Reunion Dinner 团圆饭 overview & REVIEW
I’M SO SORRY THAT THIS POST IS SO LATE!!
this drama aired from 6 Jan 08- 3 Feb 08 on Channel 8 at 9pm.
This post will contain the plot overview and minimal summaries, with the FINAL REVIEW.
Chen Liping as Ping, Chen Hanwei as Chang, Patricia Mok as Fangfang, Wang Yuqing as Tianhua, Kym Ng as Nana, Alan Tern as Daxiong, Koh Yah Hwee as Meiqi, Zhu Houren as ‘ah-gong’, Liang Tian as Laksa-shu, Koh Zhengning as Meihui, Desmond Tan as Weide
this drama is all about family, and the importance of the reunion dinner, where the entire family gather for a meal on the eve of the Lunar New Year… it shows how 3 families struggle through their lives to eat this significant dinner.
Ping is married to Tianhua, and they have 2 daughters, Meiqi and Meihui. also living with them is Tianhua’s father, an ex-police officer suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. Ping spends all her time looking after her father-in-law, and also makes love-letters to bring-in extra cash for the family. Tianhua has been working in the same company for 30 years, but his stingy boss hasn’t raised his salary for all this time. eldest daughter Meiqi is about to leave to study in Australia with a scholarship; she takes up tuition jobs to support herself. younger daughter Meihui is a JC student who is open-minded, a spendtrift, and is constantly talking back to her parents.
Chang is a plummer who is addicted to gambling. this causes problems between him and his wife, Fangfang, who works hard to provide for their family of 5, with 3 children, Sisi, Qiangqiang and Yaya. Chang promises every year that they’ll be able to eat abalone during their reunion dinner, but he always gambles his money away. although he always promises not to gamble anymore, those promises are empty, and Fangfang leaves him and the children, hoping he’ll really turn over a new leaf. however, he doesn’t. and that keeps Fangfang away from home for a long time. managing everything at home is Yaya, who, although the youngest, is very smart, does well in school, and is very rational. she is constantly heard sprouting difficult idioms and phrases.
then there is Nana, nicknamed ‘Banana’, a beer girl. she is married to good-for-nothing uni-grad Daxiong. she holds 2 jobs, promoting at the supermarket and selling beer. although Daxiong doesn’t like her to be dressed scantily and have men oggling at her when she serves beer, he doesn’t work to make a living, and lazes around all day, hoping to run a big business and get rich quick.
in Ping’s family:
Tianhua is picked on by the new boss, Alex, who has taken over his father’s company. Alex proposes many changes, such as changing the company name and using English to correspond with their clients. determined to get rid of the old staff, especially those whose English standard aren’t good, Alex promotes a junior staff member, Isabella (Joey Feng) to the AVP position, leaving Tianhua as her subordinate. Alex asks her to get him to quit, so they won’t have to pay him his pension, which is quite a big sum, considering the fact that he’d been working in the company for 30 years. Tianhua tries his very best to tolerate their nonsense, but finally (just a week before CNY!) quits when they continue to insult him and refuse to give him his Chinese New Year bonus.
eldest daughter Meiqi works as a tutor, but most of the show focuses on her assumed pregnancy, and how she hides it from her family until they finally find out. it turns out that the test she did with the doctor’s was a mistake, and that she wasn’t pregnant, but by that time, her family had met with her boyfriend Weide’s family, and Weide’s father insulted them deeply that Ping refused to let Meiqi see Weide anymore, lest she be looked down by others.
younger daughter Meihui gets into some trouble when someone snaps pictures of her and her boyfriend behaving inappropriately in their school uniforms and sends it to the principal. although Meiqi helps settle the problem, Ping still learns of it when Meiqi injures the boy and the case goes to the police. Meiqi and Ping are insulted by the boy’s parents and Ping makes Meiqi return all the so-called gifts the boy had given to her.
Ping gets tired of looking after the ah-gong and asks Tianhua to broach the subject of sending him to a home with his siblings. however, his siblings refuse to make any decisions.
Tianhua’s father, an ex-police officer, suffers from Alzheimer’s disease. although Tianhua has 3 other siblings who are supposed to share the burden of looking after their father, Tianhua and Ping end up doing everything, from looking after him to paying for his medicine. on top of that, his Tianhua’s siblings expect Ping to cook up a storm for their reunion dinner, and although they claim to split the expenses, they are a greedy and stingy unfilial lot of people. Tianhua’s eldest brother and his wife live in landed property and are filthy rich, but they shirk their responsibilities, which are to pay for their father’s medicine. strangely, as Chinese New Year approaches, they keep appearing at Ping’s house… it is all because of the ah-gong’s antique $1000 dollar note, which is reported to be worth over $300K…
in Chang’s family:
Chang is addicted to gambling, and he is constantly running away from loansharks. although he promises to quit gambling again and again, he does not keep his promises, and sinks deeper into debt. as he’d rather spend time gambling than getting jobs, the family are always short of money. he even makes promises to his family year and year again, that he’d be able to put abalone on the table for their reunion dinner.
Fangfang is Chang’s wife. she hates his gambling habit, and moves out, telling them she won’t come back until Chang really turns over a new leaf. although she goes to her mother’s house to seek refuge, her mother soon chases her out, persuading her to go home. but Fangfang later goes to stay with her good friend Nana, until the end of the drama. meanwhile, Fangfang gets a job at a coffeeshop as a helper, and gets poached by a big boss to manage his branch. however, Chang misunderstands that that big boss guy is her lover, and fights with him and her. it is at this point that Fangfang trips and is knocked down by a car. she goes into a coma for a few days, and Chang becomes a fugitive, as eyewitnesses say he pushed her into the car. the truth is that he was trying to pull her back, but couldn’t.
oldest daughter Sisi is a primary 6 student who is lazy, and forever fighting with her brother Qiangqiang. the most sensible is youngest daughter, Yaya. with their father on the run from loansharks and later the police, and their mother away from home, they take it on themselves to make enough money for their reunion dinner. they start by begging for money, but later on, Yaya starts a small stall in the neighbourhood centre doing Chinese calligraphy of New Year greetings. Qiangqiang sells repacked vegetables, and Sisi sells ice-cream and soy milk. they visit their mother everyday in the hospital, hoping that she’ll wake up quickly, so they can eat their reunion dinner…
Nana works hard as a supermarket promoter and beer girl to pay for the condo which she and her husband, Daxiong stay in. when they got married, Daxiong insisted that they buy a condo, but all those years, Nana is the one who has been paying off the loan. although a university graduate, Daxiong refuses to work, and loafs around all day. he doesn’t even bother to open and manage the laksa stall his father gave him. Nana also leases one of their rooms to a China study-papa, Wang Hao, and his son. Wang Hao’s wife, Li Tong is a high-flying career woman based in Shanghai. Wang Hao teaches swimming in the condo to make some extra money. Nana and Daxiong go through a lot, and both threaten divorce many times over. one of the reasons is about Wang Hao. Daxiong accuses him of having designs on his wife, and accuses his wife of having an affair with Wang Hao. Wang Hao has problems of his own, as he receives anonymous emails stating that his wife is having an affair with the boss…
Daxiong dreams of making it big, and wants to do business. he is cheated by his friend Vincent time and time again, although Nana warns him that Vincent can’t be trusted, he doesn’t believe her. once, to get back his money from Vincent, he fights with him, and Vincent knocks his head until he passes out, bleeding. Daxiong runs away, and later receives a call from Vincent’s girlfriend, who tells him Vincent is in a coma. he has to pay her $20K to shut her mouth, then she won’t go to the police. if she goes to the police, he’ll go to jail. in desperation, he seeks help from his mother, who takes out her ‘coffin-money (savings for old age)’. Nana tries to stop them, and ends up suffering a miscarriage. Nana also faces competition in her beer girl job from 2 young girls from China. she works very hard to beat them and earn more money.
Daxiong’s parents look down on Nana because of her job and have never approved of their marriage. they think she is after what little money they have. But Daxiong’s father starts to see her in a different light when she offers $80K to lease the laksa stall and learn the preparation methods from him. however, when Nana and Daxiong invite them to their house for reunion dinner and to stay for a few days, they misunderstand an issue and leave…
of course, everything ends happily:
Tianhua had quit, but didn’t let his family know. however, Meiqi learns of it, and gives $1000 to her father to give her mother for the ang-pows… later, however, when it is revealed about the ah-gong’s antique $1000 note, he becomes desperate and reveals that he’s out-of-job, and even takes a chopper to threaten his brother and sister-in-law. the box which contains the $1000 note falls to the ground floor, and they all scurry looking frantically for it. the karang-guni man, who knows Ping and Tianhua, picks it up, and offers it to whoever can pay him more. Tianhua’s brother pays him $500, and they take the box and the note away. it turns out that this karang-guni man had printed this note to let amuse the old man… he gives them the $500 and tells them to buy something nice for the old man to eat during the Chinese New Year period…
Fangfang does wake up, and Chang sincerely asks for her forgiveness… she agrees to return home and have a reunion dinner with them.
Daxiong clarifies the matter with his parents: Nana had been persuading him to return the $20K to them, after they’d managed to get it back from Vincent in a rather round-a-bout manner (the ah-gong had been ‘patrolling’ in his police uniform, and chased Vincent when Nana told them they were theives. Vincent hit the ah-gong… although Vincent ran away, he left his money behind. there was over $18K inside, as Vincent had been preparing to board a casino ship. haha)
Wang Hao had moved out a few days back, and been camping in the park, until it was time for him to leave for Shanghai. he didn’t know that Li Tong had come down to Singapore, to surprise them. upset that Wang Hao had believed the email, which was obviously fake, and not trusted her, she was very disappointed. Wang Hao had even returned to China to find out the truth from his friend. to reconcile with Li Tong, he flew back to Singapore, and proved his sincerity by climbing to the roof of a very tall building. when Li Tong found out, she immediately stopped him, as he has back injury. the couple reconcile.
finally, they eat their reunion dinners!
at Tianhua’s family’s reunion dinner, they have 2 guests — Meiqi’s boyfriend Weide, and Tianhua’s friend, Mr. Robinson. the ah-gong even offers Ping a toast, and remarks that she treats him the best. Ping decides not to send the ah-gong to a home, and decides to send him to a care centre for the elderly in the day, so she can work, then bring him home at night. at this dinner, Mr. Robinson also offers Tianhua the post of CEO for his Asia-based branch :D
Chang’s family have a reunion dinner fully prepared by their children, who are much more sensible now. the family eat happily :D
Nana and Daxiong have their reunion dinner with his parents, and Wang Hao and Li Tong :D
i really enjoyed this drama! it was hillarious at some parts, but also very touching. more than anything, it emphasied this important event for Chinese people, where a family would get together and have a meal. there was enough diversity. you had the housewife, Ping, and the low income working mother, Fangfang; the good-for-nothing Daxiong, and the hardworking but neglected Tianhua. the normal teenage Sisi and Meihui, and 乖 daughter Meiqi who got into some trouble; then there were the unfilial big brother, and Daxiong’s brothers… normal working class parents Laksa-shu and Laksa-sao; and the China study papa and high-flying mother. and of course you had the ah-gong. Zhu Houren totally stole the limelight! :D
i felt that the Chang/ Fangfang story was quite empty, but the children, especially Yaya, made up for it. i loved the father-in-law/daughter-in-law connection between Ping and the ah-gong. it was nice that the ah-gong actually knew what was going on, and he knew Ping was the nicest to him. they were such a heartwarming moments…
every single member of the cast did brilliantly!
Chen Liping was great as a mother and caretaker, she was so natural and convincing. we could really take it that Yah Hwee and Zhengning were her daughters! Wang Yuqing (for once he isn’t bad!!) took on the role of a slouching, henpecked husband, which is a breakthough role for him in the recent years!
Chen Hanwei was super convincing as this gambler (“老爸 confirm! 老爸 promise!”), and although his chemistry with Patricia wasn’t that fantastic, his chemistry with the 3 children were really good! Patricia Mok’s role was quite similar to her role in Holland V… but still, she did really well!
Kym Ng hasn’t acted in a while, and she was a nice addition to the cast, she did well, especially as this ‘overage’ beer girl! Alan Tern, who hasn’t appeared in ages onscreen, was extremely convincing as this loafer (gosh, how he must hate himself as Daxiong!)!
Koh Yah Hwee was the good daughter… she was really sweet, and Koh Zhengning, in her debut acting role, was very natural!
special mentions to Sisi, Qiangqiang and Yaya! i didn’t catch their names!
Hu Wensui as Wenhao… he was pretty good, but his role wasn’t very deep, if you know what i mean. and for whatever time Wang Huaqing as Li Tong appeared, she eluded this very professional, 女强人 personality.
AND OF COURSE: the ah-gong! Zhu Houren was a scene-stealer! he was utterly brilliant!
FINAL REVIEW: 4.5/5.0 (Very Good!)