It’s kind of weird seeing Lee Minki portraying such a goofy and awkward character after his rather dashing turn as Kang Tae Bong in Dal Ja’s Spring. Having started out playing somewhat oddball characters in Taereung National Village and Really, Really Like You, one would think he’d have taken his new debonair image from Dal Ja and run with it to become a strong romantic leading man, but it’s a little surprising (isn’t it? or is it just me?) that he went for this wacky, excitable, eccentric, decidedly un-romantic character in Mixed-up Investigative Agency.
On the other hand, he does give the impression of being a guy who wasn’t quite comfortable with (or at least didn’t completely relate to) the romantic hero image of Kang Tae Bong — the guy who always knew what pretty words to say, who always made his girl feel precious, who was secure enough in his masculinity to express his emotions with sensitivity. To put it succinctly, the Perfect Guy. The Guy Who Doesn’t Exist In Real Life. Maybe he was just itching to get back to someone with a flaw or two — or twenty.
(Random) SONG OF THE DAY
Peppertones – “Everything is OK” [ Download ]
CASE NO. 2: “That Dead Guy Sure Is Talkative”
Episode 2 backs up a bit from Episode 1’s end as Eun-jae arrives at the Gold Building. Looking out of place in her dingy surroundings, she makes her way to the rooftop, where something about the location triggers a memory — a traumatic one, because the brief flash causes her to panic and reel. Eun-jae gasps for breath, remembering something dark and disturbing that she witnessed as a child. But what that is, we don’t know because her memory merely shows us a man, dressed in a suit and holding one of those leaf-shaped gold bars.
We don’t see the man’s face; just as we’re about to, Eun-jae collapses in a faint, on the rooftop. Which is where Mu-yeol finds her.
The three friends look at the unconscious Eun-jae (Mu-yeol entirely smitten), perplexed, wondering what to do. Hee-kyung sees the girl’s expensive designer clothing and bag, nearly fainting in envy at all the finery. The three rifle through her things, trying to find identification, when Eun-jae awakens. Mu-yeol’s infatuation intensifies, despite his attempt to cover it up — this is his version of playing it cool:
Speaking with the aloof politeness of the high-class elite, Eun-jae thanks them for their assistance. Although they’re bursting with curiosity to know who she is and why she’s there, Eun-jae simply collects her things and leaves.
However, the next day, a moving van arrives at their building — and out steps Eun-jae. She’s moving in to the rooftop apartment, though Hee-kyung can’t understand why such a wealthy young lady would choose to live in their dump of a building. Mu-yeol practically trips over himself in a rush to welcome Eun-jae, although in his characteristic awkward style, he fumbles over his words and babbles. Eun-jae just observes her stuttering stranger in silent curiosity.
The next day, Eun-jae walks into their office with an odd request: She’s here to retain their services. She’d like them to find out everything they can about the man whose twenty-year-old corpse was found in the wall.
Their first reaction is to decline — they all have full-time jobs and don’t have time to investigate. But one envelope of money swiftly changes their minds — $3,000 with more promised upon successful results. Eun-jae’s reluctant to provide further details about the case, but the friends insist that they must know more in order to do their job properly.
Eun-jae reluctantly divulges that when she was a child, her younger brother was abducted, and she thinks the corpse from the wall might have something to do with it. She produces a gold leaf-shaped bar identical to the ones found in the wall, and explains that it was in her father’s safe. She wonders if it had to do with ransom, but in any case, they never heard about her disappeared brother.
And so, the friends busy themselves with researching the gold, the building, and the dead man. Yong-su and Hee-kyung go on an excursion to the gold mine to inquire about its employees from the time the wall corpse would’ve been alive. However, Yong-su’s not a good enough liar to conjure up a reason for his request.
But, thankfully, Hee-kyung is. She weaves a convincing, tragic story — replete with choked-back tears — about how her father was an employee there thirty years ago. (He left her mother to raise her alone, and before her mother recently passed away, she told Hee-kyung about her father.) She begs, “I ask this favor of you — I just need to know that I had a father. That’s all.” The foreman is moved and can’t deny her teary pleas, and hands over a huge stack of papers — the entire roster. It’s enormous.
While Hee-kyung and Yong-su are away, Mu-yeol tries to ingratiate himself with Eun-Jae by dressing up and offering a housewarming gift. However, Eun-jae doesn’t need his gift and politely declines. Strike one.
Having gotten what they came for, Hee-kyung and Yong-su go off gambling with their part of their job fee. Yong-su’s content to walk off with their modest winnings, but Hee-kyung has a “feeling” — and bets everything on 13 black.
Naturally, they lose.
Left in an unfamiliar, far-off locale with no money and night approaching, the two try calling Mu-yeol to wire them some money, which he can’t at this hour. Left with no choice, Yong-su convinces Hee-kyung to pawn off her designer purse — a fate worse than death! Or so it seems from her violent reaction. But they’re cold and hungry, so they hie themselves to the nearest pawnshop… where the pawn broker informs them that he won’t take the purse. It’s fake. (Hee-kyung blusters, offended. She first insists that her precious purse is real, then amends that even if it’s fake, it’s the very best-quality fake.)
Noticing that the man wears a familiar ring, the same one from the wall corpse, they ask for his help in identifying the dead miner. The pawn broker wants nothing to do with the rude youngsters, and kicks them out.
And so, they spend the night thus:
Morning comes, and they both drool in hunger while peering inside the pawnshop, where the pawn broker is enjoying a meal with a lady friend. Then, right before their eyes, the woman starts choking on her food, and they realize she’ll suffocate if they don’t act fast.
Hee-kyung bursts inside, but doesn’t know what to do. Yong-su, however, finds the chance to exert his unique skill — an encyclopedic knowledge of manhwa (comic) books. Yup, Yong-su can find the answer to practically any life problem within the hundreds of books he’s ever read in his life. He manages to recall one story that guides him through the Heimlich maneuver (with the MacGuyver theme song playing in the background — HA!).
Yong-su saves the woman’s life, and the pawn broker is so relieved — “She means everything to me!” — that he insists on repaying them. He feeds them and immediately gets on the phone, contacting everyone he knows to try to identify the gold miner.
Eun-jae, who’s been conducting her own investigation, calls with an additional clue. Yong-su asks the pawn broker if one of the men had been six-fingered — which reminds him there was a man they called Six-Fingered Mr. Jo. The last time he’d seen him was in 1988, when Mr. Jo bragged about two things — his wonderful, smart son, and all the tombs he’d gone through (he’d become a graverobber).
With that info, Yong-su and Hee-kyung arrive back at headquarters, exhausted. The next step is to find Mr. Jo’s living relatives — but Yong-su notes that if nobody comes forward to claim the man’s body, they’d get to keep the gold because they’d found it (he’d read it in a manhwa book, ergo it must be true!).
And, they note, Mu-yeol looks a bit different.
With Mu-yeol affecting his best cool-guy stance and soaking in cologne, the reason for his appearance is obvious to Hee-kyung, who pesters him to admit that he’s fallen for Eun-jae. Mu-yeol attempts (badly) to deny it, and Hee-kyung presses for him to admit the truth, like a sister badgering her kid brother, until finally Mu-yeol shouts out at the top of his lungs: “Fine! I like Eun-jae! I fell for her the moment I laid eyes on her!”
And then he turns around. (Strike two.)
The three friends ignore the awkwardness as they inform Eun-jae of their discoveries. The dead Mr. Jo has a wife and son still living — does she care to meet them? Eun-jae answers no, and requests that they find further official records and documents relating to the man.
Mu-yeol and Hee-kyung visit Mr. Jo’s family, who are surprisingly unemotional. After being informed they can claim the body and the gold at the police station, the son is particularly bitter, saying all the man cared about was gold — how fitting he had some when he died. Mu-yeol and Hee-kyung try to convince the son to let them borrow their father’s documents and personal effects (per Eun-jae’s request) rather than leaving them to burn when the body is cremated. That doesn’t work, so Hee-kyung appeals to the wife instead.
The widow tells her that her son’s had a hard life — he was such a good student, but couldn’t even go to college because his father left them no money. He’d left the family and cut off contact; the bitter wife wished him dead, but never realized he’d actually died.
After the body is cremated (without the gold and his personal belongings), Hee-kyung approaches the son, who’s still cold and unmoved. But as she speaks, her voice is different, not her own. Instead, it sounds as though she’s channeling the dead old man, addressing the young man by his name and calling him “son”:
“I saw you, Seung Ha. I saw you crying. Even after you received your school acceptance, that man had no money to give you. I saw you crying, hiding from the world. This father may not have been much of a father, but seeing my own son crying made me feel pain in my bones, my flesh. I knew it was a road I could not return from, but I took it. Because there was something I could not say from my heart, I was locked up in that wall for twenty years. I’m sorry, my son… my youngest… for being such a father.”
And then, Hee-kyung collapses in a faint.
Mu-yeol leaves with the unconscious Hee-kyung, and the bitter man breaks down into sobs. It’s particularly touching to see that his posture resembles that of a little boy as he cries. (I was on the fence about this episode — liked some of it, was noncommittal about some of it — but this scene makes everything worth it.)
On the drive home, Mu-yeol tells Hee-kyung how weird it was to see her pass out, with her eyes rolling back in her head — he almost fainted himself. Hee-kyung: “Seemed real, didn’t it?”
Because, you see, she was faking. Mu-yeol asks, doesn’t she feel sorry for manipulating the man? She answers, “But he’s his father. Would it be better to live out the rest of his life in pain and hatred, or find proof of his father’s love and forgive him, even if it was because of a lie?”
They show the man’s documents and books to Eun-jae, who gives them another envelope of money. She takes the items and is about to leave, when Yong-su stops her with a (seemingly) innocent question, “Your sibling… what was his name?”
After a brief moment, Eun-jae answers, “Eun-ho.” Yong-su innocently asks further, “Do you remember what he was wearing the day he disappeared?”
Eun-jae stays silent — betraying no emotion but unable to answer — as he presses further, “Do you remember the date of his disappearance?”
More silence. And finally:
“And the most important thing… about your brother being abducted… That’s all a lie, isn’t it?”
(Btw, the series has so far ended its episodes with brief parody segments. The Episode 1 end sequence was loosely related to the story — the return of the cat to its owner — but the Episode 2 ending seems unrelated. It’s titled “A Toad’s Sadness” and shows Hee-kyung dressed up as a lonely toad, sipping cola sadly while a little child points a finger at her. If I’m missing a reference, I hope someone’ll enlighten me.)