Story of a Man: Episode 8
HOLY SCHEISSE THERE IS SO MUCH AWESOME IN THIS EPISODE.
This episode was harder to write up because this drama is so dense, packed not only with information but meaningful details, that it feels like such a waste to skip talking about any of them, and that results in waaaay too many words. But it’s so hard to pass up! No moment is wasted, and every beat is taut with significance. It took me forever to get through this episode — not because it was slow (quite the contrary) but because I had to pause after each scene to write a treatise on why it was so good.
Also: The rules change. I frigging love when the rules change in a drama.
Also again: Oh my god, Kim Kang-woo is good. But then again, so is everyone else.
SONG OF THE DAY
Story of a Man OST – “세상을 너에게” (Give the World To You) by Na Yoon-kwon. This is the fab ending song that always gets my heart going a little faster when it kicks in at the credits. [ Download ]
EPISODE 8 RECAP
Chairman Chae and Director Oh are feeling mighty smug after signing their (fake) Zhuhai land deal. They assure reporters that although the official announcement will come later (in coordination with the Chinese side), they are free to write it up.
The next morning, before the start of the business day, Chae Dong’s stock is selling well. (They don’t realize that this is because of Do-woo’s and the Dream Team’s schemes.) Currently, Chae Dong can be valued at about 150 billion won ($120 million) and still rising.
Do-woo bides his time, keeping an eye on the clock for the moment he will strike. With about half an hour till the market opens, Do-woo approaches his father, whose good mood sours to see Do-woo.
Do-woo asks his father to reconsider announcing Chae Dong’s Zhuhai deal. The more the news spreads, the more difficult things will become for the company in the future. In a gentle, persuasive tone, Do-woo says:
Do-woo: “Father, just once, can you allow me to feel like the good son? A good son and a decent man.”
But Chae doesn’t trust him — he hasn’t forgotten Do-woo’s attempt to push him out of the company. Do-woo surmises, “Whatever I say, you won’t listen, will you? Even if I tell you that you’re being scammed right now. Even if I tell you that I have proof.”
The chairman is deaf to his claims, and tells his son to move out. Do-woo says, “Just now, I held out my hand to you for the last time.”
Is Do-woo truly trying to help? This scene is perplexing, but in the best way — I can’t figure out whether Do-woo is being genuine or if he’s being sneaky, and I think it’s Kim Kang-woo’s subtle touches that make it so very hard to decide. Perhaps Do-woo does want to be the good son — or at least the closest facsimile to one, since I doubt he cares emotionally. But I can see him enjoying the challenge of acting the good son.
On the other hand, perhaps he knows his father will do the opposite of what he asks and is therefore pushing him into being more foolish. His concern for his father’s welfare is almost — just almost — sincere enough to be believed… only I know I oughtn’t believe him.
All the while, Eun-soo watches from her attic above. This conversation tips her off that her brother is aware of the Dream Team’s scam, and she hurriedly calls to let them know.
Mun-ho isn’t very worried about Eun-soo’s brother knowing, but Shin understands that she’s referring to Do-woo. After listening to her news, he bolts upstairs to Kyung-tae in alarm.
Shin demands: “You said something’s weird with Chae Dong. What is it?”
Kyung-tae: “We’ve bought Chae Dong stocks, little by little. When the Zhuhai construction development is announced, they will go up sharply. When it goes up, we’ll dump them all. The price will go down. Then we circulate rumors that Zhuhai was a scam. Chae Dong’s price will drop more. Chae Dong will be endangered. That is our goal. But—”
Kyung-tae: “But someone is stuck to us. Someone with an enormous amount of money. If we buy 10, that person buys 20. So—”
Shin: “It’s Chae Do-woo. If he knows everything, if he knows about our con and how we’re messing with Chae Dong’s stocks—”
Kyung-tae: “There are two possibilities. One: When we sell, he’ll buy it up, to block the price from falling.”
Shin: “What about the second?”
Kyung-tae: “Before we sell, they dump theirs first. It’ll drop to rock-bottom. Then they’ll eat up all the stocks at the bottom. We don’t have the money to do that ourselves.”
Mun-ho can’t believe Do-woo would do that to his own father’s company, and Shin agrees — it must be the first choice. He must be blocking the price drop. (And I shout aloud in dismay, “Noooooo!”)
Shin wants Kyung-tae to order his followers (nicknamed his “ant” army) to buy up as much as they can to offset Do-woo’s actions — but Kyung-tae protests: “If it’s the second, all our ants will die.”
In desperation, Shin doesn’t care about that and insists Kyung-tae obey, which makes Kyung-tae shrink back, scared. Even Mun-ho looks a little shocked at Shin’s reaction — does he want everyone who followed Kyung-tae to be destroyed?
Thankfully, that brings Shin back to his senses. Urgency ebbing out of him, he backs off and lets Kyung-tae do his thing, which is to get online right before the market opens. He announces to his ants to dump the Chae Dong stocks he previously told them to buy: “Don’t think twice. Don’t look back, don’t calculate, just dump them. Got it?”
Do-woo is ready to do the same, and says with anticipation that he wants to see how far Chae Dong can drop.
It’s… pretty far. With everyone on Team Shin and Team Do-woo simultaneously selling stocks, the price dives dramatically, signaling crisis. The media outlets are chaotic, because they’d just reported the good news about the land deal and now Chae Dong is in emergency.
Chairman Chae and Director Oh are both stunned, the latter so worried about what this means for him personally that he can’t bother with Chae Dong’s crisis. (As soon as the Zhuhai fake deal was signed, he had bought a ton of stocks.)
Because Shin had to make a decision without knowing what Do-woo was up to, he’s essentially given up his revenge scheme. In Kyung-tae’s Scenario 1, the Dream Team would fail to make any impact because Do-woo is doing damage control. In Scenario 2, Do-woo is the one in control and while that doesn’t hurt Team Shin, it means they have lost stewardship of their revenge.
Mun-ho says philosophically that it was probably too greedy of them to think they could have taken on Chae Dong and gotten proper revenge in one shot. Shin responds that revenge is simple: If an enemy kills his father, he kills the enemy back, and the revenge is done.
However, in this case the person he thinks of as his enemy doesn’t even know his brother, and didn’t kill him personally: “How can I have revenge on a person who doesn’t know who my brother is, or why he died?” If he destroys that man’s company, all the employees will be ruined too, like his brother was. “Then who did I take my revenge upon?”
Ah, Shin, you are wise.
It was simple when he blamed everything on Chae Dong, but not so now:
Shin: “But what is all this? Worrying about ants while fighting with stocks, worrying about Chae Dong’s employees while trying to destroy them. What am I doing?”
Mun-ho: “Want me to tell you who your real enemy is? It’s money. That’s what killed your brother and stole your girl away. So money is your enemy.”
Shin: “Then should I gather up all the money in the world, bring it in front of those people’s graves, and burn it all up? Then will that be revenge?”
Mun-ho advises to start by reclaiming what was lost. “The frightening thing about money isn’t that it sticks a knife in your belly, but that it steals those things by your side, leaving you with nothing.”
But things take another twist when they find out that news of Chae Dong’s scam deal is released ahead of their plans — since they didn’t do it, who did?
Shin has an idea, and calls Eun-soo to ask whether Do-woo is in conflict with his father. If he was acting as a dutiful son, the stocks wouldn’t have dropped. The fact that they did hints that Do-woo’s working off of a different set of motivations.
Eun-soo asks worriedly what her brother is doing — and that non-answer proves to Shin that there’s something going on between son and father. Shin even muses how Chae’s daughter lets the father’s company go to con artists, while the son is actively working to make the company fail: “He’s a pitiful man after all.”
Now they need answers, which they get by carjacking Chae that night. Shin is straightforward and reveals everything — that they were scam artists working to ruin the company. This is a revenge mission spurred by his brother’s and Jae-myung’s father’s deaths.
Shin basically blackmails Chairman Chae into being honest with them by pointing to the company’s use of slush funds (their illegal overseas stash) in the Zhuhai deal. If that info is released, that’ll look awfully bad for the company and to investors. He just wants two answers: Whether Chae remembers his brother, and why Mr. Do died.
When Jae-myung asks, “Why did you kill my father?,” Chae looks genuinely sorry to hear this is Mr. Do’s son.
Chairman Chae: “To be honest, I had forgotten. I remember now, about that mandoo factory owner who died. I, Chae Dong-soo, have always thought of Mr. Do as my brother, all my life. If something happened to him, I would be next. You guys took on the wrong opponent.”
Obviously, he’s referring to Do-woo. After the initial surprise, Shin concedes, “I really think this is fortunate. If a man like you were my opponent, I would have been greatly disappointed. If you see your son, tell him that in the future, whatever he does, wherever he is, he’d better watch his back.”
Meanwhile, Do-woo is busily meeting with numerous businessmen, with Kyung-ah acting as secretary-hostess-facilitator between all the meetings. Do-woo’s motive is yet unexplained, but his point is that the other companies are all at risk if Chae Dong fails.
Shin and Jae-myung leave Chae in his car, and he stumbles home, weak and dispirited. Arriving, he sees his son talking with Director Oh, who looks guilty to be caught switching allegiances. Frankly, I think Chae is better off without such a sniveling weakling, but it must be a blow to lose his last man standing.
Father and son have a chat, which the chairman starts by asking if Do-woo was the one messing with the stocks and spreading the rumors of the con. Do-woo looks at him directly: “Yes.”
Chairman Chae: “If you hate your father, only destroy me. Don’t endanger Chae Dong.”
Do-woo: “The one who endangered Chae Dong was you. I told you so many times, and you didn’t listen, and fell prey to those childish con artists. I had no choice.”
Chairman Chae: “What are you going to do?”
Do-woo: “I’ll take Chae Dong.”
Chae reminds his son, “I won’t leave you one penny.” Do-woo contradicts him, since he doesn’t need to be given it. He can take it himself — Chae Dong’s price has dropped so much that it’s now only worth 30 billion won ($23 million, down from about $120 million). He’s going to bring it down to 20 billion: “At that price, it won’t be very difficult to buy up more than 50 percent.” That would make Do-woo a majority shareholder.
Chae scoffs that there wouldn’t be that many people who would sell to enable him to acquire 50%. But now Do-woo reveals the purpose of his secret meetings — he’s been talking to all his father’s friends, convincing them to leave the stocks in his care, so that he can “save” the company. They have agreed to let Do-woo in charge, and also want Chairman Chae investigated for his illegal slush fund. Do-woo adds that if his father interferes, he’ll have him prosecuted.
GodDAMN Do-woo is ice-cold. Yet the mystifying thing is that he can be so cold and yet also talk in such a fake-gentle manner, as though he’s concerned for his father’s health. How the hell does Kim Kang-woo do that?
We get an especially awesome scene — kudos to the director — as an enraged chairman clutches at his heart, which is starting to pain him. Do-woo advises him to get some rest but makes no move to help, remaining unconcerned as Chae fumbles with his bottle of heart medication.
Do-woo wanders over to the bookshelf and surveys it idly as he tells his gasping father, “Do you think I’m doing this because I want Chae Dong? That’s not it. Chae Dong is just the start.” In fact, if his father hadn’t been so foolish, Do-woo would have left the company alone and picked a different one instead.
Worse yet is the cruel irony as Do-woo actually picks up a family photo while his father drops the pill bottle, and continues softly, back turned: “It was your fault. You should have treated your son a little better. Then I wouldn’t have messed with you.”
Eun-soo, watching from her attic, runs downstairs to help when her father collapses. She bursts into the study just as Do-woo says, still languidly, “That’s right, you were wrong. How could you not listen to your blood son, and believe those con artists? I was so saddened.”
Eun-soo hurriedly helps her father take his pill, at which point Do-woo tries to make up an excuse by saying that their father collapsed suddenly. But Eun-soo knows the truth, and she shoves aside Do-woo’s consoling hand and glares accusingly.
I have to say, Do-woo freaks me out with his sharpness, because rather than wonder at her attitude, he immediately realizes she must have been privy to the exchange, and looks up at the ceiling.
He then enters Eun-soo’s room, finds the ladder to her attic, and looks around her cozy hideaway. He finds the hole in the floorboard — he can hear his sister talking to their father down below — and closes his eyes in chagrin.
But then her cell phone rings, and Do-woo sees the caller: Kim Shin. He picks up the call but doesn’t speak, as Shin says, “Look here, this is Kim Shin. I have one thing to confirm with you.”
Do-woo hangs up the phone, then throws it in a rage at the wall. And I think I can say I’m pretty sure everyone who watched this scene got the uber-creeps as Do-woo looks up and his expression changes, incrementally, from anger to near-maniacal fury. Eep.
This explains the condition Kyung-ah finds Do-woo in — he’s drunk and destructive, but interestingly, even his destructiveness is lazy, kind of calm. He tosses shot glasses onto the glass table, watching as they shatter.
Kyung-ah says that this is the first time she’s seen him drunk (his friend in Episode 2 also mentioned that Do-woo’s mind never succumbs to drunkenness), which gives us a clue into how much of a blow this was. But he just answers that he’s a person too, so he can get drunk too.
When she asks if he’s okay, he answers, “I don’t know if I am.”
She sits by him, and he shares: “Do you know how my mother died? I think I killed her. She wanted it. I discovered that she wanted it. And she knew that I knew. So doesn’t that mean I killed her?”
I think he may have been expecting shock or outrage, but Kyung-ah doesn’t react that way: “So what? I’m killing myself to live, too. Once I chose to come into this world, there’s no place for me to go back to. So I just live. I killed myself and lived on.”
Again, I have difficulty knowing if Do-woo’s being sincere, but if ever I thought he might be, it’s now. At her comments, tears fill his eyes, as though he’s found solidarity for the first time.
Do-woo: “Jenny, you have nowhere to return, either?”
Do-woo: “It’s strange. Me too. I have nowhere to return to. My sister left me.”
Kyung-ah: “It seems like you’re living in different worlds, you and your sister.”
Do-woo: “Will you tell me your name?”
Kyung-ah: “Kyung-ah. Seo Kyung-ah.”
Kyung-ah: “That was my name.”
With the help of a bar worker, she helps him up to his hotel room, putting him to bed and watching over him as he (seemingly) sleeps. As she turns to go, he grabs her wrist, and mumbles, eyes still closed, “I can’t bear having nobody by my side, so will you stay with me?”
Eun-soo tends to her recovering father, who asks Eun-soo to take him to confront the Dream Team, because there are some details he wants to confirm.
They’re shocked to see him arrive at the café, and standoffish as he recounts what we know about their plan. Shin confirms everything, except that they weren’t the ones to release the rumors to the public, because someone else beat them to it.
Chairman Chae shows Jae-myung a picture of K(ei), who is Do-woo’s Number 2 and therefore probably his father’s killer. Then he shocks them further with his next question:
Chairman Chae: “Can I trust in your skills?”
Shin: “Why would you have to trust in our skills?”
Chairman Chae: “Because I have nobody to trust on my side. Why else do you think I’d come and ask that of con artists? Can I trust you? Your opponent is my son, and so is mine. Will you join with me?”
This is unexpected. Shin turns to his team and asks what they think.
Mun-ho: “I trust con artists, but not rich men.”
Jae-myung: “I don’t need this man.”
Shin marvels at how fathers and sons in this world are so different from the loving relationships in the world he’s familiar with — here, they’re cold and brutal, fighting one another.
Chae: “I’m not doing this for me to keep Chae Dong. I’m going to give Chae Dong to the person who will protect it. Don’t you want it?”
(OMO OMO OMO. He’s going to give Chae Dong to SHIN?!?!)
His father’s murderer now identified, Jae-myung finds K, who is waiting to pick up Do-woo from the bar. Jae-myung makes no attempt to avoid being seen — he’s rather blatant about it, actually — and holds up the photo of K for comparison. Confirming that this is him, Jae-myung walks away without a word.
Jae-myung makes a stealthy transaction with one of his Chinese mob contacts (leaving the others wondering where he went). He buys a gun.
Shin has his own plans for the night, beginning with shopping for a diamond ring (after putting up with some good-natured joshing from the Dream Team).
He reserves Kyung-ah’s company for the night — paying 100 million won for the privilege — and sends Joong-ho to meet her. A fancy limo picks her up and delivers her to a large (empty) theater, where Shin awaits.
He’s reserved the entire hall for a private show — it’s a quirky one-man pantomime, which sounds silly but is rather beautiful in an eccentric way — but notes that she doesn’t seem very moved by his grand gesture. Kyung-ah answers that she is, but the sentiment is rather impersonal; she says that every woman wants something like this at least once in her life.
Shin: “Do you know, to me you’re crueler than a private debt? Whatever I do, you’re a debt to me. No matter what I do, no matter what I succeed in, if I can’t work things out with you, things aren’t complete.”
Kyung-ah: “You still haven’t understood, although I’ve explained so many times.”
Shin: “You’re right, I don’t understand. How to bring you back, how to take you away from that place, which you went to because of me—”
Kyung-ah: “It’s not because of you. I just used you momentarily to get there. Back then, I needed persuading. I told you from the start, and you didn’t listen. I’m following my dream now. People without talent, looks, or connections may look down on me. I don’t care. Those people will live their way and die, after being jealous of me for having what they can’t.”
Shin: “So what is it you have right now? Money? Is that the dream you’re following? Money?”
Kyung-ah: “You probably can’t imagine — money has its standard, too. There’s a level that isn’t attainable by just anybody.”
Shin reminds her, “You cried every time we met. What were those tears?” She answers that those were merely because of the memory that there was once a time in her life when she didn’t know anything and was pure.
She rises to leave, stopping short when he asks, “Is the person who will make your dreams come true Chae Do-woo?”
That makes Kyung-ah suspect that he’s having her investigated, and she warns him not to: “I’d rather you stayed as you are, where you are. Everything about our past are really nice memories to me.”
After she goes, Shin takes out the ring box (just as the song in this scene sings out, “Goodbye, my love…”). It’s rather pathetic as Shin claps for the performer alone, then motions to the man onstage, and tosses the ring box up to him.
He returns to the café in time to bump into Jae-myung on his way out, who’s in a dark, determined mood. Shin looks at him curiously and sees the gun holster, and asks where he’s going. Jae-myung leaves without a word, and Shin takes off to follow him.
According to Kyung-tae, Jae-myung had asked for all the various addresses used by Do-woo and K, including their home, work, club, and gym.
This takes him to a boxing club, where K beats the crap out of his opponent. On his way out of the dark, empty building, K senses something that puts him on guard. Taking out his switchblade, he takes the staircase down to the parking lot.
In the underground lot, Jae-myung waits with his gun ready, where Shin finds him and warns: “Don’t do it. Is this L.A., that you’re going to get revenge with a gun?”
(LOL. I had to laugh at his recurring “Dude, do you think this is L.A.?” gibes.)
Jae-myung threatens to shoot Shin too, but the threat isn’t convincing:
Shin: “You really are a nice guy. You’re going to take out the man who killed your father in one clean shot like that, without any pain? I can’t do that. I can’t get rid of the guy who took everything away from me so easily. If you do this here, it’ll create a lot of problems for me in the future. So what do you wanna do? Want to shoot me? Or wanna hear my plan?”
K makes his way downstairs and arrives at the door to the parking garage, carefully peering outside for ambushers… but they’re gone.
So what is Shin’s plan? We will have to wait to find out, but whatever it is, Do-woo does not like this NO NO NOT AT ALL, because he spies Shin walking up his driveway with one of his business contacts. Eun-soo welcomes the guests inside, and Shin looks up at Do-woo and inclines his head in greeting.
I did say that if this drama got any better, I’d be driven to profanity, so here goes: this is a fucking great show so far.
I’m starting to think that any romantic pairing will be cool with me, because however the relationships are realized, they will make sense and be backed up by these character developments.
In fact — and this shocks me as much as it might shock anyone who’s been reading this blog for a while — I don’t actually care that much about the romances in this drama. Well, I want the romances to complement the plot, but I don’t care so much about romance for romance’s sake. I’m glad there are certain sexual tensions adding to these changing relationship dynamics, and there are a few different ‘ships that would work well, but it doesn’t even matter at this point who romances whom. That’s the power of great acting and a strong thriller story, I suppose?
For instance, for Shin’s sake, I’d like to think he gets his girl in the end, but that’s for his sake as a character who deserves a happy ending and not because of shippy feelings. Particularly since his feelings for her have never once faltered. But I don’t necessarily know that Kyung-ah is right for him — and I’m not sure that Eun-soo would be, either — because Kyung-ah’s emotional connection to Do-woo makes a lot of sense — if what Do-woo feels for her is emotional connection. (I’m still not convinced that he feels human emotions in the first place. Lol.)
Speaking of Do-woo’s emotions, I’ve been thinking of the issue between Do-woo and Eun-soo. There were a lot of great insights in the previous episode’s thread about their relationship, and I’m inclined to think that it doesn’t have weird incestuous overtones, not just because I don’t want that to be true but because I think there’s a different explanation that might fit in better with their personalities:
Consider that Do-woo has never had love from anyone else in his life — not his mother, who was afraid of his dark side, and not his father, who fears his son will usurp his power or, worse, kill him. He doesn’t feel much in the way of sexual desire, and he has no friendships to speak of. So it seems to me that Do-woo doesn’t compartmentalize love in his mind — instead, Eun-soo represents all of the love in his life. Most people delineate the different types of love — familial, parental, platonic, romantic, etc. Do-woo, in contrast, has had so little experience with love that there’s been no reason to consider where or how to categorize it.
So while I don’t feel there’s a creepy or twisted vibe to his feelings for his sister, I wonder if this may be why his actions sometimes bleed into what WE might consider a non-brotherly concern. I dunno; that’s just one thought that occurred to me this week.
I’m liking Shin more and more, just when I was afraid he might be suckered by Do-woo. They’ve built up Do-woo to be such an evil mastermind that you wouldn’t think anyone would be a match for him — and sure, Shin needs the help of Chairman Chae for this next attempt at revenge — but he’s still going to challenge Do-woo and shake him up.
I was especially glad that Shin let go of his revenge early on in the episode (even if it was just momentarily), because it shows that he’s going to go after it when it’s feasible, but he knows when to back down. He laments those pesky concerns of human welfare intruding on his master scheme, but I don’t think he’s actually upset that his conscience reared its head. It shows us that if push comes to shove, Shin can remember his humanity, whereas Do-woo may not have ever had any. It’s especially reassuring given how much he shocked Kyung-tae when he insisted he force his ants into a possible kamikaze maneuver. Kyung-tae, poor kid, actually cowered from him, while Shin was temporarily blinded by his bloodlust into forgetting the collateral damage. That kind of thinking drove his brother to a rash suicide, but Shin will (hopefully) be the wiser man.
You know, at first I felt kind of sorry for the Chairman, falling prey to Shin’s attack when he was the wrong target, and being manipulated by his own son. Then he showed himself to be so blinded by his own fear of his son that he willingly entered into his own lion’s den. In the end, hubris was his downfall. I wonder what Do-woo’s will be.
But he rather redeemed himself, I thought, by recognizing that he was beaten and being humbled by his defeat. Any man who can learn from his own crushing mistakes has to be given credit for that — and, it seems, he’s completely willing to give up Chae Dong. Just as long as his horrible, evil son doesn’t get it. So he’s both pitiable and admirable — and I never thought I’d think either of those things at the beginning of this show.
And last of all, here’s an example of what I was talking about when I said there are tiny details that say a lot. In the screencap, for instance, Do-woo’s hand moves delicately in time to his jazz music as he watches the stock numbers. These small hand movements are a recurring habit of his, but in this particular moment, it also conveys the sense that Do-woo is “conducting” the demise of his father’s company. He waves his hand, and *poof*! Money be gone.
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