How does this drama keep getting better? Episode 14 was even better than Episode 13, and each scene kept me excited. Every time the music kicked in and the camera shifted just a bit in a meaningful way, signaling an Important Upcoming Moment, I’d sit up a little straighter, eager to find out what the next bend in the twisty road would reveal.
I can’t believe it took me so long to put it together, but it finally occurred to me that the vague feeling of familiarity I’d been getting from Story of a Man is that it’s the kdrama that makes me most think of Veronica Mars. You have the convoluted criminal(s), the sly undercover mini-missions, the camaraderie, the twisted family issues, the damaged boyfriends, the dark revenge. Fun, clever, and angsty. Yup. Totally Veronica Mars. (In Season 1 when the show was still good, that is.)
SONG OF THE DAY
Jisun – “Universe” [ Download ]
EPISODE 14 RECAP
With the mayor’s death reopened for investigation, the public prosecutor drops by to let Police Chief Lee know that he’s on the hook for being too quick to close the case. He may be facing disciplinary action.
Detective Kim sets up a situation room and gets to work, questioning Shin and Jae-myung again. The detective has managed to draw a good picture and sums up the lead-up to the mayor’s death fairly accurately: After the two guys (Shin and Jae-myung) who’d stuck close to the mayor’s side heard of his death, it’s curious that they immediately went to Chae Do-woo to kick some ass. One of those guys turns out to be the son of Mr. Do, who died in a car accident — whose crash site looks awfully similar to the mayor’s.
Even though the detective has the general idea, Shin and Jae-myung remain silent, keeping their revenge to themselves. So she warns them that Do-woo has officially pressed charges against the two of them, which means that they’re stuck under her watch, and if they don’t help her solve this murder case, she’ll turn them over to face their assault charges straightaway.
Shin offers up a deal: He can get that charge dropped if she gives him one day of freedom to make it happen. He’ll deliver the criminal to her, and promises to help her even once he’s free. She considers it.
All the while, Jae-myung has checked out of this conversation ever since the detective took out the pictures of his father’s crash, fixating on the photos grimly.
Do-woo returns Kyung-ah’s cell phone, and admits that he had hidden it because he’d read her text message from Shin. Feigning concern (as though he’s afraid Kyung-ah will leave him for her ex-boyfriend), Do-woo asks if she’s going to meet Shin. You can tell Do-woo’s tactic is working, because Kyung-ah seems mollified at the implication that he’s feeling insecure and worried over losing her (oh, vanity!).
Do-woo is so evilly brilliant, because he completely undermines Shin’s move by anticipating it and defusing the potential bomb before Shin gets a chance to drop it. He tells Kyung-ah that he’s pretty sure he knows what Shin wants to tell her, and admits that he has received therapy for a psychological disorder for the past ten years.
As he does so well, Do-woo tells his story in a detached voice, but in a way that gives the impression that he’s a wounded boy who harbors a lot of pain:
Do-woo: “My father was afraid of me. The day my mother died, I was with her, which made him think I killed her. He even thought of hospitalizing me in a psych ward. Because he wanted it, I went to therapy with a psychiatrist. The doctor acted as my father wanted, naming me with all sorts of diseases. I went through a lot.”
This wins Kyung-ah’s sympathy, and when Shin calls, she hesitates to answer. Do-woo continues pathetically, “Why does Kim Shin make things so difficult for me? If he continues, I’ll be forced to press charges against him.”
(OH POOR BABY. On one hand, Do-woo is so good at manipulation that you kinda admire him for it. On the other, at this point I really just want Shin to kick his ass six ways to Sunday.)
So when Kyung-ah picks up the phone, she’s determined to shake Shin off once and for all. She tells him, “You’re too nice,” because no matter how badly she treats him, he still worries about her. Shin doesn’t like being called nice (again), and replies, “These days, hearing those words just makes me mad.”
Kyung-ah asks if he’s calling about Do-woo’s psychological disorders, which surprises him. She makes it sound like she’s known about this all along, suggesting that she knew and still chose Do-woo over Shin. (Another strike against Kyung-ah: she still frames their conversations around the supposition that Shin is dangling after her. Lady, not everything’s about you!)
Kyung-ah advises that Shin go far away to avoid being hurt, but he replies that no matter their relationship now, “You were like family to me. … So no matter how much you hurt me, I still worry. I can’t not worry about you. Before it’s too late, find out more about him. Properly.”
She thanks him for worrying, but says she’d rather not talk to him again. I think she feels she’s acting out of kindness for Shin, but part of me thinks she’s being so overly harsh to him that the lady doth protest too much… When she hangs up, she tells Do-woo it’s over, and asks, “Don’t press charges. Leave it alone. He has no power to make things difficult for you anyway.”
Kyung-tae tracks down their biggest clue, the previous deputy mayor, whom the guys intercept at a golf course and whisk away in their van. They demand to know how much he was given to resign his post. Naturally the man protests his innocence, so Shin makes some threats of physical violence to speed things along.
We know he’s bluffing, but the man doesn’t and blubbers in terror when Shin instructs the car to pull over in a deserted field; Mun-ho advises that he beat the man without leaving external marks. He points at the stream nearby and suggests some good old-fashioned drowning, too.
Shin looks furious in this shot, but in reality he’s rather enjoying himself (this whole scene is a giggle), and tells the man that it’s actually quite okay if the man remains uncooperative. Shin’s feeling the need to relieve some stress, and he’d like an excuse to beat him up.
So when he winds up for a punch, the ex-deputy mayor blurts, “Land! I received land.”
Now they’re getting somewhere. Shin asks for details, and assures him that their real target is elsewhere, so if he cooperates, they’ll just be on their way.
Jae-myung gives his statement to an officer who treats him with derision; he insinuates that Jae-myung could have attacked the mayor himself. Det. Kim vouches for him, because she has already checked out his story with witnesses — the grandma in the street remembers him, and several bystanders attest to seeing Jae-myung running in the street after the car.
But a thought strikes Jae-myung — if the killer is who he thinks it is, there’s a good chance he’ll run.
He’s right about that, because Do-woo instructs K to head for the Philippines for the time being. He’s still angry at K for breaking rank and acting on his own, but he’s still his man and he tells him to lie low until Do-woo sends for him, despite K’s assurances that he left absolutely no trace of evidence linking him to the mayor’s death.
That’s true, you can count on K to have erased his tracks carefully, but that’s what makes this next part so satisfying. Detectives rush the hallway and detain a surprised K; Jae-myung points him out as the man who stabbed him and stole his gun.
Det. Kim arrests him on suspicion of attempted murder and robbery, and this! Is! Great! They know they don’t have enough evidence to pin K for the mayor’s murder, so they arrest him for assaulting Jae-myung instead to prevent him from fleeing the country. Smarty smart!
(I’d wondered if his name was K or Kei, and it looks like it really is “K” — short for Kang Chi-yong.)
For once, Do-woo and K are completely taken off-guard, and Do-woo fumes at being bested. Shin arrives with Director Oh in tow — they’d run into each other downstairs — and there’s a fun moment as he and Jae-myung clap hands, as though signifying a tag-team trade-off against the Evil Duo.
Shin faces Do-woo: “I came to do what the deceased mayor so enjoyed doing. You know what business transactions are — I give something, you give something, and we figure something out together.”
I love this reversal in atmosphere — Do-woo has just been shaken, while Shin strolls in confident and smirking. Do-woo scowls, saying, “I’m getting tired of running into you.”
Shin announces, “I’m thinking of taking down your new Mayor Oh for giving out bribes.” He presents the contract signed by the former deputy mayor and Director (now Mayor) Oh, and cites how a bribe of more than 100 million won will land a body in prison for at least 10 years. He states, “Chae Do-woo, you pulled all sorts of tricks to make this man the new mayor of Myungdoshi, didn’t you? I’m going to put away that mayor you worked so hard to make.”
Do-woo looks pissed but answers confidently that such documents won’t make any difference legally. Shin cuts him off: “It doesn’t matter. I’m going to call the reporters and they’ll talk.” Not only was the ex-deputy mayor bribed by the current mayor, the land used in the bribe is owned by Chae Dong.
Ah, Do-woo is stuck! (So. Satisfying.) He asks, “What do you want?” Shin: “Drop charges against me and Do Jae-myung.”
Do-woo laughs. Shin laughs back: “That’s too cheap, isn’t it? But I’ll be satisfied with that.”
(I love this. I love that Shin dug himself into a hole with his hotheadedness, and he pulled himself right back out using his brain. Go Shin!)
Game and set. (Match still pending.) Do-woo gets on the phone with his lawyer to drop the charges.
(As Do-woo calls, Shin looks idly at the city plan on the wall, recalling the mayor excitedly planning the future apartments. Something strikes him as important — it’s not immediately clear why, but will be significant shortly.)
Once Do-woo’s phone call is over, Shin marvels at his unflappable calm: Even as Do-woo backed down against his enemy, Shin notices, “There’s absolutely no hint of weakness. What do I do about that? How can I turn your insides out? The only thing I can do is force your self-destruction.”
Chairman Chae — or Grandpa Chae, now — has made himself at home at the café, and wanders upstairs to see what Kyung-tae is up to. Kyung-tae explains he is “waiting for Chae Dong stock” per Shin’s orders. Grandpa Chae confirms Kyung-tae’s speculations that Do-woo is low on cash flow, though he owns a huge percentage of the company — roughly 70%.
Shin is preparing another stock-related plan, but Chae doesn’t understand, because Team Shin doesn’t have any money to be playing with stocks anymore. Kyung-tae just repeats Shin’s order to wait.
There’s a short but very cute interlude at the café, which I LOVE. The girls come home from school, and Nuri immediately sits next to Grandpa. Yuri proudly announces a good grade she earned, to which Kyung-tae pats her on the head and Eun-soo hugs her congratulations.
When Jae-myung and Shin arrive, they both want to head upstairs for a shower, and race to use the bathroom first. It’s a little slice of happy home life with the Muse Café family, and it’s adorable.
Meanwhile, Do-woo wants K’s release negotiated immediately. K has been interrogated by the police and his belongings searched, but there has been no trace of the gun or knife. If evidence isn’t found in 48 hours, the police have to let him go; the best Detective Kim can do is prevent him from leaving the country.
Do-woo then turns to Mayor Oh and demands to know exactly what Shin asked him. Oh parrots back Shin’s question: “What areas of Myungdoshi has Chae Do-woo not acquired yet?” Mayor Oh (being overconfident and stupid as usual) doesn’t see any reason to be nervous, and had smugly told Shin, “He’s already got most of Myungdoshi.”
This includes a Myungdoshi agricultural venture group, which Mayor Oh figures is practically theirs already. But Do-woo is displeased that Shin mentioned it, and immediately calls meetings with his planning committee.
At the meeting, we see that Do-woo’s nervous about the agriculture venture group, which is their last holdout — he intends to buy the big plot of land situated right in the center of the city, and is very close to accomplishing it. However, the fact that Shin has picked up on this makes Do-woo uneasy, and he wants to secure it asap.
Team Shin is busy at work on the same thing (the venture group is the realization Shin had while looking at the map). Shin says that he “tossed some bait” toward Do-woo, and is pretty sure he’ll go for it. He predicts that Do-woo won’t buy the venture group at market price — he has no money. Kyung-tae makes his prediction: “Ruin the venture. If it’s ruined, all the people will leave. Then the land value plummets.”
We’ve seen Do-woo do that before with the mandoo factories, and sure enough, he orders his men to get going with the plan. (Kyung-ah looks a little surprised — I wonder if she’ll figure out that this is what Do-woo did to Shin’s brother.)
The issue with the agricultural venture group is that they’re currently being pressed to return investments they’d received three years ago, a total of 3 billion won. Kyung-ah tells him that they’ll need a little bit of time to raise enough to buy them out.
Therefore, they’ll have to block the venture until Do-woo and Kyung-ah are able to raise the money.
This means it’s back to the bar for more business-related drinking meetings with Do-woo’s friends. (We also find out that Kyung-ah has ditched the name “Jenny” and is now the owner/operator of the bar.)
Do-woo asks for investments, assuring the others that he can double or triple their returns. By now, the guys trust Do-woo to know what he’s doing and throw their hats into the ring. They don’t know what he’s doing, but they’re up for making some fast cash.
Anticipating this, the Dream Team are on alert for the first sign of Chae Dong stocks moving. Jae-myung remains skeptical, because they have no money to invest, so what’s the purpose in monitoring the stocks?
It’s BUM-HWAN! Finally! (You don’t know how happy I was to see him appear at long last.)
Bum-hwan is happy to see them, but reminds Shin that he’d told him to prove himself first. Shin points to Kyung-tae: he’s the proof.
Kyung-tae explains that he can triple (possibly quadruple) Bum-hwan’s money if he puts up an initial investment. Shin’s only condition is that Bum-hwan invest the earnings where Shin directs him to.
(Smart! Love this. Shin has no money, and he knows Bum-hwan’s not going to give him charity — he’s gotta earn this. So by making Bum-hwan rich first, he can raise the capital he needs and give everyone a win-win situation.)
There’s a slight hiccup for Team Shin (though not a big one) because Bum-hwan is hesitant to obey Kyung-tae’s orders. Clearly he’s not comfortable with all the fancy stock-market stuff, and he waits so long that Kyung-tae presses him to hurry or they’ll lose their shot to make money.
Shin, exasperated, calls Bum-hwan cowardly. In the background, Chae chuckles and dispenses another pearl of wisdom: “A gangster makes money against another person. A businessman makes money against money. If you yell at a person, you can scare them into giving you money. You can’t do that with money.”
Finally, Bum-hwan gives in and agrees to buy.
Do-woo, not suspecting any of this, is hard at work manipulating stock prices according to his own complicated plan, ordering his people to buy and sell in carefully orchestrated patterns. It’s all proceeding according to plan… until he notices something happening that he hadn’t predicted.
Kyung-tae has dumped their stock (earning Bum-hwan a 200% return), which messes with Do-woo’s timing — because this time he hadn’t expected interference.
In a nice bit of symbolism, his jazz CD skips.
With no hard evidence linking him to Jae-myung’s assault, K is released from jail. Det. Kim warns him not to go too far, since he might be called back.
Jae-myung meets him at the steps in front of the police station, and warns, “Hide my gun well. I’ll go to find it.”
A guest is brought to meet with Shin: the agricultural venture’s union president. Shin gets right to the point: “Your agricultural venture needs money, doesn’t it?” The man is surprised that Shin knows that they are facing the loss of their land if they can’t return their investments by the end of the month.
Shin turns to Bum-hwan: “Invest 3 billion in this venture.”
Bum-hwan asks what the group produces, and it’s amusing to see the tough gangster muse over his new investment in roses and cacti.
While Bum-hwan hesitates, Kyung-tae takes the moment to say I told you so: “If you’d listened to me, you could have made 5 billion. You didn’t listen and let time keep slipping by so you only made 3 billion.”
It’s SO HILARIOUS how exasperated Bum-hwan is — here are these upstarts, mere underlings, running circles around him playing these huge games that he doesn’t understand, but he can’t walk away because they are persuasive enough to pique his interest. He’s not savvy enough to see the big picture so he’s afraid to trust them, but in the end, he has to just sigh and agree to whatever Shin says.
On the other side of the stock battle, Do-woo receives the bad news that the agricultural venture just acquired a new investor, meaning they aren’t likely to sell. Do-woo wants to know who the investor is, and tells his man to pay particular attention to the name Kim Shin or Chae Dong-soo.
Eun-soo clears up outside the café, and Shin is (again) exasperated to see how helpful she’s being. She’s been helping around all episode, and he doesn’t like it; he asks if she plans to keep staying here. Eun-soo answers that her father likes it here, because he keeps inventing excuses to stay.
Eun-soo: “It’s the first time that he hasn’t been caught up in making money, or that people are around to greet each other when they leave or come home, or that we all eat meals together, or a child falls asleep on his knee. It’s the first time for my father and for me.”
Eun-soo promises they’ll leave soon enough, but he’s not satisfied with that answer. All episode long, there’s been an interesting vibe between Shin and Eun-soo, although I’m still not sure what this is building up to. Is it romantic? Or is it merely as Shin explains to Eun-soo:
Shin: “Honestly, it’s because I’m uncomfortable. We’re going to be having meetings to discuss how to ruin your brother. I think of your brother as the man who killed my brother and the mayor, so I won’t be able to talk politely. But to be next to his sister and father — it’s awkward for me.”
She takes this well, but is a little deflated as she answers, “I know.”
Still, when she drops a pot, Shin immediately helps her pick it up… while the camera pans over to an observer… Do-woo. (EEK! That’s surprising.)
Although Shin had told Eun-soo he enjoyed flaunting their “friendship” in front of Do-woo, I’m sure even he couldn’t have devised better timing to stick it to Big Bro here.
Kyung-ah finds him in his empty, dark conference room. She notices his withdrawn mood but addresses business matters, saying it’ll take some time to raise the money to buy the venture — should she try dragging his friends in forcefully? He answers, “You know I don’t have friends.”
Her answer is philosophical, not pitying: “How many people in the world have real friends? Everyone just settles for calling people friends at a certain point.”
The tone takes a shift for the creepy(-er) as Do-woo asks softly, staring straight ahead though mesmerized:
Do-woo: “What do women mean when they like a man? What does that feel like? At what moment does she realize that she likes a certain man? When she finds out, what then? Does she throw away everything from before then, on behalf of the new man? Is that man all that remains?”
Kyung-ah: “What is it exactly you want to know?”
Do-woo: “Whether she truly cares. Whether she knows that answer. Which way she leans.”
Kyung-ah: “Give her a chance. The woman’s heart may be indecisive. There will be times when she doesn’t know which way she leans. So help her.”
Do-woo: “Is that it? Do I have to help?”
Kyung-ah: “Yes, so she doesn’t wander alone, so she can make the final decision.”
As much as Grandpa Chae has liked living at the café, he tells Eun-soo, “We should return home.” He’ll fire everyone who works at the house — and proposes that Myung-sun be his housekeeper.
Myung-sun is flustered and tries to refuse — it would be a great charity to her, but she can’t accept. Chae isn’t having it, and says, “I need a housekeeper, you need a house.”
To make it clear that he’s not being benevolent, he says, “I’m not bringing you in because I like you, I need to bring you in to bring in Kim Shin.” That surprises Eun-soo, as he continues gruffly: “Have you seen that guy at work? If it’s him, he can recover Chae Dong. I have to keep him with me. So come with me.”
Eun-soo loves the idea of bringing Myung-sun and the girls to the family, but her excitement turns into chaos later that night when Do-woo calls.
He’s getting married and plans to hold a small, closed ceremony. However, he needs a witness, and asks her to fill that position.
Shin comes across her and worries, thinking she may be ill, but Eun-soo grabs his shirt and blurts in a panic, “I think my brother’s doing something wrong.”
Shin doesn’t find that odd — “That guy doesn’t usually do much right, does he?” — but Eun-soo’s agitation grows:
Eun-soo: “He’s getting married to Kyung-ah. Should I stop it? How do I stop it? Is that the wrong idea? I hope it’s the wrong idea. My brother may really like her. Whatever the doctor says, I know my brother. He doesn’t know how to, but he wants to care for someone. He wants to learn.”
I’m not sure if Eun-soo actually believes this, but it strikes me as something she would say to convince herself it’s true more than actually believing it is, to try to find a spark of humanity in her brother.
The next day, Shin drives Eun-soo to the wedding, while Do-woo heads over in his car, wondering if Eun-soo will show.
Menawhile, lonely Kyung-ah opens her wedding box to find a gown inside — is it creepy that it’s an old-style bridal gown in the manner of Grace Kelly, replete with tiara?
Like I said, the family interludes are among my favorite parts of the drama, and make the icy isolation of Do-woo and Kyung-ah’s relationship stand out in stark relief.
I still really, really want Team Shin to prevail — and big-time — but it’s still heartwarming to see how much of a loving community he’s carved out for himself regardless. The cranky father/grandfather, the playful kids, the warm mother, the bickering brothers — all the dynamics are alive and healthy within the surrogate Muse Café family. (My favorite scene was when Jae-myung races Shin to use the shower first. LOL.)
The reason I’m irritated with Kyung-ah is that it’s like she’s willfully ignoring the truth now. At first it was understandable that she’d stick with her man because she was in the dark as to his true nature, but now it’s like she’s choosing the dark. The signs are all there, and she’s a smart woman (if an irritating one), and it’s not too much of a stretch for her to make the connections. Perhaps she’s already made the connections. But to proceed anyway — and toss back to Shin that she “chose” Do-woo over him, even knowing how psychologically damaged he is — strikes me as… foolish. Maybe even a little smug?
She’s being played by Do-woo, and although I’m starting to wonder if she’s trying to play him, too, I don’t know if she’ll be able to do that. But she’s still walking into the situation with her eyes wide open, or as open as they can be in the circumstances. More than being annoyed by her, I don’t quite understand her.
And yes, Do-woo actually vents his anger in a non-productive, totally emotional way! I love that his CD skips just as he realizes he’s lost the venture group (hammering in that he has just lost – lost – lost – lost) and that he takes out his anger at Shin on the innocuous little CD. Do-woo is a guy who moves with efficiency, who wastes no movement and conserves his energy (as Kim Kang-woo also explains in his 10 Asia interview), so for him to actually destroy something for no purpose other than venting his displeasure strikes me as a pretty significant moment.
Little by little, Shin is insinuating himself into Do-woo’s life, and it’s fricking great. For instance, when Do-woo snaps, “I’m getting awfully tired of running into you,” it’s so gratifying that Shin is able to ruin Do-woo’s day like that. Even Do-woo’s smile (above) is forced and unnatural, like he’s got to act like he’s got the upper hand instead of naturally having it.
When Shin maneuvers Do-woo into dropping the charges, Do-woo laughs because Shin’s demand is so paltry, but the more he confronts his adversary, the more he’s unnerved. He may sneer and laugh, but he’s no longer confident. The mere mention that Shin had said something about the venture group is enough to get Do-woo scrambling to convene a meeting, and I very much enjoy seeing Do-woo thrown off his game. It’s been a long time coming, and I think we still have a ways to go before it fully pays off, but it’s like Shin said — his best bet is to make Do-woo self-destruct.
- Story of a Man: Episode 13
- Story of a Man: Episode 12
- Story of a Man: Episode 11
- Story of a Man: Episode 10
- Story of a Man: Episode 9
- Story of a Man: Episode 8
- Story of a Man: Episode 7
- Story of a Man: Episode 6
- Story of a Man: Episode 5
- Park Ki-woong moved to tears at acting praise
- Kim Kang-woo: Birth of a Devil
- Story of a Man: Episodes 3 & 4
- Story of a Man: Episodes 1 & 2