First Look: Rak Jang Aoey
Posted on March 25, 2019
Rak Jang Aoey is the newest mid-week primetime romcom offering from Channel 3, produced by Metha Lae Mahaniyom and starring our lovely Taew Natapohn. What’s unique about this show is that it’s not a remake of other lakorns or based off a popular book, it’s an original script from the dynamic duo husband and wife Nok (Chatchai and Sinjai). I have enjoyed two of their directorial offerings, Tawan Deard and Khunchai Ronnapee, so let’s hope this is a third one. Rak Jang Aoey means “love you very much” with the nang ek’s name “Aoey” thrown in for a play on word. Taew portrays a spoiled character, Doctor Pailin or Doctor Aoey, who thinks she is perfect but admittedly has no idea what perfection looks like. Taew has played divas before, remember Meunchanok in Game Sanaeha, and Namfon in Plerng Toranong? They were brats, but we kinda enjoyed them anyway. Doctor Aoey brings about a different challenge for Taew, in that she hasn’t played a medical professional before, but she must also pull off a drama queen with good comedic timing. I can’t imagine a better actor for that.
When we meet Aoey, we actually see her walking through the rain in tears. There is a voice over contemplating life and that there are people who try to fight fate. Perhaps Aoey is one of those, who try to be perfect at all cost, but only to be taken down by a man. We are left to wonder if that man is the man who rescued her from an incoming car (our pra’ek Ter Chantawit), but we later find out that she’s referring to her current boyfriend, Dr. Tiwa. Rewind several days before, when the externs congregate around a patient. Dr. Aoey makes it a point to prove to the group that Dr. Kwanta’s diagnosis – who is her frenemy – is wrong. The patient doesn’t need a heart bypass, but he just needs to be careful with his dietary consumption. We soon learn that making herself look good, or perfect in front of others is a customary habit. Dr. Aoey is a self-proclaimed “perfect” student who is the star of the medical school. So far she got the goods to back it up.
But Dr. Aoey soon gets a taste of her own bitter medicine, and what it is like to be wrong. The patient that she diagnosed earlier decides since his condition isn’t life threatening enough, he discharged himself from the hospital. He makes a village chief, or Poo Yai Baan, take him to a restaurant/karaoke spot. Poo Yai Damrong is our pra’ek, and his position is an elected official of a village sub-division in Sam Rerng. His responsibility includes taking care of the village fund, security and the day-to-day matters. He came all the way to the city to visit his dad’s former best friend/bro and bandmate, who is still bitter that dad left the band to marry Damrong’s mom. Poo Yai Dam is still trying to patch things up between the two after his mother passed away.
But Poo Yai Dam isn’t the sharpest tool in the shed, though he does have his heart in the right place. We learn that he has failed in all of his suggestions to raise money for the village; such as his failed ability to determine the difference between mushrooms and funguses, or why he built shelter for a bus stop.. when there are no bus stops. There is an influential person in town who wants to usurp all of the power in Sam Rerng Village by bullying villagers out of their house or buying their land. So far we know Poo Yai Dam just wants to see his people do well, but doesn’t have the wherewithal to help them succeed. He does tell people to seek his help when the Sia try to bully them, and he also hopes to finally succeed in bringing a doctor to their village. The village is so secluded and faraway from the city that they only have one of everything – teacher, village chief, restaurant, etc, – so he is vying for at least one doctor.
Dr. Aoey and Poo Yai Dam first meet right when he’s visiting a patient, where their lips touch as the elevator opens. It’s funny and cringey because when does that ever happen? LOL. They meet for a second time at the restaurant/karaoke when Dr. Aoey scolds her patient for leaving the hospital to an alcohol establishment (he is clearly sneaking liquor in his water but vehemently denies it). Poo Yai Damrong doesn’t appreciate her tone at a patient, nor her attitude regarding lookthong genre of music, which is a type of Thai country song, so he takes the mic and does a lookthong jig. But he gets too into his performance and disturbs a mafia table. Poo Yai Damrong and his uncle get into a bar fight, with Dr. Aoey not able to stand idly watching, and join the fight. The three run from the mafia gang to hide in the trunk of a car. Unfortunately the patient starts collapsing from his heart condition and Dr. Aoey gets a rude awakening, that she might be wrong about her diagnosis.
And here’s where the melo takes over the funny. I really enjoyed the first half but as the second half rolls around, the show got a bit non-logical. Poo Yai Dam starts blaming Dr. Aoey for “killing” the patient due to her “misdiagnosis” when we don’t really know if that is the case. For a man of his stature, it doesn’t feel true to his character to jump to conclusions nor place a blame. When Dr. Aoey realizes that she may have made a mistake, thinking that she might have killed the patient, she falls into a faint. Yikes, you would think that being an extern she would be tougher than that, especially when she doesn’t know the outcome of this patient yet (don’t worry the patient lives). To make matters worse though, she goes looking for her boyfriend and finds him cheating on her with Dr. Kwanta. Now I get that she’s upset, but the bet she made with Dr. Kwanta is extreme and it doesn’t feel like the punishment fit the crime. The bet outlines that Dr. Aoey must go on this lottery mission that all doctors are supposed to – they would draw their name and province and work there for a few years. Initially Aoey talked her mom into sending her to study post-grad abroad, but with this bet, Dr. Aoey vows to stay and complete her mission. If she can endure the hardship and win, Dr. Kwanta would bow to her feet, but if she fail, Dr. Aoey would quit being a doctor. That is extreme.
Even though Dr. Aoey wants to convince us that it’s about the principle, that she wants to prove to everyone that she’s capable and worthy, but that doesn’t sound in line with doctors who have worked so hard to become one. Also, why would a newbie doctor be sent to work at a rural public health center alone? She would still need to be working under an attending, or someone more experienced should be sent there. At any rate, Dr. Aoey gets assigned to Sam Rerng Village and everyone at the village is ecstatic to have their very own doctor, and I will hope that as we get there, the story will work itself out. The village has a lot of entertaining characters, and Poo Yai Dam is also tasked to write a song with the melody that his dad/bandmate have created. So I am looking forward to the song and dance that is to come, along with the shenanigans. I also hope that the chemistry between Taew-Ter improves, because chemistry is everything.
Despite its flaws, Rak Jang Aoey is enjoyable. It’s laugh out loud funny and there are some dramatic scenes that will tug at the heartstrings, especially the scenes with mom, who at first did not think that her daughter’s perfection driven attitude is that damaging, until it wreaked its havoc. She sits Aoey down and shows her the video of her birthday party, where Aoey finally sees how she has treated her friends. She was selfish and not a very kind person. This video helped Aoey realize that the problem started with her, I like that she sets out to show people that she can be a good doctor on her own, and not because she came from a good life, because she hasn’t always had a good life. When they were struggling when she was little, and her dad left her when she was three, the young Aoey had given mom all of the encouragement she needed to excel in life. From then on the two are determined to be perfect and build that perfect life, though they don’t even know what the perfect life looks like. It will be interesting to see how Aoey figures this out for herself. Because maybe, perfect is just being who you are, and accepting the good with the bad, and forgiving yourself.