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Story of a Man: Episode 5

(I love the distance between them in this shot.)

I squealed at the end of the episode. Things are getting good(er).

I wasn’t expecting this drama to be FUN, but whaddaya know. Even though I have thoroughly enjoyed the intense, moody feel, I am not disappointed to see it lighten up a teensy bit. I love caper and heist stories — and underdogs taking down the big guys — and now Shin starts assembling his motley “Dream Team” for his big score. This might just turn out to be a whole lotta fun. Or a lot of angst and thrills. Or both.

Also: This is super-shallow, but HOT DAMN the mens are good-lookin’ in this drama. Not merely handsome in facial features, but each one has his own distinct brand of charisma, and it’s his personal presence that makes him appealing.

SONG OF THE DAY

Sweet Sorrow – “악몽” (Nightmare) [ Download ]

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EPISODE 5 RECAP

Following the death of Mr. Do (at the hands of Do-woo’s devoted employee K — or is it Kei?), the man’s only son, Do Jae-myung (Philip Lee), is called from the U.S. to attend his funeral. The person who arranges the funeral is Mr. Do’s old friend, Park Mun-ho, who has been quietly operating his classical music café and living clean of his crime-filled past. Mun-ho is also Kyung-tae’s uncle.

Shin is initially drawn into the group purely because they needed four men to be pallbearers. When Shin steps away for a moment, Kyung-tae is left alone as Eun-soo arrives to attend the burial. Seeing Kyung-tae holding the dead man’s photo, she assumes he’s the son. Interpreting Kyung-tae’s nervous silence for displeasure at her presence, Eun-soo pleads with him to let her pay her respects.

Jae-myung sets her straight, at which point Kyung-tae rushes to Shin’s side to escape the uncomfortable attention of the stranger. (Too cute.)

Mun-ho is the only person moved by Mr. Do’s death, and is surprised at Jae-myung’s lack of emotion. He also wonders what the lofty chairman’s daughter is doing at the funeral, but Shin eyes her silently, knowing why.

Eun-soo feels genuine sorrow for the death but it’s mingled with suspicion, because she has started to put the pieces together. Therefore, she does not greet her brother with her customary warmth. Instead, when Do-woo comes upon her in Mr. Do’s room, organizing his belongings, she keeps her face averted and doesn’t approach.

(I love this scene.) It’s like she’s afraid of voicing her suspicions, and perhaps Do-woo senses that; he acts innocent, saying with false concern that he should have gone to the burial, but had been held up all day in meetings. Eun-soo knows that Mr. Do was loyal to their father, and connects the next dot: “And you aren’t on good terms with Father.”

Eun-soo: “The day he died, you were at home until late. You said you wanted to cry but couldn’t, and were going through a hard time. At that time, Father and I didn’t know yet what happened to Mr. Do. Lately things are extremely bad between you and Father, aren’t they? And he was on Father’s side.”

Eun-soo says all this without an accusatory tone, or even a suspicious one. She says it slowly, like she’s making the connections as she speaks, afraid of the truth but confronting it anyway. (It’s also interesting in this scene to see these two acting off each other when neither can see each other’s faces.)

For a brief moment, Do-woo’s assured smile falters — but he recovers smoothly. He attempts to brush the issue aside by telling her she’s upset over the death and therefore all these illogical thoughts are crowding her head. He opens his arms and says, “I’ll give you a hug. Want me to sing you a song?”

There’s a chilling quality to the way Do-woo smiles slowly, then as it fades from his face. He may be attempting to fool Eun-soo with the gesture, but the physical smile is humorless and a little creepy.

I think his tactic is somewhat infantilizing — you get the sense Eun-soo is underestimated by the men in her family — but this time, she’s not going to be easily swayed. She doesn’t turn to face him, nor does she accept his offer of a hug.

Mun-ho doesn’t understand Jae-myung’s lack of concern for his father’s death, and tries to make his case that he was murdered. He’s sure that Chae Dong Construction has something to do with it, but Jae-myung cuts Mun-ho short — he hasn’t heard his father’s voice in 17 years. After he was shipped off to America, his father never once visited him. Jae-myung came back to say his goodbyes, and now his filial obligation has been fulfilled. Right now, he’s going to go find himself a nighttime lady friend.

Still, Jae-myung isn’t above using his “My father just died and they think he was murdered by assassins” line to pick up a pretty woman at the bar. Let’s ignore the awkward English (awkward in delivery more than pronunciation) and just take from this scene what we must — he’s smooth with women and emotionally distant.

When Shin visits his nieces, there’s a sweet moment after the older girl, Yuri, shrieks when he pulls her out of a bicycle’s path. Since she was so little when he was imprisoned, Shin thinks she’s freaking out that a strange man grabbed her, but her shrieks are actually in excitement: “Uncle!!”

He takes the girls on a play date, which unexpectedly brings back memories of Kyung-ah. Yuri remembers her too (younger sister Nuri was just a baby at the time), and asks why “Kyung-ah unni” isn’t with him. Shin promises them that he’ll bring her by. (The girls are adorable, particularly with Nuri repeating everything Yuri says.)

Chairman Chae worries to Director Oh over his son’s behavior, knowing exactly what Do-woo is capable of: “First his mother, then Mr. Do, then next will be me.” Still, he isn’t the powerful businessman Chae Dong-soo for nothing, and vows not to be brought down by his own son.

The chairman has lunch with a couple of politicians, and although the purpose is yet unclear, he’s clearly up to something. His flattering, solicitous behavior at lunch is meant to grease the wheels to gain their support.

And then, the power play. Do-woo presides over a last-minute meeting of the board of directors. Having spoken to everyone individually beforehand, he expects this to be a simple meeting, but the directors are uneasy at taking this official step in overriding Chairman Chae, as they have faithfully followed him for years.

Do-woo is displeased that his former supporters are now unwilling to join him in voting out his father, but doesn’t miss a beat and moves on to his next strategy. Sighing in an imitation of a concerned son, he says he wanted to keep his father’s “mental state” private, but must now reveal that his father’s dementia is worsening. He’s in no condition to continue working.

But the chairman walks into the meeting, taking his position and putting Do-woo in his place. The chairman also one-ups Do-woo’s behind-the-scenes scheming, because he has re-contracted the land deal Do-woo canceled. The chairman says: “If you were planning to shove me out and take over this company, you should have done it right. It was pretty shoddy work, even in the eyes of this old man suffering dementia. It was hilarious.” Everyone else laughs, relieved to be off the hook with him back in power.

Chairman Chae also announces unceremoniously that Do-woo is fired, which Do-woo accepts graciously, smiling and bowing his head deferentially to the directors. He concedes this point and tells everyone that he’s learned from them. Then he walks out, face grim.

Now for the fun stuff.

Shin gets to work on his new goal: He needs to earn money (1) to take care of his sister-in-law’s new loan, and (2) to secure a meeting with Kyung-ah.

He requests help of Joong-ho (his fellow ex-con), who uses his connections to find out that the family’s former loan shark is operating an illegal gambling hall, hidden inside a building that passes for a shabby video-game arcade.

Shin intercepts a food deliveryman and pays him off with a stack of cash so he can take his place as deliverer. This allows Shin entrée into the building, where he looks around and notes how the operation is run. Outside, Joong-ho calls the control room to anonymously tip the gangsters off that police are on their way to raid the hall.

This warning sends the place into chaos as the alarm is triggered — gamblers rush to exit, while the gangsters hurriedly turn off the slot machines and throw their money into a garbage bag, which they toss down the garbage chute (to be retrieved later). As Shin knows this call is a fake, he carefully notes how they react and what they do with the money.

When he returns the next night, again in deliveryman’s outfit, the gambling hall is back to normal and fully operational. This time, however, he’s the one who calls in to the control room and warns the guy that he’s called the police and they’re on their way to raid the hall. Naturally, the guy remembers the prank call from the night before (which was probably a huge inconvenience) and therefore ignores the warning.

So when the police do in fact rush in, there are plenty of people still gambling, and the gangsters only have a few brief moments to scramble and pack everything away. The loan shark shoves a bunch of money in a garbage bag and shoves it down the chute, but is himself apprehended.

And who else is left behind to pick up the cash? Shin, of course. (Clever plan!)

Eun-soo again approaches Kyung-tae upon her arrival at Muse Café, with Mr. Do’s belongings in tow. Kyung-tae’s reaction to Eun-soo (nervous, cautious) is super cute, and it’s only enhanced by how oblivious Eun-soo is to it. She still misinterprets his reaction for dislike: “I know you don’t like me, so I’ll just bring this in and leave.”

Inside, Eun-soo opens the suitcase and starts to explain the contents to an extremely uninterested Jae-myung. She falters a little, particularly when Mun-ho tells her to go back home. He charges her family with killing Mr. Do and vows to reveal the truth.

Eun-soo forges onward — she really is a pure soul, feeling the pain of the man’s death keenly — and wells up with tears as she goes through the suitcase.

Jae-myung doesn’t react outwardly, but she finally gets through to him when she tells him how much his father loved him. He doesn’t believe that, but her words make him reconsider:

Eun-soo: “I told him to go see his son, but he said his son was so outstanding, he couldn’t dare to go meet him. He really missed you an awful lot. I know that.”

Joong-ho brings Myung-sun money from Shin to pay off her debt, which she tries to refuse. She fears that it came through illegal means, and already blames herself as the reason he was sent to prison in the first place; she couldn’t be the reason for sending him back.

But this tactic is effective because she can’t give the money back to Joong-ho, who tells her that he is not Shin’s friend, he’s not his gangster henchman, and neither is he a mere deliveryman. He was asked to drop the money off, and that’s it.

So Myung-sun is forced to accept. Joong-ho feels a pang of worry, though — once outside the snack shop, he stops a couple of students and hands them money. He says (indicating Myung-sun’s shop), “Go have some ddukbokki. That place is good.” (I know I have a tendency to want everyone to pair up romantically in a drama when that’s not always feasible, but I can’t help but feel this might be a cute, if unexpected, pairing.)

Now for another pairing. Madam Jang takes Kyung-ah aside to suggest she handle Do-woo, who has just been fired from his father’s company. She admits that she’d tried to work her own wiles on him, but failed to stir his interest — in fact, he’s never had an interest in any of her girls, to the extent that she’d once wondered if he was gay.

Kyung-ah enters Do-woo’s private room, where he sits quietly reading. I think she may be the only woman with a chance at piquing Do-woo’s interest because she’s so different from the typical bar girl: Rather than cuddling up or simpering, she keeps her distance, and gets right to the point (and their blunt repartee is refreshing):

Kyung-ah: “I hear you’re interested in me. Or was Madam Jang wrong?”
Do-woo: “So?”
Kyung-ah: “She told me to handle you. ‘He’s been fired by his father and he’s feeling down. Take this opportunity to see what you can do. Maybe you’ll earn an apartment out of it later.'”
Do-woo: “Do you need an apartment?”
Kyung-ah: “Will you give me one?”

She notes the book he’s reading: “That’s surprising. I thought you’d be reading books on economics, but you’re reading Wittgenstein.” He’s unimpressed, and returns, “Do you know who that is, or are you pretending to know?”

Kyung-ah recites back, “He’s a philosopher born into an extremely rich family. That’s as much as I know.” That’s more than Do-woo expected, and he’s (very slightly) interested: “Did you study philosophy?” Kyung-ah responds, “No. I was interested in a man who studied philosophy.”

And then, they take their places on opposite couches, sitting still in silence for long moments. This scene is a great example of skilled directing, because it’s sexy and tense with hardly any dialogue — just smart editing and pacing.

The quiet interlude is interrupted when an employee calls her aside — “that guy” from before barged in with money and insists on seeing her. It’s Shin, who took her literally when she said she charged 100 million won for a night of her services. She sees the bag of cash he’s brought and asks if he robbed a bank. What’s he going to do with a night together?

He’s refreshingly straightforward: “Hold you, kiss you, have sex, hold your hand, and sleep. Then we’d wake up and I’d hold you again, and kiss you.” (Kyung-ah: “And then? You’d rob another bank?”) Shin tells her how he thought of her all the time in prison — he’d intended to focus on revenge, but those goals seemed so far-off that “I could only think of you.”

Shin tells her earnestly, “If only you’re with me, I can live nicely in this world, without despising anyone, and forgetting everyone I hate… I can’t buy you a million-won handbag, but I would tell you every single day that I’m thankful to you for staying with me.”

Kyung-ah is moved (and teary), but realistic: “We’d be happy for one month. Maybe three. …But what about after that?”

Kyung-ah then turns toward the door, which has been cracked open. She tells the man outside that “this guy” (Shin) won’t be causing any trouble, and for a moment we’re meant to think this is the employee — until Do-woo swings the door open. Kyung-ah makes her way toward him, and it feels like they’ve arrived at some kind of relationship or agreement as he puts his arm around her.

Shin recognizes Do-woo, and is immediately all, Oh. No. He. Di’n’t. He growls out his name, but Do-woo turns back and wonders carelessly, “Do you know me? How strange. I don’t recall you.”

Jae-myung, meanwhile, looks over the contents of his father’s suitcase, mulling over Eun-soo’s words. We learn from Chairman Chae (although Jae-myung doesn’t know this) that Mr. Do had killed a man on the chairman’s order and was sentenced to jail time. Therefore, he had sent his son to the States not because he didn’t love him but because he didn’t want him to find out his father was going to prison.

However, Mr. Do remained the affectionate father from a distance, as Jae-myung starts to realize when he finds the suitcase full of letters and photographs, which depict Jae-myung growing up over the years. Dad had kept in contact with the Chinese man in L.A. who raised Jae-myung, and carefully labeled all the photos with notes like: “My son’s college graduation,” “My son at 12,” “My son at 15.”

Now sharing Mun-ho’s suspicions, Jae-myung asks the police to look into the car accident, only to be told that it appears to be a simple brake malfunction. Despite this, Jae-myung is convinced that something is fishy, and rips up his plane ticket back to the States.

Back at Muse Café, he announces his intent to get revenge to Mun-ho, who asks, “What if it’s not one man? What if that enemy is enormous?” Jae-myung: “The bigger the better.”

And then Shin’s voice chimes in from the doorway: “Like Chae Dong Construction?”

Shin walks in and dumps out his bag of cash on the counter:

Shin: “I want in on that revenge. …With this 100 million won, I’m thinking of shoving the 450 billion won Chae Dong off a cliff. How about it?”

Kyung-tae and Mun-ho gape at the money.

Jae-myung locks eyes with Shin, and they shake on the deal.

 
COMMENTS

Like I said, I have a tendency to want everyone to couple up in dramas. Like with Shin’s sister-in-law, I also really, really want Kyung-tae and Eun-soo to hook up. Aside from being ridiculously cute together, I think it makes sense on a certain level. Both are special people — and by special I mean that they have inner qualities that may not be readily apparent that may go unappreciated with other people. But Kyung-tae seems to be the type of guy who would adore Eun-soo, and she seems so sweet and good that she could see his inner self.

And also, he is too freaking funny around her. First, he’s jittery when she approaches him out of the blue, which totally messes with his inept social skills — it’s like he feels too many things and doesn’t know how to react, so he runs away at the first opportunity. The second time is even more hilarious, because Eun-soo remains oblivious of the effect she has on him. When she bows her greeting (above right), Kyung-tae extends his finger hesitantly (like a curious cat), then jerks it back when she straightens. I think he’s fascinated by her, but maybe he’ll loosen up around her the more they interact, as he did with Shin.

I am a huge sucker for camaraderie, and as I didn’t know much about Shin’s “Dream Team” before the drama aired, this element comes as a welcome surprise. The group is totally oddball but they fit together with a certain goofy logic, and each member possesses a different skill, which we’ll see in more detail in the next episode. I love ragtag teams and underdog challengers, and grudging displays of male bonding — first with Shin and Kyung-tae, and now with Shin and Jae-myung.

There was a little less Do-woo today, which suits me fine because he’s creepy in controlled doses. For instance, the scene where he tries to keep Eun-soo under his thumb, but realizes that she’s starting to make some connections on her own. Kim Kang-woo is able to smile without a hint of warmth, which works wonders for this character who is faking emotion every step of the way. Another example of this is the false concern he exhibits over his father’s “health” during his thwarted attempt to take over the company.

Speaking of which, I liked seeing Do-woo fail at something, because man oh man is he not going to take this lying down. I’m not even sure he failed entirely, because it seems he’s working on something bigger, but for the moment he is frustrated, and when he is kicked out of the directors’ meeting, one gets the sense that he is fuming. It’s one thing to fear someone who is working under you and pretends to be on your side, but it’s another thing when you cast that person out — and possibly set the stage for him to declare all-out war on you.

 
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