appear in lockers, and it would mark the start of the entire school giving that student some pretty vicious treatment. In the American version, F4 employs its trio of female groupies to hand deliver these notices, and it's just the F4's henchmen who do the bullying.

This scene features a blurry back blocking out the point of action.

Cut to another confusing scene. The trio of F4 groupies are sitting around when a blurry back comes into view, completely obscuring the leader, Krissy, as he hands her an F4 card. It could be one of F4's two henchmen who have come to give the groupies the card, to then give to the target, but it happened in the wrong order.

Chris, played by Dominic Elliot-Spencer is comforted by his friend.

We jump to Chris who has been beat up, with his friend whose name is unknown, in an undisclosed location. Chris doesn't know what he has done to offend the F4. His friend tells him that he's there for him if he needs anything.

Chris' friend faces the F4 and their henchmen.  Chris tries to dissuade his friend from where he is laying on the ground.

Suddenly we are at the F4's very dark hangout at the school. They have a golf club and seem to be doing something with Chris on the ground, it's difficult to tell. Chris' nameless friend comes to tell the F4 that they have no right to treat anyone that way. The henchmen escort him out.

Krissy leads Nikki, Jessica, Brock, Derek and Chris down the hall to serve the Unnamed Friend his F4 card.

A loud clop clopping is heard once again. All three groupies, two henchmen and Chris come down the dark hallway and Krissy hands Unnamed Friend a notice. He tells Chris that at least they're in it together.

Chris pushes his friend who falls out of the shot and isn't seen again.  Brock and Derek give Chris some love.

Chris disagrees; they have a new target now. He pushes his friend to the floor, though the camera never shows Unnamed Friend falling or looking betrayed. It stays focused on Chris standing there and receiving a back hug from henchman Brock.

Oliver Young, Chase Carlton, Liam Montgomery and Noah McCallister watch the bullying from above.

Meanwhile, F4 watches from above.

Aubrey grabs Zoey's arm.  Chris watches as his friend gets up.  Meanwhile the taunter almost makes it on camera, but not quite.

We're back to the present because it shows Unnamed Friend trip. Zoey starts towards him, but Aubrey (her name comes up much later) intercepts and takes her to the library. Unnamed Friend is barely in the shot. He manages to get up and leave while being taunted from off camera. If you look at the far right of the last screenshot, you can see the hand and part of the body of the person taunting him.

Zoey and Aubrey, played by Renae Leniece, sit in the light of a lamp at one of the large tables in the room.

Aubrey doesn't introduce herself, but she tells Zoey all about the F4.

Jason S. Mordeno as Noah McCallister as he sits in the F4 hangout.

Noah McCallister is "uber rich", but no one knows why. There are rumors that he has ties to the underground mafia. He's a really good fighter and does UFC in his spare time.

Chase Carlton played by Erik Thomas flirts in French with a hapless female student.

Chase Carlton's family owns a huge electronics firm and they donate a ton of money to the school every year. The Carlton Music wing is named after them. Chase is a huge player and can smell fresh meat from a mile away.

Oliver Young played by Trenton Culkin relaxes in the stairwell.

Oliver Young is the sweet one of the group and an instrumental genius. He learned how to play the piano in five days. His family is musical royalty. "They have like, 100 grammys or something like that." His grandfather built the performance center and they supply the school with grants every year.

Claude Racine was obviously scratching her leg and waiting for her turn to say her lines.

At this point Zoey leans over, scratches her leg and looks around while Aubrey briefs her.

Liam Montgomery played by Joseph Almani runs through some martial arts shirtless.

Liam's great great grandfather built the school so he pretty much runs it. "He's just awesome; talented, rich and gorgeous." He's the school's star basketball player and there was a rumor that he got an offer to go into the NBA but he turned it down.

Krissy, Jessica and Nikki stand over the table Aubrey, Riley and Zoey are sitting at.

Riley joins the girls, closely followed by the groupie trio. Zoey had asked what F4 stands for and groupie Jessica tells her it's because the guys are so lucky that fortune follows them wherever they go.

Zoey responds with, "Oh my God, that is the single most stupidest thing I've heard in my whole entire life."

The back of Aubrey's head in the foreground, watching the blurred meeting of the groupies and F4 in the background.

The F4 arrive and the groupies scream and rush over to them. Strangely the camera doesn't go to meet their arrival, so it was all just blurry action in the background.

Jessica hands Liam a pair of scissors.  The students wig moves back and forth as Liam diligently saws through it with the scissors.

Liam, supposedly bothered that someone besides himself would dare wear a wig with a ponytail, asks for scissors, which Jessica miraculously has on hand. He saws through the student's wig and walks off.

The student puts his head down in his folded arms as F4 walks away.  Krissy, Nikki and Jessica clap in the background.

The groupies applaud and cheer while the victim hides his face.

Oliver listens while Zoey talks into her cellphone on the stairs behind him.

Zoey calls a friend in the stairwell to complain about F4 and mispronounces Liam's name. She either says Layman or Layan. Oliver overhears.

Chloe works on a jewelry display while Piper and Zoey fold clothes.

Zoey fills Piper and Chloe in at the clothing store they seem to work at. Piper tells her that she should report the incident to the dean, but Zoey explains that it wouldn't do any good since F4 owns the school. The girls tell Zoey to just mind her own business and get through the next nine months of school so she can become a professional choreographer.

Zoey and Piper do a silly dance.  Zoey's father on the phone.

Piper and Zoey go home to dance away their stress. They are interrupted when Zoey's father calls to check up on her. She complains about the people at school and her father is glad that Piper and Chloe are there to keep her balanced.

Zoey holds up a pair of men's underwear in the messy little room.  Once the room is cleaned, Zoey does some simple dance moves.

Zoey goes into another room, which looked like it was part of their apartment, but turned out to be at the school. Although she is in an elite university, it seems that the only dance practice room there is has been a dump for miscellaneous items and lots of pizza boxes. Zoey cleans out the room so she can dance.

Zoey dances in the practice room.  Wrapped in a towel in front of her locker, Zoey's fleur de lis tattoo can be seen.  Oliver snoozes on a bench.

Cut to the same room, different outfit. It must be a new day. Zoey goes to the locker room and some rows down, Oliver is sleeping on a bench. Is it a coed locker room?

The hopeful girl holds out a cake that looks more like a cream pie.  Liam pushes it into her face.

F4 followed by their henchmen and groupies are approached by a girl who offers Liam a cake, saying, "Please accept this as a token of my love." Liam promptly smashes it in her face and walks on.

Zoey gets in Liam's face.  Cake girl is a mess while Chase reports on the flavor.

Zoey intercepts Liam with her body, but when he asks if she has something to say, she declines to comment. Meanwhile, Chase tastes the cake off of the poor girl's face and declares it good. The groupies tell her that Liam doesn't eat anything that doesn't come from Rodeo Drive, and the henchmen make their comments as well while she cries.

Piper and Zoey talk in the kitchen of their apartment.

Zoey goes home to tell Piper, who is in the process of frosting a cake, all about the incident. Piper is mortified for the innocent cake and feels sorry for the girl, but advises Zoey to leave it alone and mind her own business.

Aubrey sneaks a peek at Zoey.  Aubrey's trips across the room to Liam.

There's a strange scene where Aubrey watches Zoey dance in the little room with no mirror. Later she tells her that she saw her in class and that she's really good, though Zoey has yet to attend a class. Then another student bumps into Aubrey and she trips, spilling her drink on Liam's shoes, or perhaps just on the floor in front of him.

Aubrey apologizes to Liam.  Zoey tucks a dollar bill into Liam's collar.

Aubrey apologizes profusely and Liam drops the classic line, "If sorry was enough, we wouldn't need the police." Zoey intercedes and tells him to drop it. He says that he'll let it go if she gives them a lap dance. They'll even break some hundreds to pay her in singles. Zoey throws her drink on him and tells him what a loser he is for having everything paid for by his parents, never earning a single dollar himself. Then she tucks a dollar into his collar and comments that now he's worth something.

Liam pouts while Chase and Noah smile after Zoey.

The other F4 boys like Zoey's spirit and Noah says it's too bad she'll probably be leaving within the week. Liam declares that he'll make it happen.

Riley, Aubrey and Zoey chat happily.  A blurry butt obscures much of the scene.

Zoey bonds with Riley and Aubrey in the cafeteria (cafe?). She thinks they look good together, but they say they are more like siblings. Clopping footsteps approach and we see a couple of blurry back ends come into view. The notice is put on the table, and as the unidentified groupies clop away, Riley crumples it up. Zoey has no idea what's going on.

Chloe puts her feet up and watches Piper work while Zoey relaxes in the opposite chair.

Zoey goes to the clothing store (boutique?) that seems to be owned by Chloe, and tells her friends what happened. Chloe and Piper assure her that they'll back her up. Chloe randomly tells her that she should never put boys before friends.

Zoey stands a midst falling paper.  Oliver stops to speak to her in the stairwell.

The next day, Zoey gets garbage dumped on her from the second floor. She goes and yells in the stairwell that Liam "Layman" is stupid. Oliver comes down the stairs and corrects her pronunciation. He tells her that if she's going to hate someone, she should know their name.

Riley is partially in the shot and blurry as he speaks with Aubrey.

Aubrey and Riley are in the cafeteria/cafe when Aubrey ignores a call from Zoey. She defends her action to Riley, telling him that the rule is you don't associate with F4's target. Riley tells her that's "the stupidest rule." For the entire scene while both of them are talking, the camera is focused on Aubrey. Even when Riley is speaking, you just see his blurred jawline.

The F4 boys have amusing conversation in their hangout.  Chase's girlfriend slaps him.

At the F4 hangout, Oliver keeps calling Liam, Layman, much to his annoyance. The guys reiterate that they like Zoey and Noah guesses that she'll only last two days. Chase says she looks tough so he'll give her a week. 

One of Chase's girlfriends walks in, accusing him of cheating, and stomps off after slapping him. Liam comments that he's never seen Chase get dumped before. The voice audio gets very low at this point so turn your volume all the way up. Chase insists that she's playing hard to get. The more they say they hate you, the harder they fall for you.

Zoey holds up a shirt that has been ripped apart.

Zoey goes to her locker and finds that her clothes have been slashed.

Krissy gives the bartender a pill to put into Zoey's coffee.  Zoey comes face to face with messages calling her a whore scrawled on the bathroom stall doors.

Krissy goes to the bar that is apparently at the school, and tells the bartender to put a pill into Zoey's morning coffee if he doesn't want to end up F4's next target. Naturally it's a laxative, so we next see Zoey run into the bathroom with some urgency only to find graffiti calling her a whore and advertising her number for a good time. I guess it was written in the women's room for her to see, but there was no indication it was written in the men's stalls as well.

The henchmen stand on Zoey to keep her down while the concoction is poured over her.

Next, the henchmen and groupies trip Zoey in the practice room. They tell her that the boys made a special concoction of piss and loogies just for her, then pour it onto her stomach.

Nikki, played by Alexia Quinn, tampers with Zoey's products while she showers.  A green-faced Zoey complains to Chloe, played by Suteara Vaughn.

After all that, Zoey is completely unguarded in the shower where Nikki sabotages her shampoo. Zoey goes home with a green face and Chloe makes all sorts of jokes about it before finding a remedy using tomatoes.

Zoey stands before the class.

Zoey comes to class late and all the seats have been taken. Roger, the TA, tells her to sit on the floor with the rest of the trash or take an F on the midterm. Hm, this class looks like the library; perhaps I was mistaken. Zoey sits on the floor and the groupies throw crumpled balls of paper at her.

Dressed all in black with extremely high heels, Chloe, Piper and Zoey are ready to teach F4 a lesson.

Chloe arrives at the school with a reluctant Piper, to help Zoey teach F4 a lesson. The girls sneak into the unlocked F4 hangout.

Zoey sitting in Liam's chair as F4 walks in.  Liam's angry, while Chase is just hidden in shadow.  Zoey has fun sticking Z3 cards to F4's heads.

When F4 walks in (Chase hidden by poor lighting and position), Zoey is sitting on Liam's chair with a self satisfied smirk on her face. Apparently, something was done to the room because Liam yells, "Who did this?" There was a bit of toilet paper, but it was too dark to see anything else. Zoey gets up and puts "Z3" cards on all of their foreheads before walking out.

Zoey calls down from the second floor.  Liam covers as paper drifts down on him.

Zoey calls out to "Layman" from the second floor and Chloe dumps garbage on F4's heads.

Chloe uses her assets to distract the henchmen.  F4 sprints for the bathroom.

Next, Chloe distracts the henchmen at the bar while Piper and Zoey run behind the counter and add laxatives to the order they're picking up. Soon after F4 are delivered their coffee, they have to make a mad dash for the bathroom. How the bartender is going to avoid their wrath is not addressed.

The boys then go have some fun shooting hoops on the court.

Chloe tampers with Noah's shampoo, while Piper sabotages Chase's, and Zoey gets even with Liam.

No one is very aware while taking a shower at this school! The girls go in and sabotage their shampoo.

Liam, Noah and Chase stare at Oliver with painted faces.

Only Oliver escapes the consequences. "What? I haven't showered yet." he says.

Zoey, Piper and Chloe laugh about their pranks on the couch.

The girls go back to the apartment, proud of themselves. Zoey thought it would have been amazing if someone had pooped their pants. Chloe and Zoey praise Piper for participating even though she had originally thought it was a bad idea. Piper loved the adrenalin rush and wants to do it again, but only if F4 does something first.

Zoey slips and falls on the floor, tries to get up, then sprawls ungracefully again.

Zoey finds that the practice room floor is super slippery. Every attempt to stand up makes her flop back onto the floor, and she has to wiggle her way to the door.

Brock, Derek and Chris confront Zoey in this classic scene from Hana Yori Dango / Boys Over Flowers.

In the locker room, Zoey is confronted by the henchmen, Brock and Derek, and ex-victim Chris. They hold her down and tell her they'll pay for it, as she screams.

The acting may not be refined, but overall they did a decent job of making the best out of what they've been given. A professional crew would have really made the cast look good. However, the direction, camera work, lighting, sound and editing are all extremely amateurish. The script is simplistic and the dialogue is horrible. There should be a rule about how many times, like, you can, like, use the word, like, "stupidest" per episode.

I guess the moral of the story so far is that actions aren't wrong, motivations are. The girls are so proud of themselves for stooping to the level of the bullies. But it's okay, because the other side started it. They don't seem to be on the path to inspiring anyone to be a better person, just giving as good as they get.

On the production's Facebook page, they are fixing their lighting and sound problems. That's a good thing, but I have to wonder how this level of work passed in the first place. They've also announced that they will reshoot episode one later in 2014 since they have recast the role of Zoey starting in episode two. I hope they fix their camera angles and have the audition routine professionally choreographed as well. The first episode of Boys Before Friends is sadly lacking, and it isn't Claude Racine's fault.

This is the only recap I'll be doing for Boys Before Friends as there are so many quality shows to spend my time on.  The series has potential, though, if the crew can improve the standard of production. Much luck to them!

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