Story of a Man: Episode 15
(He’s staring at an overhead heat lamp in a greenhouse.)
This was an exciting episode because Do-woo’s grip on his ice-cold composure continues to slip. The thing about Shin is that he hasn’t all of a sudden stumbled onto a magical solution for unnerving Do-woo, and it isn’t that he’s turned into an overnight mastermind. It’s more that he’s been chipping away at Do-woo from all angles — damn is he persistent — looking for the perfect moment to launch his sling (hence “The Slingshot” of the English title) to knock down his Goliath.
Oh yeah, and we finally figure out what Kyung-ah’s deal is.
SONG OF THE DAY
EZ Hyoung – “I Need Your Love.” I love songs that sneak up on you like this, starting out mellow and pretty but building up to an intense crescendo. To think, when I first picked this song, it didn’t even occur to me how well it meshes with the theme of this episode. (The song starts, “Don’t leave me, you can’t do this” while the bridge/chorus goes, “I need your love… I’m waiting for you, come back to me.”)
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EPISODE 15 RECAP
Shin and Eun-soo linger in the car outside the wedding chapel. He asks what Eun-soo plans to do — will she attempt to stop it?
Eun-soo senses that that’s what he’d like her to do, but she can’t, and apologizes. She’s decided that the best thing she can do for her brother is to congratulate him and support him: “If Kyung-ah knows that he’s ill and still accepts him, I’m going to thank her. I’m sorry.”
After she heads inside the church, he says, “You shouldn’t be sorry to me.”
The following is a fabulous exchange because the emotions are acted so subtly yet effectively. Waiting in the empty chapel, Do-woo looks up eagerly at the sound of the door opening; his smile fades to see someone else enter. A moment later, disappointment turns back into gladness when she does walk in.
I don’t think Eun-soo actually believes the things she’s trying to convince herself are true, such as when she asks with hope (but not convincingly), “You love Kyung-ah, don’t you?”
At mention of love, Do-woo reverts back to his assured demeanor, almost amused: “So that’s how you think, that I love someone. That I can love someone.” Eun-soo replies that of course he can — it’s just that he doesn’t know how. Maybe that’s not convincing to her own ears, because she amends, “Everybody’s like that, not knowing how to love. But everyone wants to love. You’re like that too, aren’t you?” She clearly wants him to confirm her hopes that there’s an innocent explanation for everything.
Then his expression takes on a lost-little-boy look and it’s like he’s trying to make excuses for her unspoken suspicions: “You were gone. When I really needed you, you left to the other side and hurt me.”
Although Eun-soo asks the next question point-blank, she also tries to give him an out: “Oppa, you don’t have anything to do with the mayor’s death, right? There are people who believe you were involved.”
Do-woo’s little-boy expression fades and is replaced by coolness again — Kim Kang-woo makes these emotional transitions fluidly and it’s quite interesting to watch these ever-changing undertones play on his face. He asks, “What do you think, Eun-soo?”
Rather than answering directly (probably because she can’t lie, but she doesn’t want to admit she believes he’s guilty), Eun-soo changes the subject and wonders whether Kyung-ah will stick by Do-woo in the future, now that she knows of his psychological issues. She hopes Kyung-ah will stay and watch over him.
At that, Do-woo’s expression suddenly grows scared and he asks in a quavering voice, “And where will you be?”
Eun-soo’s eyes fill with tears as she tells him, “If I see you, I’ll keep thinking about it. Mr. Do, the mayor. Even if you had nothing to do with it, I’m going keep wondering.”
Shin surprises Kyung-ah by showing up at the door to her bridal prep room. She isn’t pleased; she purposely didn’t even tell her parents of her wedding, “But the person I most wanted to not invite shows up.”
Shin asks if she’ll be okay, and whether the reason they didn’t call anyone to the wedding is because they aren’t in love. Kyung-ah answers that she’s trying on that score (to love Do-woo). He asks, “Have you found out what kind of person he is?” Kyung-ah: “I’m trying to find that too.”
Shin: “There’s something you need to know about him and me. At first, I was too miserable I couldn’t tell you. But now, it seems ridiculous to tell you.”
Kyung-ah: “Just congratulate me. It’s a wedding.”
Shin: “I can’t do that. I’m planning to rid the world of your groom. I think that’s my job. That’s why I thought I had to stop you, but that probably is useless.”
Kyung-ah nods, confirming that. Seeing her watery eyes, he says, “Then don’t show your tears. You’re tough.” With that, he leaves. After a moment, Kyung-ah runs outside to chase him down, but he’s already gone.
The ceremony proceeds.
Shin watches from the balcony, although he leaves after the vows are exchanged. And how creepy is the moment when Do-woo lifts Kyung-ah’s veil for the customary kiss, and he looks over at his sister instead of his bride? Worse yet, Kyung-ah is fully aware and notices.
As the minister and others start to file out, leaving the bride and groom together, Do-woo ignores Kyung-ah and suddenly bolts down the aisle.
It’s unnerving seeing someone who’s usually so measured in his actions running frantically, but that’s what Do-woo does, trying to catch up with his sister. He runs up to the curb just as Shin pulls away with Eun-soo sitting beside him.
Do-woo’s more or less back to normal by the time the newlyweds arrive their new manor, which is to say he’s businesslike and professional. He indicates that Kyung-ah is free to furnish the place to her tastes, apologizes for the lack of a honeymoon, and gets to work.
What a romantic way to welcome your Grace Kelly to your new kingdom, huh? Fitting that he should leave her in her sprawling, empty house while he attends to business.
At Muse that night, Eun-soo creeps downstairs and finds Shin outside, thinking to himself. She’s hesitant, unsure whether to leave him alone, but he speaks to her first. (Shin still treats Eun-soo with a trace of impatience and irritation, but it’s more because he doesn’t want to like her rather than him actually disliking her. He still feels concern for her welfare, but his hate for Do-woo keeps him from being open and friendly with her. For instance, seeing her come outside in her T-shirt, he grumbles that she should wear something in this cold night air, then takes off his jacket. But he doesn’t want the gesture to seem too nice, and he thrusts it at her unceremoniously.)
Shin asks if Eun-soo came to console him, pitying the man who’s moping on the night his ex-girlfriend got married. Eun-soo says, “Sorry,” to which Shin comments that “sorry” is like an automatic response for her, given how much she’s said it.
Eun-soo tells him that she and her father are going back home tomorrow, and taking along the girls and Myung-sun. He knows this already, but she’s working up to her real point; she asks hesitantly, “Are you going to come too?”
Shin explains that he can’t tell his sister-in-law what to do, but he’s intending on setting her up in her own home soon enough.
Shin: “Do you know why I can’t sleep? All day I think, ‘If I were Chae Do-woo, what would I be thinking right now?’ Thankfully that’s worked and I’ve succeeded a couple times. If he’s the guy I know, he should be completely pissed off right now and starting a new plan — but then he suddenly gets married. I don’t know why, so I can’t sleep. The mayor told me to gather a million eggs, but I don’t know where those million eggs are, so I can’t sleep.”
Eun-soo: “Do you think you can stop my brother?”
Shin: “No, stopping him won’t be enough. If it ends like that, it would feel too unfair.”
The implication of the last part is that Do-woo must die (or be really, really ruined), and Shin sighs that this is why he doesn’t like talking to Eun-soo — if they talk and become friendly, things will only get more complicated later.
The agricultural venture group faces a new problem: Mayor Oh acts upon Do-woo’s instructions in order to bring down the venture (so he can buy it). The venture is something like a co-op, comprising approximately 1,000 Myungdoshi residents who all own a share. Now, they’re facing expropriation, meaning that the mayor is imposing the threat of confiscating the land in the name of redistribution of wealth.
Mayor Oh can therefore demand the venture members to hand over their land, forcibly buying them out for an extremely low sum. However, even if the venture takes the buyout, they’re essentially ruined because it’s such a small amount.
The venture union president calls Shin “our benefactor, Teacher Shin” and asks him to help, reminding him that he’d already saved them once from the verge of ruin.
To explain what the group is about, the president shows Shin and the Dream Team around their land, where they grow all sorts of flowers and cacti. The members are all proud of their work and are eager to show him their accomplishments. They believe in their venture as the hope of Myungdoshi and their future prosperity.
All the while, Shin is a bit abashed at the attention — the townspeople have gone from calling him the “self-burning man” (from when he threatened to set himself on fire) to “Teacher Shin” and now “the core of our agricultural venture.” Uncomfortable with the praise, Shin keeps saying it’s an investment, as though highlighting that it’s a business decision will deflect attention away from that whole “saving them from disaster” aspect.
The expropriation ploy doesn’t make sense to anybody but Do-woo; the other city officials question the mayor’s actions, because this would only ruin the venture.
Do-woo informs them that an important presence is ready to move in to Myungdoshi — Phoenix Group will establish an office where the venture currently stands. They are owners of casinos in Monte Carlo and Vegas, and their profits vastly outstrip the venture’s. He equates saving the venture to suffering a great loss in the name of a small gain.
Do-woo pretends to arrive at a good compromise by offering to buy the venture at 1 million won (per pyeong, a unit of land measurement) — that’s much better than the paltry 600,000 they were first offered. Total, that means they would receive 14 billion won ($11 million). This gesture of false generosity is a calculated bid to seem helpful.
Harboring some misgivings, Mun-ho reminds Shin of the rules of a con, which emphasize the need to keep things small. The larger an operation grows, the more chances for failure. He warns, “You’re doing something really wrong right now. I’m warning you for real, leave and don’t come back here. Those people call you teacher now. Those are the same people who not long ago cursed the mayor for embezzling. That’s what people are like.”
Those words give me an uneasy feeling, but Shin isn’t shaken by them. He answers that it’s okay:
Shin: “Whether I’m turned on or used, or betrayed later on, it doesn’t matter to me. If I can just trample over him [Do-woo], it doesn’t matter. Also, this is a job the mayor told me to do — the people’s apartments, the school, and a public health center.”
(In another bit of uneasiness, one of the venture members sneaks away on the phone and reports the details of Shin’s visit… to Do-woo.)
Kyung-ah comes by the Chae mansion to pay her respects to her new father-in-law, but Chairman Chae interrupts and tells her not to bother bowing to him; it’s a pointless gesture.
In a polite tone, Kyung-ah asks for forgiveness for her discourtesies: marrying without informing him, not visiting him immediately after the wedding, and coming without Do-woo tonight. He asks her straight-out what she knows of her husband: “Do you know he’s insane?” She answers, “I’ve heard that, although I don’t believe it.”
Chae seems a little bit impressed with how Kyung-ah maintains her composure, but he doesn’t have anything to tell her while she is still loyal to Do-woo: “When you find out his true nature, come back. I’m sure you’ll have something to say then.” Chae tells Kyung-ah sternly to leave.
While his treatment doesn’t faze her at all, when she turns and comes face to face with the housekeeper bearing a tray of refreshments, she freezes in dread — she and Myung-sun recognize each other.
Myung-sun doesn’t understand at first, unable to process that Do-woo’s new wife and Kyung-ah are the same person. Her incredulous reaction only makes Kyung-ah feel worse, because everything Myung-sun says is laced with such pain — she tells Kyung-ah how outrageous it is for her to marry the man who ruined her family, who killed her husband, who sent Shin to prison.
Worse yet is the sudden thought that occurs to Myung-sun. Horrified, she asks brokenly, “Is the money you gave me from him, too? Then what am I? Not all money is the same! That can’t be. Money ruined my family — how could I receive that money?”
Kyung-ah stumbles away from the house and drives in a dull stupor, finally pulling over by the river (after all, our breakdowns must be scenic!). She gives in to tears and screams into the air, thinking back to her early encounters with Do-woo and his (seemingly innocent) questions about Shin. Such is her horror, and perhaps guilt, that she has difficulty breathing as she recalls those memories.
(So… this means she really WAS foolish enough to fall for Do-woo’s clever manipulations, and is just realizing she’s been had. Will discuss more down below.)
She’s in a dark mood that night as she storms home to her glass castle, stomping inside past Do-woo without acknowledging his presence.
He comes upon her in her room and asks what’s wrong. After a moment, she turns to him — and smiles, as though nothing’s wrong. She says, “I must have been thinking of something else. I’d been thinking the wrong way about something. I was lost in that thought and didn’t see you.”
I know some of us have been wondering if Kyung-ah has been playing Do-woo this entire time. Her reaction here shows that Kyung-ah hadn’t been harboring that thought — but she certainly is now.
All the while, Jae-myung is still with Detective Kim, who is working out the timeline of the mayor’s death and investigating K’s background. It turns out K had once been a successful mixed martial arts fighter, but had retired after killing someone in the ring.
There are a few areas worth exploring in the case that could lead them to more information: For instance, K must have been driving his own car before taking over the mayor’s. The crash site was 10 km away, which means it would have taken him more than an hour to walk back to his own car — but if he took a bus, they can investigate all the local bus CCTV footage, as well as taxis.
Furthermore, soju was found in the mayor’s body but there were no bottles in the car. Searching the area is a time-consuming task with a high probability of not turning up anything, but Det. Kim proceeds methodically regardless. (And takes advantage of the opportunity to check out Jae-myung’s ass again — ha!) Sure enough, Jae-myung finds deliberately shattered bottles in the vicinity of the crash.
One thing that makes me nervous is Bum-hwan’s attitude regarding his investment — like Mun-ho, Bum-hwan has no emotional stake in the plan and thinks more of convenience and money. So it’s a little unsettling that Bum-hwan half-jokingly says he could sell to Do-woo and make a profit at his current asking price, although Shin is very firm in insisting he wait. Thankfully, Bum-hwan is content to listen to Shin — at least for now.
Do-woo’s mole is busily trying to sow discord within the venture group by insisting upon selling. The others refuse, because at that asking price (14 billion won), they can’t merely relocate the venture to another location, they’d have to dissolve it entirely. If they do that, each member only gets 10 million won for his trouble — a mere $8,000.
Shin is called upon to offer his opinion on the matter, and he implies that he could get them 50 billion won instead ($40 million).
Smiling, Shin takes out his cell phone. Explaining that his speed dial is set to Do-woo’s number (suggesting that they’re good buddies), he calls Do-woo while the latter is in a meeting. Do-woo is displeased to see Shin on his caller ID, but answers anyway. It further irks him that Shin speaks in a cheerful, faux-friendly tone:
Shin: “How’ve you been? I’m here at the agricultural venture, and I heard something that’s interesting. Your Chae Dong offered to buy it, I hear. But what’s with that measly 1 million won per pyeong, you cheapskate? I told these people that Chae Do-woo would give at least 4 million. You’ll do that, won’t you?”
Do-woo: “I don’t care to hear your voice right now.”
Shin: “But you took my call. You couldn’t not pick up, since you’re dying to know what I’d say. 4 million per pyeong. If you don’t give that much, you’ll be in for some pain. So much pain that you might have to go back to the hospital for some therapy.”
Do-woo lowers the phone, fuming silently. It’s so satisfying to see him so peeved.
Shin mobilizes his team. This next operation requires Jae-myung to flirt with a woman (the secretary/aide) to peek at her agenda to find out where Do-woo is meeting a business associate. (Jae-myung’s reaction to Shin’s request is such a hoot, like he’s affronted to be labeled the playboy, and he demands, “Who do you take me for?!” And yet, he does the job faithfully.)
Do-woo meets with Mimi Jang, the Hong Kong branch manager of a financial company that makes a lot of real estate investments. She’s no-nonsense and doesn’t beat around the bush when Do-woo comes by — she’s heard of his dream to turn Myungdoshi into Neo-Monaco and asks how much he wants her to invest.
As Do-woo leaves his meeting with Mimi Jang, he comes face to face with someone arriving: Shin.
They exchange looks — Shin is smug, while Do-woo is very, very perturbed. He tries to hide his anxiety from Shin, but can’t help stewing as he sits in his car watching the exchange from afar, all the while tapping his finger in precise timing along the car armrest.
Shin has come without an appointment and addresses Mimi Jang in a straightforward way, explaining that he’s representing the agricultural venture group and is here to give her a report, free of charge, about the state of affairs.
Shin points out that the venture sits in the very center of Myungodshi, around which casinos will be built. However, he and the venture group have no intention of selling. Do-woo has been meeting with people in an attempt to take away the land, but that makes them very uneasy.
Therefore, he has a simple request, which doesn’t cost her anything: “Until you confirm that we are selling the land, please don’t lend him money. I’m afraid that if you proceed wrongly, this will trouble you later.”
Following this meeting, Team Shin also drops in on another one. This time, Jae-myung is there to intercept the businessman just as he finishes a meeting with Do-woo, who looks on in growing anger. Jae-myung offers the man some information, presumably the same kind of friendly advice offered to Mimi Jang.
While Jae-myung talks, Shin steps in front of Do-woo to tell him that if the venture sells, the person who will be hurt most is Do-woo. Shin knows that the city expropriation scheme was merely an attempt at blackmail, and again names his price — 4 million per unit of land (which adds up to a total of 56 billion won, four times Do-woo’s lowball offer).
Again, Do-woo is left to simmer in his car, tapping his finger in agitation.
Mun-ho rallies the venture group people together and argues how evil Chae Dong is. His reasoning is purposefully incomplete, because he doesn’t blame Do-woo outright for the mayor’s death — he only wants to steer the discussion to let the people jump to that conclusion on their own. This is particularly effective because Team Shin has been sowing the seeds carefully — Shin alluded to it once before, but backed off without pressing the point.
The mole is uneasy at this turn, and tries to call Do-woo immediately. He can’t get through and has to deliver a message to an assistant instead.
K is brought into the police station again, now that new information has been brought to light. K remains zen-like and unresponsive as Detective Kim tells him that the rental car was taken out in his name. But the question that finally breaks through his calm is when she asks, “You know Do Man-hee, don’t you?”
He remains silent as she says, “I’m thinking of asking Chae Dong-soo about him, but is there anything you have to say?” His expression starts to look the tiniest bit unnerved as she tells him she knows that he didn’t act on his own — he must be working for his boss, Do-woo. How involved was his boss in this case?
When Do-woo returns to the planning office, Mun-ho’s rabble-rousing has done its job because people shoot him odd looks, having heard the rumors about his hand in the mayor’s death. He’s further angered to hear that K was called to the police station after new evidence surfaced.
In a meeting, he is briefed on the venture group’s investor. The investment was made in a false name, while the real investor is Kim Bum-hwan. He also happens to have a connection to Shin, having spent time in prison together; Bum-hwan is known to be a mob boss, although that’s not official information. Kyung-ah pays particular attention to this conversation.
What’s bloody fantastic about this scene is Do-woo’s attempt to keep his cool, which dissolves with each passing beat. He rises from his seat and stalks out of the room quickly, but still in control. But once outside the room, he starts running; he then orders his car, shoves the driver out, and takes the wheel.
There’s surprise on both sides when Do-woo storms into the café, only to see Eun-soo there looking friendly with Kyung-tae. (She’s moved back home but dropped by to deliver some kimchi.) Do-woo’s startled — and angry — to see his sister fraternizing with his enemy, and asks in a bewildered tone, “I’m here to see Kim Shin, but why are you still here?”
Do-woo’s demeanor is frazzled, distracted; he half-mumbles to himself as he says, “No, this is right. You should be here. Yes.”
He grabs her arm and heads toward the exit. Kyung-tae musters his courage to stand up to Do-woo and block him, but Do-woo kicks him down and drags Eun-soo out.
Kyung-tae calls Shin in a panic to say Do-woo dragged Eun-soo off. Shin, who’s on his way home, sees Do-woo peeling away in front of him.
The first thought that popped into my head at this image of Do-woo and Kyung-ah’s marital home was “glass castle.” Completely artificial but beautiful to look at on the outside, empty on the inside. Cold, brittle.
As for Kyung-ah…
As mentioned above, I think a bunch of us were unclear on Kyung-ah’s deal. Was she really deluding herself that she and Do-woo can have a genuine relationship, or was she content to have a strict political/strategic alliance, as two people who are using each other and know they’re doing so? Does she really not care for Shin, or is her way of continually pushing him away really to protect her interests since she’s NOT able to emotionally cut him off? (By protecting her interests, I mean that she may know she still cares for Shin deep down, but she’s become accustomed to her new life — money, prestige, success — and is unwilling to go back to her former self. Perhaps this is because she likes her wealth; or perhaps it’s because she feels guilty for her choices but thinks she has already crossed the point of no return.)
I have to see Kyung-ah’s reaction to Myung-sun’s accusations as a result of her carefully constructed illusion finally crumbling. Maybe Kyung-ah didn’t need their marriage to be a warm and loving one, but she was okay with their arrangement until it became too apparent that she was wrong about him on a fundamental level.
Honestly, I think she’d have to be an idiot to have missed all the signs of Do-woo’s unrepentant wickedness, and while I may feel annoyed enough with her character to slap her with the “idiot” tag, I don’t actually think she is one. Which means that she was willfully deluding herself, and holding out hope that Do-woo could be a decent person. This is no longer viable, and hence the breakdown.
She’s similar to Eun-soo, but downgraded a level; while Eun-soo loves her brother, she can’t accept his evil and draws the line once he’s gone too far. Now that Kyung-ah sees Do-woo in a more critical light, she’s keeping her thoughts guarded and acting normal around him, which suggests that she may indeed attempt to take him down from the inside.
On one hand, yay for Team Shin! On the other hand, this had really better not mean Shin ends up with Kyung-ah. I’d be okay with them making up as friends, but not as love interests. (And yeah, I really want Shin to end up with Eun-soo now, poor Kyung-tae notwithstanding.)
Caveat: I’m pretty much in admiration of almost everything in this drama, but I think they drew out Kyung-ah’s complicity with Do-woo for too long — to the extent that when she finally does come around, we no longer care. Or at least I don’t.
Who else loved the second instance of Do-woo tapping his finger on the windowsill? The first time is bad enough, showing nervousness even though he maintains control by keeping his taps in precise rhythm. However, the second time, his taps are faster-tempo and erratic. It’s not really a subtle point, but effective for its brevity in announcing: DO-WOO LOSES CONTROL.
Later in the episode, he storms out of his meeting, and jabs at the elevator button repeatedly, as though unable to wait. Do-woo’s not one to take out his anger on inanimate objects — why expend the energy on the wrong target? — or at least he wasn’t until recently. See: the crushed tea bag, the broken CD. Shin is throwing off Do-woo’s internal rhythm and forcing him off-balance. It’s great.
Speaking of Shin, I can’t overstate how much I love this rivalry. Most of the time, enemies in dramas aren’t really well-matched. (I’m thinking War of Money, Legend, Tazza , heck, even Rivals despite its title. Perhaps Devil comes close, although I haven’t finished watching so I can’t say.) Do-woo may have started out much more powerful in the eyes of society, but in terms of personal character, they’re pretty evenly matched. Both have enjoyed small victories, but never for long: For instance, when Shin gains the upper hand, Do-woo isn’t defeated for long and retaliates. Even though the defeats that Shin suffers are more daunting than Do-woo’s setbacks, he never gives up. (This also suggests that in the end, the victory has to be complete and unequivocal. If both men bounce back so persistently, one must suffer complete defeat to be truly beaten.)
Lastly, it’s interesting how this episode is framed by similar scenes — a car speeding away carrying Eun-soo sitting shotgun — yet the differences are highlighted by virtue of the similarity. In the first instance, Eun-soo leaves her brother after his wedding and rides away with Shin. Do-woo rushes to stop her, sees them leaving, and seethes. On the other hand, in the last scene, the person taking Eun-soo away has to forcibly drag her (she’s not fighting him, but his actions are forceful). Do-woo’s losing control and can’t cope with it, so he resorts to trying to steal it back.
- Story of a Man: Episode 14
- 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