It’s been a whirlwind of eleven episodes for Khun Chai Ronnapee. We knew when our fun loving, youngest Juthathep entered the filming set of Kinaree, and the leading actress fell literally into his arms due to stunt difficulties, Chai Phee’s life would never be the same again. And the dynamics of his character, as well as the tone of the Gentlemen Series would be forever changed.
Most importantly, each episode is like getting the wind knocked out of me, leaving me gasping for air, wondering if I’m going to survive this whole ordeal. It’s the kind of lakorn that sucks you in, makes no apologies for hurting you and proceeds to do it all over again. But never once, sacrificing the emotional ties we have towards our hero, Chai Phee. Because if it’s even possible, the adoration and love for this particular Juthathep brother, only proceeds to grow with his choices, actions and decision making.
After the breakup from Piangkwan, Chai Phee doesn’t hate the world or become irresponsible. He respects her decision, because who is he to argue that she didn’t pick a better man? But he can’t help but internalize the pain. His three older brothers, and their wives certainly don’t help a broken hearted man any, by displaying their affections in front of him. Yet Chai Phee doesn’t fault them, he’s glad that they are happy; it just makes him miss Piangkwan more. *tear*
His next action is not as much as self-destruction as it is self-sacrificing. Conditions at Wieng Phu Kam have reached its boiling point, and the Thai Air Force has been requested to end the coup. Chai Phee boards his aircraft and strikes the militia campsite from the air. There is beauty amidst chaos as his companion’s wing gets shot at, but Chai Phee’s plane props his broken wing onto his own, as if carrying his mate away in his arms. So beautiful.
Then it is his cohort Yord’s turn to take to the aircraft, but his fiancé pleads for him to stay, she couldn’t fathom watching him go into combat when it’s so close to their wedding date. You see, Chai Phee is “getting married” too, but his was not a love match, and so he can’t fathom seeing two people who love each other have to be torn apart. He volunteers to take Yord’s place because he has nothing else to lose. His life is for his country and his heart is for his beloved Piangkwan. This is the message he writes to Piangkwan before he enters the biggest battle to help the alliance with Wieng Phu Kam. Aircrafts roam the woods determined to finish the militiamen on the ground. From the previous round, Chai Phee is keeping a close eye on his younger cohort, focusing only on protecting his mates. Unknowingly as he hovers closer, a gun goes off: it chips through the window of his aircraft and hits him pointblank on the chest. The shock reverberated through the tv screen, as Chai Phee goes down, blood seeping through his shirt, sweat drenching his body.
The news reached his household, who are already foregone with anxiety and dread, but the reality of his life-threatening profession hits them like a brick. I have been angry at the brothers for awhile now, but their reaction to their little brother’s fate is heart wrenching. Chai Pat immediately rushes to operate on Chai Phee, putting on his doctor game face, but realizing that he can’t keep his emotions in check as if he’s operating on a normal patient. Chai Yai must act like the eldest by shooting orders for people, but he too can barely contain himself. Chai Lek could only hope for the best as he phones Chai Ruj who’s stationed abroad. But that has got to be the worst phone call to receive. Your brother has fallen and there’s only 50/50 chance that he will survive. Chai Ruj cries, the tears they won’t stop falling as he arranges the next flight home.
But nothing is as heart wrenching as seeing Chai Phee in a gurney, being rushed into the hospital as blood soaked his shirt, and he deliriously imagining Piangkwan by his side. We hear his voice reading the note he’s written for his family, thanking each one of his brothers for affecting and loving him in their own, different ways. Thanking his grannies for raising him and making him feel as if he didn’t lack in parental love. His heartfelt goodbyes- ones that soldiers across the world has written to their love ones before they go into duty- but it particularly hits very close to home and makes this scene all the more heart breaking because he’s always, always, so damn sweet and a favorite in their hearts. I knew he wasn’t going to die, but dammit it felt like he did. That was the most touching, most tear jerking and relentlessly saddest near-death experience to witness, ever.
Gawd, give me another moment to stop bawling my eyes out.
Piangkwan is devastated from the news and finds her feet moving towards the hospital without a second thought. She pulls a Chai Phee card, snooping around, watching over him from the window of the hospital ward, and praying that he will survive. When she spots the grannies, she evades, keeping her promise to stay away. But for her own sake, she spies on. Chai Pat is the best doctor in Thailand, and so he is able to save his brother. And finally, when the youngest is completely incapacitated, the brothers come to the rescue.
Each day while Chai Phee is still unconscious, Piangkwan meets his sisters in law, one by one, and his brothers, one by one. Soifah is still my hero, as she is the only lady with enough backbone to tell off Rumpa and the father. Sweet Rasa tells Piangkwan her story, how she too has deceived Chai Ruj and that the biggest fear in coming clean to someone you love, is the fear of losing that person. She thinks Chai Phee feels the same way and that she hopes Piangkwan will forgive him. At this point, Piangkwan has moved passed forgiveness, she grasps his hand (while Rasa and Chai Ruj leaves the room) and confesses that she loves him. She’s sorry and that she loves him.
Those words, her touch, they call to him and Chai Phee squeezes her hand and slowly opens his eyes as he gains consciousness. So, so sweet.
We then get closures of other couples (Khun Art and Jun), and the residual affects of the Thewaprom with their “friends.” Shamelessly overspending, free loading, and leaving distaste in their acquaintances’ mouth. Their true colors are being revealed, especially to Chailai (Rumpa’s friend) who learns to value friendship from a person’s character as oppose to their statures, and to our Juthathep brother’s, who’s realizing that if the dad is leeching off their cars, what’s next? Are they willing to see their brother live in hell?
Meanwhile we tie up the climax between the love triangle of Nai Dej Kampaen, and Piangkwan’s parents. Nai Dej Kampaen decides to put Chai Phee’s love to the “test” by kidnapping Kwan and her mom and see if Chai Phee would fight to the “death” for them. Yunno, because Chai Phee hasn’t risked his life a million times yet. But this gives us an opportunity to watch James Ma do more action scenes, which I am totally ok with. After receiving the note from Nai Dej, he pretends all is well in front of the nurse, but when she leaves, he immediately tears the ivy off his arm. Dayam. The fighting, flying, shooting scenes are so awesome, I actually look forward to them, enjoy them. I know, strange. Daddy Adul tags along and must prove his love for mom by fighting one on one with Nai Dej. Unfortunately, his heart condition flares and he collapses to the ground. Before Nai Dej could kill the old man, Chai Phee shoots Nai Dej’s hand (our boy is so accurate) then he proceeds to shoot each baddies one by one. They fall to the floor like flies. Jaw dropping hotness!
Nai Dej realizes that he’s the only one left standing (or sitting for that matter), so he and Chai Phee reach for the same gun. And it’s a wrestling match for the gun until Nai Dej uses Chai Phee’s wound to distract him. A few punches to the gunshot wound ought to do it. Luckily, the cops come in time. Yeah, this time our four lions did NOT come to the rescue.
Instead, they fight for Chai Phee with the grannies, pick your battles right? And we finally get our much-needed intervention. Using their powers in number, they respectfully plead their cases. To make it effective, they confess that Grandma Aeit has made their Juthathep surname into an expectation, making it more than the name itself. They feel that they must live up to it, thus living constantly in a life fearing that people won’t love them truly for who they are. Therefore when they meet a woman that is right, they will fight for her. So, they are asking the grannies to allow Chai Phee his wish, that Piangkwan would be his nurse, otherwise the boy would not eat or get better.
But this plead is not only so Piangkwan could be close to Chai Phee, but the brothers believe that if Piangkwan is closer to the grannies, she could win them over. Worked for the other ladies of Juthathep, right? So Piangkwan is assigned to give Grandma Aeit her daily medications and nursing Chai Phee back to health. This method worked in a different way than previously. Piangkwan with her usual, non-brownnoser self, is honest with Grand Aiet: that her focus right now is to nurse Chai Phee to good health. She doesn’t dare think about their future together.
As with Grandma Orn, it’s quite a redemptive scene. She’s the worst of the grannies, always spiteful, annoying and cumbersome. But she likes to play cards with her girlfriends. One day, the whole lot of them gets caught by the cops and has to spend some time in the jailhouse, awaiting bail. LOL. I love this scene for a few reasons: karma for Grandma Orn’s bad behavior and a moment for her to think about what’s meaningful in her life. Keeping face is probably one of the biggest and most important thing to her, so getting bailed by Piangkwan, with Piangkwan’s own hard working money (the money that Grandma Orn scorns from the get-go) was such poetic justice, I had to smile (even though Grandma Orn’s crying was really poignant.) Grandma Orn was surprised originally that Piangkwan is no poor orphan- her rich father and older brother paid the Juthatheps a visit- but that alone didn’t convince me that the grannies fully appreciate Piangkwan, until Piangkwan saved Grandma Orn from losing face. Awesome.
We start to see the old Chai Phee coming back, our fun loving man. He is all smiles and eating with gusto. He’s always stealing kisses, holding her hands, and all around in love. But then Rumpa arrives, and Chai Phee doesn’t lead her on, he tells her that he’s truly sorry. Which prompts her to pull her last move: framing Piangkwan for attempting to kill Grandma Aiet by overdosing her.
The lead up to the revelation- that Piangkwan is innocent- takes us on another angsty scene. This show just won’t stop torturing me. Poor Piangkwan, being pushed to the ground and slapped by Rumpa, with the faces staring at her as if she’s already guilty before proven innocent. Except for her Chai Phee. Always her Chai Phee. He comes to her side, holds her throughout the ordeal, and supports her. I LOVE him.
But apparently this scene is conjured by Grandma Aiet and Chai Pat because they wanted the culprit to confess. She doesn’t, until Jaeo the maid, tells everyone that she saw Rumpa switch the medication and the real one is in her purse. Upon being found guilty, Rumpa loses it, completely. She’s truly gone down the deep end.
Grannies, Chai Phee and Chai Yai meet with her father to rectify the broken vow. They apologize and try to make it up to him by forgiving the incurred debt, as well as allotting him a deed to a large land. Perhaps the resolution between a man saving another man’s life should have been settled monetarily- as oppose to promising to connect a family through marriage, thereby affecting two people’s lives. I know it was offered before but Thewaprom wouldn’t accept it- and perhaps in hindsight, this should have been a red flag as well- that someone who saved another’s life (and a true gentleman or a good person) would not have demanded anything in return. The fact that a life is saved ought to be a reward in itself. But you know what they say about hindsights..
And so, as Kinaree wraps up it’s filming, as our show wraps up it’s conclusion, Chai Phee and Piangkwan overcome all obstacles and have their beautiful wedding. They drive off into the sunset, and Chai Phee promises his wife that from now on, no matter what happens, they will always be together. He supposedly seals the promise with a kiss and they embrace with feeling.
As for me, I finally breathed, not realizing that I’ve been holding my breath. I’ve been waving my white flag for a while now, but the show doesn’t realize it. How can an eleven-episode drama affect me so?
It’s almost a near perfect conclusion to my emotional ride, up until the show denied me a real kiss. I know that they kissed for real, are the executives seriously sticking to their rule of “no real kisses on tv”? That in itself is a tragedy, and goes to show that by being so prudish (the executives, not the actors) they are stifling themselves from their true potential. How can they stretch themselves or beat out competitions from other countries, not to mention other channels if they can’t showcase something so seemingly simple as a kiss on the lips? Hold out on me, why don’t you.
But overall, as a whole package, Khun Chai Ronnapee is daring in many ways: in carrying us emotionally along the trials and tribulations of our characters. The cinematography, the acting, the directing, the SCORE, they are all beautiful. Most importantly, the stand out performances from James Ma (he’s beautiful in a suit, in his pilot uniform, in his t-shirt- in his hospital garment) but not only being hot, he’s great at the drama department, facial nuances, the action scenes, the love scenes, you name it. I don’t think I would enjoy it as much without him. He has earned a fangirl here, if you haven’t noticed already. Mint Chalida as Piangkwan allows us to understand her character, you feel for her, you can’t hate her because her decisions are justified. However her character itself, being strong, stubborn and capable, hasn’t evoked devotion as Chai Phee has on me. The whole cast, from the parents, to the brothers (Khun Art and Jun’s story) from Khun Pranod to Salakjit- they all deserve to pat themselves on the back.
I’m going to leave the comparison and overall story resonance for an article much later regarding the Suparburoot Juthathep’s Series as a whole, with thoughts detailing the grannies as well.
Because for now, it’s best to revel in Khun Chai Ronnapee’s as a stand-alone. A story that is compelling from the start: a lonely Khunchai whose older brothers have found their happily ever after; a brave Khunchai who confronts an actress to stay away from his betrothed friend; but a smitten Khunchai he becomes, as he can’t seem to stay away from said actress, and experiences for the first time, fear and love. What’s there to be afraid of, he always asks himself. And we journey with him, on how he overcomes those fears, how he inevitably embraces them. What a gripping journey it has been hasn’t it?
I certainly have never been so choked up about a character before. But we have spent since March watching Chai Phee grow up, and to see him turn into such a fine gentleman, what is not to love?
And their love really does withstand the test- and maybe not so much the test of time- but certainly everything else beneath the rainbow. If I can’t have another Juthathep brother to fawn over, can’t we at least watch Khun Pranod and Salakjit grow up and see what kind of trouble they get into? And then get cameos of Chai Phee and Piangkwan? I’m all for that. Part six pleassssssse.
But the series has ended, taking with it, a piece of my heart. Maybe I didn’t survive this show after all.
*credit pic to James Ma FC Club on Twitter