Lover or Stranger: Pure Love or Obsession?




Have you ever, out of the blue, started a drama because of the OST? I did with Lover or Stranger. I got a notification that Liu Yu Ning, one of the three Chinese prominent OST singers, sang two new OST songs from the recently released Never Say Goodbye and this drama. The closing credit ballad “Choose to Love You” (选择去爱你) is melancholy, and if you look up the lyrics, the mood of the song is even sadder. However, the drama is far from depressing. On the contrary, it’s full of suspense and keeps you on your toes.  Definitely, it’s not a drama to pass time and help you sleep. After checking the first episode out of curiosity, I got sucked into the drama. One word I can tell you: it’s UNEXPECTED!

Writing this article turned out to be challenging, as I could not follow the usual recap format due to the high dose of secrecy in this drama. So I will tell you the story ambiguously and raise questions, which you may think about them yourself while watching this drama. Moreover, the character’s info will be kept as minimum as possible. Revealing too much about them would be major spoilers as most are questionable characters. They are not without flaws. Things they do may make you wonder about their motivations: did they do it out of pure sympathy/love or obsession?


Lover or Stranger 


Genres: Thriller, Mystery, Romance, Drama
Country: China

Aired: Jul 12, 2021 – Jul 26, 2021
Episodes: 29
Duration: 45 min.
English subbed trailer:
English subbed drama: WeTV, Viki, Youhug 

Also worth mentioning that the director of this drama is Tien Jen Huang, who also directed the outstanding Taiwanese drama  Someday or One Day.


Since the synopsis in MDL is somewhat spoilery and misleading, let me tell you briefly what the story is about, as you may see in the first episode: 

After an avalanche, Luo Qian Yi, a young violinist, loses her memory. Faced with her mysterious entrepreneur fiancee Huo You Ze and their upcoming wedding, she must find herself and love again amidst the confusion and secrets. (Source: CDramalove.com)


Luo Qian Yi / Song Xiao Dong

Victoria Song / Song Qian

Huo You Ze

Oho Ou / Ou Hao

Yu Hang

Ryan Zhang / Zhang He

Sun Lei

He Du Juan

Qi Fan

Dai Jing Yao

Huo You Zi

Fan Jing Yi


It starts with an avalanche incident in Hokkaido, Japan, that took Luo Qian Yi down the mountainside. Her fiancee You Ze said that she fell from the mountain top and slid down by a massive snow slide. She is alive but needs reconstructive surgery. Moreover, she completely loses her memory.  Not only she forgets who she is or the people she knows, but she also loses her prowess in playing the violin, which is bad since she was about to make an international debut with a world-known violinist. Also, she and You Ze were just got engaged to be married. The future was bright and promising for Qian Yi before the incident happened.

The Fall

Was it an accident, a murder attempt, a suicide attempt, or a scheme?

After reconstructive surgery and recuperation, Qian Yi and You Ze went back home to China. Although she was informed on who she is and what she did in the past, there is still a myriad of questions that remain in her mind. For example: who is You Ze? Is he really her fiancee? Why did he lock her up in the house on the first days when he is at work? Is he a control freak? Or did he do it because he is genuinely worried about her? Is she in danger? Or is she the danger herself?

Qian Yi not only has to adjust to day-to-day chores at home, but she also faces unusual things happening. For example, mysterious messages are thrown into her bathroom. Without knowing the sender’s name, she dubbed the person as Mr. Lavender. The messages mentioned “our old spot”. She has no clue where the rendezvous place should be. Is the old Qian Yi a cheater?

One night, in an attempt to chase down Mr. Lavender right after another message was delivered, Qian Yi went into anaphylactic shock and collapsed. Luckily, a jogger passed by and took her to the ER. The doctor who took care of her in ER, Dr. Yu Hang, told her that she got a severe reaction from a food allergy that almost killed her. Automatically, Qian Yi is suspicious of her own fiancee, You Ze, who cooked the meal last night. But wait… there is another suspect! Qian Yi found out that Dr. Yu Hang is actually not an ER doctor but a cardiologist. Moreover, he was the one who found her collapsed and took her to the hospital. But why he didn’t want to reveal that he was the one who found her? If he was on the premises when the incident happened, could he be Mr. Lavender?

And one more suspect! Since Qian Yi lost her skill in playing the violin, she decided to learn how to play the violin again. As per her manager’s recommendation, she hired Qi Fan, a violinist. He acts oddly intimate that gives her the impression that he knew her before the amnesia. Qi Fan acknowledged that Qian Yi has a lot of loyal fans, and he is one of them. Did he lure his idol out with the messages? How crazy can a fan be?

Now that she not only has to deal with strangers, she also needs to face the people whom she supposedly knew prior to her amnesia but who also seems to have their own agenda. Take Sun Lei, You Ze’s assistant, for example. She is not merely a company’s employee. She and You Ze are long time friends since they were in school together. She knows everything about You Ze, although he keeps his relationship with Qian Yi vague to Sun Lei. Once they graduated university, You Ze took over his family business, and Sun Lei has worked for him since. Sun Lei is very loyal to You Ze and would do anything for him. Does she harbor an unrequited love for You Ze? Or did they have a romantic relationship in the past?

Qian Yi not only has to deal with ‘another woman’ in You Ze’s life but there is also ‘another girl’, his little sister You Zi. Moved to the UK since the death of their parents, You Zi rather lives an unrestrained life abroad than with her brother. However, upon hearing the incident in Japan, she went back to China. You Ze wants to send her back to the UK, but she refuses. You Zi is straightforward in her preference for having Sun Lei as her sister-in-law over Qian Yi. Moreover, You Zi thinks Qian Yi is a gold digger and a “fake bitch” who only wants to be with You Ze because he can support her financially. As someone who owns shares at the family company, she ought to have a say.

Now, this drama is set up for us to suspect people around Qian Yi, as each may be motivated to either harm or use her for their own advantage. But how about the main protagonist herself? Is she is really a naive girl whose only passion is playing the violin as when she first met You Ze? Or is she an opportunist or a gold digger?


Now that I have presented you the clues and the red herrings of the mystery, here is what I thought why you should check out this drama:


Mystery: The flow of the secrets is like the rush of the avalanche. Qian Yi not only has to figure out about herself and her fiancee, You Ze, but also other people’s motives and events that happen along in the drama.
Suspense: Since the drama has finished airing, most likely, you will be able to watch it fully without having to wait. And you may not be able to wait. The exciting expectation and uncertainty about what may happen will keep you clicking on the next episode.
I also applaud the background music and sound used, which I don’t usually care for and in some dramas, I was totally turned off. However, the BGM here intensifies the dread in suspenseful scenes.  
Thriller: This drama features the heroine Qian Yi, who, in order to reveal the secrets, operates under her own moral code with a minimum support system. The storyline is marked by the cat-and-mouse chases between her and the suspects or villain.


Wait… but who is the villain?

One exciting thing about this drama is some of the grey characters. They are neither completely bad nor good, which is what makes them such interesting additions to the story. Whether it’s the protagonist or antagonist, morally grey characters keep us on our toes and keep the story unpredictable. I won’t spoil you which one(s) is/are the grey character(s), but there will be a time when you root for the person(s) and another time reprehend them, or vice versa.


Despite of thriller and mystery genres are the main draw to watch this drama, it’s not that the romance is non-existent. We will see sweet moments between the main couple. But if you are looking for either a lighthearted fluffy or a heavy romance-oriented drama, this is not it. Therefore this is also a great watch for viewers whose romance is not their preferred choice. 
Speaking of rooting for your characters, as I wrote above, since you also watch a romance, it’s a given that you may ship the couple formation you would like to happen. In this drama, you are more likely to realize that you don’t really know which couple to ship or even if your ship is going to sail until the end.

“I can’t help but fall for you as well. I know I’m falling for the wrong person again. But God gave me another chance at happiness. I will grasp it no matter what.”


With 29 episodes for 45 minutes each, a rare length in Chinese dramas, I think the story flows at a good pace. Not too fast that the viewers are presented with a bulk of facts to be understood at one time. Not too slow that we lose our interest in the main plot. Although there are repetition flashbacks of what happened in the past, the fall of Qian Yi during the avalanche, for example, but each repetition is slightly different than the previous one with a slice of new fact added. If we skip the important events, we miss what actually happened. Truths are revealed little by little, leaving us wanting to know more. 

Supporting and guest roles are put strategically to help the main protagonists of their quests. But the drama is not always serious and dreadful, which will cause us prolonged stress watching it. There are also light/funny or warm-hearted scenes to release us from the tension brought by the overall main plot. For example, their interactions with Mozart, the family pet. Qian Yi and You Ze got Mozart at the first meeting.

Now,  you have seen I put an asterisk sign (*) behind the subheader, right? Towards the end, after the climax, there is a stretched anticlimax where the production added in what I called ‘a mandatory Chinese social service event’ for the drama to pass the government censorship faster/easier. It makes the drama, after a nice pace, suddenly becomes draggy. Everyone who is a C-drama fan knows how recent C-dramas have either characters winning national/international championship (youth/sports genre), using national products instead of importing (business genre), motivating its citizen of the betterment of the country (life genre), or showing great government agency action during a mass incident. I had wondered in the beginning as it seemed this drama didn’t have that kind of propaganda, only to found it towards the end, lol. So if you are not interested, you can skip the event as it’s not necessarily connecting to the main plot.


I put this part as the last reason why I recommended this drama since it’s connected to the conclusion below. The acting of both main actors is actually the best part of the drama. I only saw Victoria Song and Oho Ou in one drama each. I watched her in Find Yourself, in which her character is faced with a dilemma to choose between two eligible men to marry; and Oho Ou in The Eight, in which his character is tasked to unite a group of people with different backgrounds and intentions. But Victoria Song excelled in this drama playing multiple roles with different personalities and expressed many emotions ranging from joy to devastation, from calmness to violence. Her opposite partner, Oho Ou, plays the reserved and introverted You Ze, who once explodes is quite frightening. Definitely, both actors showed in-depth emotions and excellent acting skills. Romance wise there are not many skinships, but since both have collaborated together as a romantic couple in their other drama, Love Under the Moon, they showed natural chemistry in whichever role they acted as in this drama.


Now that my article and the drama came to an end, emotions are still raw. If you have watched it, what do you think? Do you agree or disagree with the ending? Do you like what the drama did to the certain character(s) or not? If you rooted for a certain couple(s), did it ship? Is the love pure or an obsession?

If you haven’t watched it yet, I recommend you to watch this uniquely interesting drama. Oh, one more question to ponder for the ones who haven’t watched it yet. As you have seen in the cast list, the actress also played another character besides Luo Qian Yi. 

So who is Song Xiao Dong? 

The quiet country girl Qian Yi who only loves to play the violin?
The violin diva Qian Yi whose future in a music career is bright?
The amnesiac and clueless Qian Yi who tries to find herself?
Or someone else?

Thanks for reading, and happy watching!

Acknowledgements and credits: Thank you to the editors who edited this articleI do not own any of the images used. Credits go to the respective owners. Pictures and self-made GIFs are taken from official posters/stills, Google search, and drama scenes. Other sources: cover image from Sohu.com.

Edited by: YW (1st editor) 

lover or stranger
tien jen huang
victoria song
song qian
oho ou
ou hao

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