Air City: Episode 5
I have a huge complaint with Episode 5. It’s not that it’s a bad episode, or badly made, or badly acted — on the contrary. In fact, it would be a minor complaint if the fix weren’t so simple and obvious. With exactly the same music, and acting, and footage, they could have carved out a vastly superior Episode 5. It had everything already present to be a great episode — which is why my minor issue becomes such a grave dissatisfaction.
The problem is purely structural. There are two stories in Episode 5, and they are clumsily laid out. Start story A, end story A. Start story B, end story B. It feels like someone chopped up two half-episodes and slapped them together at the 30-minute mark.
My would-be solution explained after the episode summary.
(Random) SONG(s) OF THE DAY
Epik High – “Fly” Everybody and their mother probably already knows this song, but don’t I get credit for thematic relevance? …No? Okay, then here’s another song to make up for it… [ Download ]
Uhm Jung Hwa – “Flying” [ Download ]
EPISODE 5 SUMMARY
Ji Sung and Do Kyung’s date is prematurely aborted at the discovery of an attempted suicide in the airport restroom. Because she’s revealed to be the daughter of a high-ranking North Korean official, the airport and hospital are put under tight security, with the NIS limiting access (and information) even to upper airport personnel like Do Kyung.
Ji Sung questions the girl, Kim Hye Rin(?), about her reasoning for attempting illegal entry with forged identification. Ji Sung doesn’t understand the NIS’s unusually strict refusal to her request to defect (defectors are usually allowed), but his chief explains the timing is bad — there’s a big summit conference coming up between the North and South, and they have to be careful. It’s extremely sensitive.
The patient asks Myung Woo for help, who in turns goes to Ji Sung. The woman was supposed to run away with her lover because her prominent family status prevented their marriage in the North. The man abandoned his family and everything to cross into the South, but at the last minute, the girl couldn’t bring herself to. So she attempted to come back to explain to him why she couldn’t go through with it. Myung Woo sympathizes because the woman went through a lot to apologize for wronging the man, but Ji Sung isn’t impressed with her actions — “If she betrayed him once, that’s enough.” Clearly we are no longer talking about the North Korean couple but seeing them as a metaphor for Ji Sung and Myung Woo.
Myung Woo gives Ji Sung the man’s name, and asks for his help locating him. Ji Sung says no, but after he leaves, he isn’t able to shake the encounter. He broods.
Ji Sung runs into Do Kyung in the cafeteria, and the two sit down to their own meals at separate tables, facing each other. It’s funny and somewhat touching to see them both watch each other eat, without saying a word, without making a move to approach. Are they being kept apart by emotional distance? The return of Myung Woo in Ji Sung’s life? Sheer laziness?
Ha Joon is accosted by Agent Im Ye Won, who’s out to claim her night out with Ha Joon (in exchange for having helped him before).
The night begins like this:
And ends like this.
Ha Joon seems fascinated, amused, annoyed, afraid of and repulsed by her all at once. I guess that’s the effect of yupki girls. My favorite part of the date is when Agent Im, unwilling to stop drinking, insists he keep drinking, and Ha Joon distracts her while he tosses the contents of his glass over his shoulder. It’s funnier watched than described. And Ha Joon is really very good-looking.
The next day, the employees see Ha Joon with Agent Im and tease him about scoring with an agent. He defends himself, saying nothing happened, but he did find out some info — confidential info regarding the story about the North Korean patient (which he persuaded the very drunk Agent Im to disclose). His boss, the department chief, mentions it to the NIS bureau chief, trying to prove that the NIS shouldn’t look down on the airport or keep information from them. All that does is get Agent Im in trouble for leaking the news.
Meanwhile, Ji Sung sees Myung Woo waiting in the rain at the bus stop, and despite brief hesitation and my repeated attempts at telepathy yelling at him to DRIVE ON ALREADY, he offers her a ride to work. In the car, she says she’s glad she came to the airport — seeing for herself what his work actually entails puts her at ease. She tries to reminisce, but he cuts her short and tells her not to talk about the past. And then, because she cannot understand the meaning of those words, she brings up the past again, saying she was hurt when she heard he left for Cairo.
He drops her off without a word, but can’t help watching her in his rearview mirror, as her reflection grows smaller. If only the growing distance were symbolic! But alas, objects in mirror are closer than they appear.
Ji Sung goes to meet the suicide patient’s estranged lover and brings him back to Incheon Airport to meet with the girl.
The two hug and cry, and the girl sobs out her pained apologies. Just in case we didn’t get the parallel, Myung Woo and Ji Sung watch them embrace, unable to do the same themselves.
Ugh! My mild distaste for Lady Doctor is growing into a full-blown allergy. It has nothing to do with Ji Sung or Do Kyung — it’s the actress herself. She just can’t seem to convey any sort of emotional attraction, and I don’t care for her at all. She’s so dull. I get annoyed whenever she comes onscreen. Sigh. This is going to be a painful rest of the series.
Yi Kyung hears from her aunt that Do Kyung came looking for her, and calls Do Kyung. She isn’t able to say anything, however, and hangs up. Do Kyung sees her before Yi Kyung makes a hasty exit, and follows her into the terminal, trying to find her but unable to.
Ji Sung is called away from breakfast (which stands out to me because it’s Western style, with toast and cereal — which he eats with a fork!) with news of a dead bird found by the airport’s wildlife-managing team. It’s a big deal, because apparently even a smallish bird, if sucked into the engine of a plane in flight, can blow out the entire engine. There are signs that unauthorized people trespassed into the area and shot the bird without being seen.
Do Kyung runs into her sister outside the terminal, and their reunion is interrupted by the departement chief and Manager Noh, to whom she introduces Yi Kyung as her younger sister. Sensing the tension between the sisters, they leave them to talk. (They really did a pretty good job casting the part, because they got someone who looks like Choi Ji Woo, as pretty but not so much as to overshadow her, similarly tall, and who fits the part.) Yi Kyung is cold and distant, as Do Kyung tries to make conversation.
Meanwhile, Manager Noh brings up the suggestion of interviewing the sisters specially to promote interest — it’ll look good, having such talented and young sisters both working for the airport. Yi Kyung expresses her displeasure with the idea to Do Kyung.
Yi Kyung: “What are you going to say to the reporters? That we’re the closest sisters in the world, then smile and take pictures? Well I have something to add. Why’d I become a pilot? Because I can fly wherever I want without a ticket. When I was young, there was a time I couldn’t fly because I didn’t have a ticket. My older sister just went alone.” Do Kyung asks if she has to carry the burden of guilt over that, and Yi Kyung says bitterly that no, Do Kyung is faultless. It was their stepmother who abandoned her — she liked the older daughter for her good manners and intelligence, but couldn’t stand the younger one who always cried.
Yi Kyung: “But you could’ve taken a stand just once! You weren’t the only one who hated living there — I wanted to go to Dad, too.”
Do Kyung: “I was a child then, too. Only ten years old.”
Yi Kyung: “A child? Do you know how long these words rang in my ears? ‘Yi Kyung, should I draw you a picture? Oh, we’re out of crayons.’ You said you were running to the store, but you ran away to Dad. Is that something a child does?”
An interesting roundabout setup, with Do Kyung looking over at Ji Sung, who’s looking over at Myung Woo. (She’s not worth it, Ji Sung! Look away!)
Ha Joon meets with Yi Kyung, who doesn’t recognize him at first, but eventually recalls him as “Ha Joon oppa” when he jogs her memory, reminding her how he used to give her piggyback rides and pick persimmons for her.
Out on the runway, Do Kyung watches a plane depart — the plane piloted by her sister and carrying a patient attended to by Myung Woo. Ji Sung arrives, and they watch the plane take off.
Do Kyung explains her sister’s flying the plane, and Ji Sung says the plane’s carrying the woman he once loved. “I tried so hard to erase her for the past three years. But she still looks attractive in my eyes. She still makes my heart beat faster. And that makes me feel awful.”
Do Kyung asks if she knows that woman, and Ji Sung answers yes, it’s Seo Myung Woo. Do Kyung seems a little shocked to hear that, but just nods her understanding.
However, the birds are becoming an increasing problem, crashing into taxiing and arriving airplanes. The pilots are upset and on edge, and safety is an issue. The airport director announces that there will be a lockdown on the runway for the time being.
Which, of course, is a development sure to cause yet more chaos and agitation for the airport. They prepare themselves for the coming turbulence…
Like I said, I have an issue with this episode’s structure. It felt like two completely different episodes — halfway through, we were in a different story altogether, which was jarring to say the least. I appreciate that Air City is being a bit experimental with their story pacing — the first four episodes made up one story arc, which ended partly with the capture of Charlie Wie. Still, it remains open-ended to allow for more developments regarding Ji Sung’s quest to find his friend’s killer, as well as the Big Bad behind the stolen weapons technology (since Charlie was merely a mid-level broker in the transactions). Stories are stretching over more than one episode but not dragging on too long — that’s good.
However, Episode 5 would have been a far superior episode if they’d only managed to intertwine both stories, rather than complete one story the first half of the episode, then deal with another story in the second half. Plus, when separated, both stories are kind of small and underwhelming on their own: (1) Girl wants to apologize to spurned lover, and she does; (2) the airport has a bird problem, uh oh.
Instead, they could have chosen to start off both stories at the top of the episode, then build them both up gradually. The North Korean girl reconciling with her lover (a moving scene on its own) would’ve been much more resonant at the very end of the episode, and that would’ve given this episode an emotional payoff that it currently lacks. Plus, right afterward, Ji Sung would be left feeling more conflicted about Myung Woo — so his admission to Do Kyung that he still can’t forget his old love would be even more bittersweet.
I suspect this is the downside of having a large team of writers, which is a departure from the norm (most kdramas have one or two writers). It feels like they divvied up stories, each went into their offices and wrote something, and they stuck it together without trying to figure out how to tie them together.
Like I said, this episode wasn’t BAD. It had all the elements to be a really good one — but I feel like it was assembled with all the pieces in the wrong place.