Please Ring The Bell Twice (TWDrama) Episode One
We open up with a flashback to the year 2003, where a deadly influenza virus was sweeping the country. Most people are wearing face masks to protect themselves, and our heroine is no different. She is Zheng Xiao Xiang (Janine Chang). She gets on an elevator, but just as the doors are about to close, someone calls out and she forces the doors to reopen. Enter a tall man in a blue jacket, also sporting a face mask. As if you couldn’t tell who’s who, her mask is pink; his mask is blue.Suddenly the elevator jerks to a halt, throwing Xiao Xiang against him. The first thing she notices is his linked-ring necklace; the next thing is the only feature she can see of his face – his eyes. Cue Voiceover:
“Above the mask, those bright and handsome eyes gave me a feeling of warmth.”
He gives her reassurance that she appreciates; nevertheless, she has a death grip on the elevator railing. She has an inner monologue where she chastises herself for smiling widely at her fellow passenger, even though it is covered up by her face mask.
In the meantime, Security is aware of the situation via CCTV, and they send a maintenance worker to check out the situation. Other people are waiting in the lobby, grumbling that their client may be too impatient to wait for them.
So we think that everything is cool so far, then he just HAS to say this, “I hope we don’t run out of oxygen.” It’s the wrong thing to say as the elevator suddenly slips downward a short distance and stops again. Xiao Xiang relinquishes her hold on the railing, ending up clinging to the mysterious man’s pant leg, and begins to cry. He squats down and pats her head reassuringly; she relaxes her hold and they sit down on the floor together.
She apologizes for panicking; he advises her that it’s better to smile than to cry, since smiling calms you and give you courage. He takes her lipstick and draws a goofy smile on her mask, complete with a bucktooth; she is still scared that the elevator is going to fall, so he tells her to look into his eyes at her reflection. (I’m thinking she probably has a mirror in her purse, but why bother when you can look into Peter Ho’s eyes up close and personal?)
In an adorable scene, she reciprocates, drawing a smile on his mask and allowing him to look deep into her eyes. The connection and relief it gives is too much for Xiao xiang, who then collapses on the floor, thinking “If I never get out of this elevator, I’m thankful I am not alone.” The man starts pounding on the elevator door; the sound is picked up by several mechanics who force the doors open. She is lifted out of the narrow opening and stretched out on the floor. Everyone is staring at her, wondering if she needs CPR or mouth-to-mouth breathing, but no one is willing to remove their respective masks and assist her. Only one man is brave enough; Wan Ke Jie (Na Wi Xun), pulls off his mask, causing a gasp from everyone one else. As everyone mumbles about the virus, he decides helping people is good karma, and proceeds to liplock Xiao Xiang.
Meanwhile, our mysterious elevator man has climbed out as well and is watching the unfolding scene in the foyer. He strides over, yanks the would-be rescuer off of the unconscious woman and has several people pick her up and take her outside for a trip to the hospital. Mr. Hot Elevator tosses a glare at Mr. Hot Rescuer and walks out of the building.
The television news is all about the epidemic, with reporters camped out in front of the hospital where victims have been quarantined. The epidemic is such that the entire hospital entrance is covered by “Do Not Cross” yellow tape and dozens of people with signs. The reporters are there to document a brave American-born Chinese photographer who is willing to enter the hospital and document the effects of the epidemic. It is our Mr. Hot Elevator, now identified as Ren Jia Kai (Peter Ho). On his way past the crowds and reporter, an older woman presses a photo of her daughter into his hands and tearfully asks him to track her down and tell her that her mom was waiting and to be strong. He soothes her and proceeds to the front entrance, where he is met by a group of people in head-to-toe hazardous material suits. Unfortunately, there are no additional suits available outside for our intrepid reporter. His solution? To spray himself with disinfectant and call it his “protectant robe”. He chats amiably for a moment, then proceeds inside.
Wandering around, he takes photos of the hospital workers, some bustling about, some sleeping from exhaustion.
The narration continues. It turns out that our elevator lady somehow got infected with the virus, and has now been in quarantine for the past seven days. She doesn’t remember much about the incident, or how she got to the hospital. As she draws pictures and thinks about her plight, there is a knock on the door. It’s Jia Kia, now completely envelope in a hazmat suit and face mask. He requests that she allow him to take photographs; she petulantly says no, flounces off and yanks her hospital curtain closed. He appeals to her, stating she can tell her loved ones how she is doing. It turns out that she is the girl in the photograph; he gives her the photo and the message from her mom, causing her to cry. She agrees to be photographed; he thanks her and sets up his camera lens. As she covers her face with her hand to wipe away her tears, he suddenly realizes she’s the girl from the elevator! He explains how her attempted rescuer was also quarantined and more than likely gave her the virus. She rails against God, then wonders how the photographer knew of this. He identifies himself as the other party in the elevator by drawing an imaginary smile across his face mask. She attempts to push him out the door, calling him an idiot for volunteering to enter the quarantine area, citing the dangers. He resists and shows her the picture of her and her mom.
“Who is this? This is your mom, who loves you the most. She is waiting for your photograph. Do you want her to see your sad face? We can sigh and live in pain or we can trust that the doctors and treatments will make us better.”
She thinks about it, makes a smile sign with her hand, hands him the camera and tells him to start taking pictures. Before he begins, he offers her a boon. Her response, “Go out with me…” He is taken aback, even more so when she adds, “Or get on your knees and propose!” After a moment, she relents to the comical deer-in-the-headlights looks, she concedes, “How about if you visit me evert day I’m in quarantine.” Now THAT he readily agrees to, and they begin the photograpyhy session. She narrates, “In a time of despair, you brought me courage. Thank you.” A rally outside has the people sending smiley-faced balloons past the windows of the hospital.
Time skip, and Xiao Xiang is now released from the hospital. She heads back to the original office building, hoping to see the photographer. She believes she can recognize him, even though they never exchanged names. With each guy she sees in the building, she uses her hands to block the lower part of his face. Not finding him, she continues through the lobby. Then, suddenly she sees him walk past…yes! It’s him! As she starts walking towards the photographer, her arm is grabbed, she is spun around, and ends up looking at a stranger. “It’s me, it’s me!” he says, but she doesn’t recognize him, and turns back, just in time to see a young, pretty girl throw herself in the photographer’s willing arms. Xiao Xiang stops short, and turns away, only to be accosted by the stranger. He identifies himself as the man who attempted to rescue her (and who gave her the virus), Wan Ke Jie, and they shake hands.
Ren Jia Kai has arrived at his hospital photo exhibit, gratified to see so many people looking at his work. One of the admirers asked for the price on one of the pieces, but it’s not for sale. Jia Kai looks at it; it’s the elevator girl doing a countdown with her hands. He looks at the montage and smiles then becomes thoughtful. He contacts the hospital and asks them to relay an invitation to his exhibit to Xiao Xiang, since he still doesn’t know her name.
She receives the phone call while she is with Ke Jie, celebrating their release from the hospital with sparklers and an outside dinner.
The next day, Jia Kai is pacing inside the exhibit hall, wondering if she is going to stop by. Hearing a motorcycle, he turns and sees her alighting from it. He gives a big smile and hurries towards the door, at least until he realizes she’s not along. The motorcycle driver is Ke Jie. Jia Kai is further crestfallen and turns away when she kisses Ke Jie goodbye and promises to call later. After schooling his expression, he turns back. She walks past him into the exhibit, then, realizing someone is behind her, turns around. She crosses her palms and blocks the lower half of his face, focusing on his eyes. Yep, he’s that hot elevator guy alright. They both smile widely at each other, happy to be see each other full in the face for the first time. They pass a few inane and awkward comments back and forth, both unable to stop smiling, and then stroll through the exhibit. She complements him, stating “you show your real feelings through your lens.” He counters, “My real feelings, can you feel them?” Xiao Xiang wonders if there is a deeper meaning to his words, but remembers that he already has a girlfriend. She comments on how cute her montage of numbers is. Jia Kai tries again, “A camera is like a mirror to the truth, that capture’s a photographer’s deepest feelings. If the photographer believes it to be beautiful, it will naturally come out beautiful”. He gets ready to tell her how he feels, then remembers the motorcycle kiss and changes his mind. Ack!
Since they both remember each other in the arms of another person, their conversation breaks down into a promise to live happily ever after. They both are almost in tears; she thanks him but says she has to leave. He nods, unable to speak, and they turn away. Suddenly, Xiao Xiang turns back and says:
“Thank you for your words of encouragement in the elevator, and for keeping your promise to visit me every day in quarantine. The words you gave me then gave me a lot of courage, and I will never forget those words.” With that, she reaches out to shake hands. He looks at her for a moment, then envelopes her in a hug. After a moment, he gives her some final words. “Even with what Fate hands us, we always still have a choice.” The expressions on their faces when the other can’t see them are sad, almost as though they already know they are soul mates but that nothing can be done about it. As they break away, they both smile at each other; she runs out the door and he stands, silently grieving next to her photographs.
Another time skip, this one of three year’s duration. The narration explains that she and Ke Jie have been dating (no fireworks, but stable and calm) for a while, and she is content. So much so that, during a movie, he proposes and she accepts. The happy couple celebrates with their best friends, who are waiting for the imminent birth of their first child.
The next scene shows a driver falling asleep at the wheel. Oh no, this can only be bad. Sure enough, the married couple is involved in an accident.
The newly-engaged pair receive the call while they are on their way home. Xiao Xiang comments, “Our wedding had yet to receive blessings before the nightmare bell tolled.” Turns out the husband was killed instantly and the wife dies while the baby is delivered by emergency caesarian section. Xiao Xiang and Ke Jie decide to adopt the little girl, nicknamed “Duo Duo”, thus becoming parents before they were married. Xiao Xiang becomes a housewife, burying herself in raising the child and maintaining the household.
The years pass quickly, and we see family events as the child grows into a little girl of 5. Xiao Xiang works part time at her mother’s vegetable stall. Her mother nags her, asking her why they’ve never married since she looks older and older as the time passes. Mom clearly wants grandkids to spoil, and pushes Xiao Xiang to tears. Unbeknownst to her mother, Ke Jie had recently explained that he was tired of their ‘bad luck’ relationship and he was leaving them, going so far as to approve an orphanage if Xiao Xiang didn’t want Duo Duo. The argument degenerated and Ke Jie left their house. Unfortunately, it was overheard by Duo Duo, who silent cried behind the door. Back to the present, the mom is still going on and on about the marriage, finally winding down when Xiao Xiang bursts into loud crying and tells her they have broken up.
Now we see what Jia Kai has been doing during this time, as a beautiful woman receives his phone call and walks past wedding shots of the two of them. They agree to meet this afternoon. All is not rosy, though, when it turns out they are filing their divorce papers at the local magistrate’s office. As they sullenly sit there, waiting for their number to come up and sniping at each other, we see that Xiao Xiang is there too.
The “happy” couple’s number is called, and they start the paperwork as the clerk cuts their ID cards in half. As they stand and face each other after the filing, the now ex-wife kisses him on the cheek, leading to an embarrassing moment when the announcer mistakenly tells everyone that they are married.
Xiao Xiang finally reaches a clerk, and tells her she wants to legally change her name. When she hears the announcer, she begins to clap; only to stop when she finds out it’s a divorce. She stares at the retreating pair, not recognizing Jia Kai. The clerk has to repeat her new name – Chen Qi Han – several times until she turns back. Leaving the building, she walks down the sidewalk talking to herself, and steps out into traffic into the path of a car. With a honk of the horn, the car screeches to a halt. Startled, Xiao Xiang drops her newly-minted identity into a street drain. The driver jumps out – none other that Jia Kai himself. He asks if she’s okay, but she only spits out, “You made me drop my new ID!” Clearly, they don’t recognize each other. They argue back and forth, until he suddenly asks, “have we ever met before?” Ooh, does this mean there’s a spark of recognition?
Unfortunately, Xiao Xiang thinks it’s a pickup line and answers with her new name, which he doesn’t recognize. During their arguing back and forth, he says “you can live your life slovenly and sigh, or live it with smiles.” He receives a phone call and turns away, but not before she remembers similar words from a certain Tyvek-clad photographer…she turns and looks earnestly at his face while he’s talking to the caller, sees the necklace, uses her hands to block his face like she did seven years before and suddenly realizes who he is. At the same time, he becomes aware of her staring and starts to look at her as well. Xiao Xiang turns her face away and starts to walk away, but now he wants to look at her face too. This starts a little hide-and-seek action where she drops her head to cover her face with her hair, now much longer than when they first met. During this exchange, she accidently bumps his arm, sending his cell phone flying into the same grate that her new ID card is located. She breaks free and runs to the subway stairs, looking back with chagrin that he doesn’t recognize her. She shakes off her maudlin thoughts and heads to the subways to pick up her daughter.
The daycare is a bright yellow building, but inside things are not going smoothly. Most of the children are flowers and bunnies; a lone girl sits on a counter with angel wings and a magic wand. One of the boy-bunnies tries to take the wings but she brushes him off and jumps off the counter. He runs to the teacher, who looks an awful lot like the girl that hugged Jia Kai all those years ago.
Xiao Xiang and Duo Duo are walking hand-in-hand down the sidewalk. Mom asks, “Why do you dress like Duo Duo the Magician, when all the other kids are cute bunnies and flowers?” Duo Duo’s response? “I have to find the magic card to avoid disasters.” She wants to magically get Daddy to come back home. Xiao Xiang tells her that they’ll visit him at his new place and try to convince him to come home. Duo Duo perks up at that.
That night, the pair go to a extended-stay hotel and knock expectantly on the door. Ke Jie opens it, but he is clearly not happy to see them. Duo Duo hugs his legs and tells him she misses him, and when can he come home? Then from behind steps…another woman?
And apparently one that Xiao Xiang recognizes: Tang Ming Xin, his former girlfriend. They begin to argue, with two witnesses listening in: Ming Xin and Duo Duo. The argument leads nowhere, and ultimatel Ming Xin leads Ke Jie back inside and shuts the apartment door, leaving Duo Duo pounding on it yelling for Daddy while Xiao Xiang cries.
And who is that walking down the hallway? Why, it’s none other than Ren Jia Kai! He witnesses the two at the door. Xiao Xiang finally can’t stand it anymore and bodily picks up Duo Duo and runs from the apartment, only to fall at Jia Kai’s feet, child and all. He helps them both up, then recognizes her from the street previously. In that brief moment of recognition, Duo Duo runs back and begins pounding on the door again. A brief shot inside shows a tormented Ke Jie, listening to his daughters cries.
* based on that face, something else is going on *
As she drags Duo Duo back from the door again, Jia Kai grabs Xiao Xiang’s arm, advising her to calm down. Kneeling at eye level with Duo Duo, he tries to charm her into smiling. Failing that, he grabs some convenient sweets off a trolley, paying the surprised waitress, and telling Duo Duo she can have them if she’d just smile. She tries, although she’s still upset. Last resort? Tickling! And Jia Kai’s antics work. He gives the cakes to Xiao Xiang, and picks up Duo Duo to walk them to his room. Setting her down, he tells her to have some cake and turns to look at Xiao Xiang.