Drama Recaps
Mixed-up Investigative Agency: Case 14
by | November 27, 2007 | 20 Comments

Seriously, just when I think there isn’t room for any more twists, Mixed-up Investigative Agency throws another one in. I’ve never seen such a tightly plotted series before, not even Veronica Mars. Here, it seems like not only are many clues peppered throughout all the episodes from the beginning, not one clue is wasted.

SONG OF THE DAY

Kite – “Insomnia for the Cake.” Kite is a modern-rock band that I haven’t quite made up my mind about yet. Their first album is half meh average rock, but there are a few tracks I quite like. This is one of them, for its interesting melody and laid-back rhythm. [ Download ]

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CASE No. 14: “Bright Passing Light Is Like Darkness…”

Just as Yong-su sees the videotape placing the antiques grandpa at the grave of Lee Jae Seung (one of Emperor Gojong’s original trusted map-keepers), the grandpa appears in the hallway outside the office. As he approaches, Yong-su frantically tries to shut off the television, which naturally proves to be more difficult than it should be.

Yong-su makes a leap to turn off the TV in the nick of time, and the grandpa wonders why he’s sprawled in the floor. (Yong-su’s answer: Uh, because it’s warm?)

The friends decide that they must confirm their suspicions that the antiques grandpa is Lee Jae Seung’s son. If true, it would explain his lifelong preoccupation with finding treasure, as well as his early interest in their map.

Figuring they can’t just ask him outright, they plan to trick him into revealing something, and plan out their method of attack.

First, Hee-kyung will verbally abuse Lee Jae Seung in his presence — if he’s his real son, hearing his father denigrated will be sure to piss him off. She calls him crazy and foolish, and goes so far as to call him something that translates into English mildly as “crazy guy” but is much harsher to the Korean ear.

But the grandpa betrays no emotion, so Yong-su launches into his part. (All the while, Mu-yeol is nervously practicing his part to himself, which is adorable and hilarious, given his horrible public-speaking and acting abilities, which we saw in Episode 1.) Yong-su plays devil’s advocate, defending the man, because if Hee-kyung’s words have been adequately offensive, grandpa should side with Yong-su. But the grandpa just agrees that the man was a fool.

Then, it’s Mu-yeol’s turn… and he shouts out his lines with WAY too much energy, and gives them away. Oops.

Now that the grandpa has figured out they were testing him, the friends ask why he never said anything about being related to the gold hunt, and the grandpa says he was under no obligation to tell them anything.

Following the old man as he uses a stick to shake leaves (nuts? fruit? small cuddly animals?) out of a tree — don’t ask me why — Yong-su asks about Emperor Gojong’s last letter, which was sent to Lee Jae Seung. Has he seen it? The grandpa acts coy, muttering, “Maybe I did, maybe I didn’t.” He refuses to show them, or sell it to them. (Old grandpa’s so crotchety and difficult, but I kinda love him for being such a crankypants.)

But strangely, the grandpa leaves the tree-beating stick in Yong-su’s hand and runs off. The friends look around bewilderedly and see the reason — a security guard (they appear to be on school or library grounds) rushes toward them for violating their tree. The friends dash off, leaving Yong-su to hobble along slowly on his crutch, and he gets caught. Lol.

 

When they come back, Eun-jae is awaiting their arrival. Since she’s made no attempt to contact them after kicking them out, they’re surprised but glad to see her.

Eun-jae is even more serious than normal, having come with something in particular to say. Because of the way the scene is edited, we don’t see the actual admission (that Eun-jae’s father was responsible for the death of Yong-su’s brother, not Min-chul) but we do witness the direct aftermath: a stark, awkward, uncomfortably long silence. Yong-su freezes, letting the truth sink in…

And then, he turns around to face Eun-jae with a rueful smile, and says, “Are you hungry? Want to eat something?”

That breaks the tension. Even after the food has arrived and Mu-yeol and Hee-kyung fill the silence with boisterous chatter, Eun-jae remains silent and unmoving, as though she’s still waiting for the ball to drop, for them to condemn her. Yong-su asks gently, “When did you know?” and she answers that it was when she was in the tunnel.

Yong-su: “Is that why you couldn’t eat or sleep during that time? What a nice fool you were.”
Hee-kyung: “Nice fool? You were a total dummy, even thinking of leaving the country over that.”
Yong-su: “It’s not good to decide things and suffer alone. We should correct that.”
Hee-kyung: “She’ll do better in the future. Don’t do that again, okay?”

Mu-yeol is struck with the realization that this means Eun-jae is NOT, in fact, in love with Yong-su. In his giddiness and eagerness to help Eun-jae feel better, Mu-yeol overcompensates (just like he did with the antiques grandpa) and shouts out gleefully, “Eun-jae, you’re a huge DUMMY!”

That finally breaks the dam, and Eun-jae starts to cry in loud, wailing sobs. Hee-kyung comforts her, and scolds Mu-yeol for making Eun-jae cry. And I LOVE this resolution, because obviously Eun-jae’s not crying because Mu-yeol called her a dummy, but it’s touching that the friends all pretend that’s the reason so that (1) Eun-jae can cry freely without embarrassment, and (2) they can deflect the “blame” to Mu-yeol, which is less awkward for Eun-jae.

 

Deciding that they need that letter that Emperor Gojong sent Lee Jae Seung, Yong-su goes back to the grandpa. He has a plan all ready, and starts by acting depressed and sad, launching into a story about his older brother… but he’s interrupted by customers. Repeatedly. He can’t get his plan in motion because of the constant interruptions.

But Mu-yeol, who’s keeping watch outside, recognizes a man who’s leaving the antiques shop. He drags Officer Jang with him and confronts the grandpa — because the man has just sold the grandpa stolen merchandise! (If you’ll remember, the grandpa had gone to the police station in a previous episode for selling stolen goods, claiming not to have known it was stolen.) Mu-yeol has quite cleverly trapped the grandpa by letting him know that if he doesn’t cooperate, he’ll turn him in to Officer Jang for the felony offense.

The grandpa no longer has the letter, but he does remember its contents: a single Chinese character reading “fire.”

 
And so, we rehash the relevant history (aren’t these drawings adorable?):

There was a fire at the palace in 1904, after which reconstruction began. Emperor Gojong used this opportunity to hide twelve containers of gold somewhere in the palace while it was rebuilding.

He had three maps made, and divided them between himself, Lee Yong Ik (his financial advisor) and the man in charge of construction, Lee Jae Seung (antiques grandpa’s father).

Lee Yong Ik’s map was found when Jo Man Gi dug into his grave and stole it. That’s the map the friends first found. Lee Jae Seung’s map changed hands over the years and ended up in Baek Min-chul’s possession.

However, Emperor Gojong died suddenly, and had no chance to do anything with the third map. In his dying moments, he sent Lee Jae Seung a letter as a clue, the single character that read “fire.” But Lee Jae Seung was unable to decipher the meaning of Gojong’s message.

The friends mull over what “fire” could suggest. Hee-kyung runs through the traditional interpretations: Fire typically refers to the south, and there’s one building in the palace grounds that is in the southernmost position. Fire also correlates to the color red, and there’s a red building in the Deoksu palace grounds as well. There are numerous interpretations for the character.

Mu-yeol wonders if they’re being too complicated. A dying man has no chance to write a complexly coded letter. What if he meant for Lee Jae Seung to burn it? “Burn what?” they ask. Mu-yeol answers: The map Gojong sent him.

The friends scoff — how ridiculous! What a huge risk they’d be taking if they burned it and they were wrong. But Yong-su says that IF in the off chance Mu-yeol is right, it makes sense that Lee Jae Seung was never able to uncover the map’s secret, because it was unthinkable to burn the precious map entrusted to him by the emperor.

Hee-kyung violently opposes the idea, but the others start to warm to it…

…and then, they look in stunned silence at the results.

Dumbfounded, they’re too shocked to react to the consequences of burning the map. Until, that is, Mu-yeol blows the ashes away, which reveals —

— a secret hidden message!

They get the message translated from a specialist, and the result is flowery and cryptic (please forgive translation errors; the language is antiquated and poetic):

The palace in heavy light.
The darkest place in Joong Myung Palace,
Though the plum blossom is no different from any other
When the five petals bloom and fall
You gain the fruits of labor.
This belongs to the king.

The building named refers to the Russian building which burned down in 1901, changed hands a few times, was deemed nongovernmental property for most of the previous century, and upon which, in 2007, construction started again.

In typical fashion, their first attempt to enter the building is unsuccessful. They can’t gain access to the grounds, and they’re further thwarted when they try to trespass from the building next door.

So, Plan B requires the guys to dress up as construction workers and enter with fake ID badges.

They manage to find a basement, but are found by construction workers before they can do much investigating. (They’re just lucky not to have their cover blown.)

Now their problem is gaining enough access to search the basement before someone else finds the gold, because construction begins on the basement on December 21…

 

Meanwhile, Min-chul’s still up to something, meeting with someone (a law enforcement official?) and handing over papers that show proof of embezzlement and financial misconduct by “the upper heads.” The guys in question are somehow involved in the construction project.

Min-chul then makes a visit to a familiar face, someone with whom he’s on seemingly close terms — antiques grandpa! They’ve heard about the friends burning the map (which means they must know of the latest advancements in the search).

And finally, one more flashback to the day Junsu died reveals yet another revelation —

The last man on the rooftop, hitherto unseen, was none other than the antiques grandpa himself!

What could this all mean?!

 

End sequence: “Forgotten people”

I have to say I really like this ending skit, because it addresses something I’ve noticed before — that the Mixed-up universe is populated by characters who’ve all got full lives beyond what we’ve seen on the surface.

We start by highlighting some of the guest stars of the series: jajangmyun delivery boy, pawnshop owner, Jo Man Gi’s son, Jo Man Gi’s widow, rich playboy Kim Junsu, the two frequent manhwa book readers, the investigator lady, gangster turned hotel manager…

The screen fills with frames of more and more minor characters, and flashes the subtitles:

“There’s no need to force yourselves to remember these people.

“It’s just that they’re all the main characters in their respective lives,

“So they’re too busy to participate in this story, that’s all.”

 
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20 Comments from the Beanut Gallery
  1. lime9

    i’m loving the end skits more and more. hilarious yet touching also. this drama is such a gem~ love it to pieces

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  2. rani

    Thanks javabeans. Your summaries are always anticipated.

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  3. thunderbolt

    Sounds like a hilarious episode. Can’t wait to watch it. I knew the antiques grandpa was one of the men on the roof because I recognized his voice in one of Eun-jae’s flashbacks.

    As always, thank you for the recap. *muah!* I refer to them all the time when I’m working on the subs.

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  4. tooizzy

    I’m really enjoying this series. Thanks for recapping them. ;-)

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  5. Jo

    the ending is really right, all those minor characters are major characters in their lives.

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  6. canyayasis

    I was fully entertained by this series all the way until the end – this ep. 14 – was a breakthrough in the bonding of the group of 4 – her combined surrogate brother, sister, father, mother – bits and pieces from all 3 of them – to make their unit complete.
    This series (more than any Kdramas I’ve seen) had such significant universal moments – moments that transcede and overcome language – i.e. puppy love, heartbreak, grief, humiliation, sorrow, loss, jubilation…. there were so many scenes without dialogue that communicated perfectly – walking along the water’s edge, hiding in the bushes, dancing in the streets, force feeding a lonely young lady glass noodles on Chuseok…bubble baths, fear, looking at the moon, looking at a sad man who is looking at the moon…. a father watching a child in a hospital bed, 2 sons watching their mothers failing – one from dementia, one from the loss of the other son….the “better” son that disappeared…
    your summaries filled in the gaps from my limited knowledge of Korean – but I was able to watch and enjoy this series without the summaries – which is meant to applaud the PD, actors and writer’s et al on creating a series that was not limited to knowledge of the language – and this in no way is meant to suggest that I don’t need your summaries – i only found it remarkable that this series was so well done that much of it could be understood by watching it…

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  7. hellaakon

    Have the ratings picked up at all?

    A pity…

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  8. bethany

    i think i misunderstood and thought that this would be the last post (how silly, what drama has 14 episodes?)… Alas! i was wrong! and never so happy to be wrong…

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  9. geekgal

    Awww, that was my favorite ending so far. Couldn’t wait till the subs are out and have been spoiling myself by reading your summaries. I totally adore this series. It exceeded my expectations by far.

    @canyayasis, i too find lots of humanity in this drama. I admit the plot is very clever. However, what stood out for me is the emphasis the writers placed on how these characters handle their relationships. The audience see how the group handle their ups and downs, losses and gains, heartbreaks and joys, friendship and betrayal… It’s real and relatable. And was handled delicately and thoughtfully. I love Yong-su. I also love the fact that a lot of characters (either major or minor) were included in the storyline. That ending skit reminded me that everyone is an important person to at least someone else in this world (if not, to him/herself). Such a sweet ensemble series.

    I hope that despite the ratings, this drama will inspire similar works in the future. MIA ranks as one of 2007′s best. Thank you for the recaps, javabeans.

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  10. 10 canyayasis

    as strange as this may sound – i preferred E.I.A. to Coffee Prince –
    - for whatever its particular subtleties,
    - i found it more believable that four misfits find each other and go on a treasure hunt, (Evasive Investigative Agency)
    than one rich good looking guy, thinking a girl was a guy and having an identity crisis – (Coffee Prince)
    i mean, come on,
    if you’re going to surrender your critical thinking
    and commit to 16 plus hours for watching a series,
    then i’ll go with the treasure hunt !

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  11. 11 Di

    Although I enjoyed Coffee Prince immensely, I would have to agree with canyayasis. EIA could very well be the best kdrama I’ve ever seen. Still Soulmate and SamSoon are formidable rivals for that spot.

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  12. 12 geekgal

    It’s still early for me to tell without seeing the ending (cause some endings are just so WTF?). I feel that this series is notable more for the story/writing than anything else (although acting was also top notch). MIA is great because it seeked out to be different. And i think it succeeded nicely. Coffee Prince, Soulmate, and MNIKSS are great romantic dramedies (with awesome music); so the comparison may not be apt cause they are in a different genre. But if we’re judging on the merit of storytelling alone, MIA is the sentimental favorite. I’m curious to know how javabeans would rate this drama.

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  13. 13 Jessica

    The endings are really great!

    I’ve always thought it would be funny if they did a drama based on the side-characters of another really famous drama, like a Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead k-drama

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  14. 14 Marzy

    I agree with saying i think EIA is such a wonderfully written drama. Its has this sense of reality of everyone’s lives. How we all are parts of little stories or a even bigger picture. Not that we may know it yet. I like how the chracters arent so perfect, but they have little knacks too.
    I know there are talks of season 2. the pD says he will do it if its the same cast.
    my only hope that for a sequel the writers and the crew has another plot line stored through that will be a poignant if not more tight that this one. I love the cast of this drama cause they feel as if they were made for the parts. Im glad u took this on sarah. Thanks! :)

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  15. 15 Ter

    And I am so late and no one will read this but I just HAVE TO GUSH. This is one of my top five dramas ever. When I first read “treasure hunt” I was afraid the plot was going to take over the show and the characters were going to be uninteresting as happens to a lot of series where plot takes center stage….they’re so focused on developing the plot, character development kind of gets shafted. But not in EIA. THe characters are absolutely loveable. Airtight plot AND larger-than-life, flawed, perfectly developed characters????????? I am just too impressed and incredibly sad that its so underrated.

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  16. 16 lisa

    Ter I am just like you. Started watching this drama rather late, but totally absolutely love it completely.

    I also noticed something noone has mentioned, someone on the production side must have a thing for british entertainment. 1) the song playing when Mu-yeol confesses to Eun at the hospital is the PM’s Love Theme from the british rom-com Love Actually, 2) during the date with Min Chul the background song is Perhaps Perhaps Perhaps — the theme from british sitcom Coupling 3) the montage at the end of case 14 is exactly like the heathrow airport montage in Love Actually. When I rewatch this drama, and it will be re-watched lol. I am gonna try and scope our more hidden gems.

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  17. 17 Ani

    That is one awesome ending sequence. It reminds me that I’m the heroine of MY story. Of MY life.

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  18. 18 Sheryl

    This and Alone In Love top my favourite drama list EVER.

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