Story of a Man: Episode 17
AIIIIEEEEE SO GOOD.
It’s not often a drama will make me gasp in horror/surprise, but I totally did in this episode.
SONG OF THE DAY
Beautiful Days – “약국” (Pharmacy) [ Download ]
EPISODE 17 RECAP
Shin isn’t allowed to see either Kyung-tae or Mun-ho following their arrests. This frustrates him and Jae-myung, who can’t gain access even though he’s a lawyer, because he isn’t a Korean lawyer. The charges have been made through seemingly official channels, but Shin knows they’re faked.
Do-woo thoroughly enjoys the phone call with Shin as he gloats that he put away two of Shin’s guys. He tells Shin it’s not too late to give up before things progress any further — if they do, then Do-woo will be more than willing to drop the charges. Given that both men have prior records, they’re facing even more severe penalties this time.
In contrast to their last encounter(s), now Shin is the one who’s barely able to hang on to his temper. He forces himself to sound normal as he scoffs, “You must be lonely. Do you have nobody around to talk to?” What does Do-woo want?
First, remove himself from the farmers’ venture group.
Do-woo: “The second won’t be very hard, since you’ve done it before. You said protecting your people is your pride. Your people are facing ten years. You’ll have to put up your pride one more time. You know what to do, don’t you? Come to me alone and beg on your knees, and tell me you were wrong. Are you listening? Or are those two people not enough? Do I need a third and a fourth?”
This really, really upsets Shin, and he struggles to calm down. But we know — as does Do-woo — that Shin will give in, now that the fates of other people are in his hands. He grits out, “When and where?”
Do-woo smiles triumphantly. But oddly enough, when Eun-soo calls him, he ignores her call.
Shin tries to plead with Bum-hwan not to withdraw his money from the venture, but meets with coldness. While Bum-hwan has great affection for Shin, he is still a mob boss, and he has different priorities. He points out that he signed a contract that allows him to take his money out whenever he wants. Furthermore, he’s responsible for several hundred men and their families. They have a chance to make a prime business deal, and he’s supposed to give that up just for Shin?
Perhaps thinking the truth might sway him, Shin tells Bum-hwan that Do-woo killed his brother. But contrary to that expectation, Bum-hwan says unsentimentally, “How long are you going to hang onto the past?” Shin mentions Kyung-tae: “The police dragged off Mazinger.” Bum-hwan returns, “That’s why you should have been careful.”
At this point, Shin isn’t trying to change Bum-hwan’s mind about the money anymore, and tries to warn him, “I’m telling you what kind of man he is. I don’t know what kind of promise he made you, but don’t trust that he will keep it.”
Bum-hwan thinks he’s too smart to be taken by Do-woo, but Shin knows Do-woo better, and says that when it’s Do-woo’s turn to honor his promise, he’ll turn on him — possibly ratting him out for his mobster activities.
WIthout a legal representative, the guys can’t visit their teammates, so they seek out a local lawyer, Lee Young-ho. It’s clear that they don’t really care who he is — it’s more an excuse to get visitation — and generally ignore him as they try to brainstorm solutions.
Shin first meets with Mun-ho, then Kyung-tae. He has one important question to ask each of them, but we’ll have to wait a bit to find out what that is.
Unable to get through to Do-woo, Eun-soo arrives at the planning offices to meet with Kyung-ah. She’s worried because this is the first time Do-woo hasn’t picked up her phone calls, and she asks for help.
Eun-soo: “My brother is doing something really evil to Kim Shin. He’s not attacking him directly, but breaking up the people around him. You know what Shin is like — he hates people near him getting hurt. Please stop my brother.”
Eun-soo calls them her friends, too — they took her father in, as well as her. But Kyung-ah interrupts:
Kyung-ah: “Do you not know yet, or do you not want to know? If your brother, my husband, listens to anyone at all, it’s you. If he hurts or is sad, it’s because of you. I realized that from watching from the side. Why don’t you know that? If you’re worried about me, it’s okay. I married him knowing that.”
Changing the subject somewhat, Kyung-ha has something else to ask: “The mental disorder your brother suffers — is it hereditary? … If I had a child, would I have to worry? Or should I not think of children at all?” She says she’ll try to talk to Do-woo, but can’t promise it will help. As they part ways, Eun-soo says, perhaps by way of consolation, “If it wasn’t you, he wouldn’t have considered marriage at all.”
Shin prepares to see Do-woo, declining Jae-myung’s offer to drive him, preferring to make the trip alone. Before heading into the planning office, Shin calls the group president to ask a question…
He then walks in and heads up to see Do-woo, who’s looking forward to this. As he knows Shin will be humbling himself before him, Do-woo particularly enjoys drawing this out.
Therefore, when Shin says he doesn’t think he can give up the venture, Do-woo replies, “I think you misunderstand—”
Shin cuts him off: “No, you’re the one who’s misunderstood. You can only give up something when you first have something. I’ve never had the farming venture.” Do-woo scoffs that Shin’s playing word games, but Shin contradicts him.
Shin explains that he just talked with the farmers. He told them he’d walk away, because being associated with him would only bring them harm. “But they laughed.” A flashback to his phone call with the president shows that the president had waved off his concerns. He wasn’t worried, so Shin shouldn’t be.
Next, Shin addresses the matter of kneeling before Do-woo: “I’m not going to do that. I have no intention of kneeling before you again. My guys whom you’ve taken hostage tell me not to do it.”
In a flashback, we now see the end of Shin’s conversations with Mun-ho and Kyung-tae. Mun-ho had told him not to do it, assuring Shin that he may be a con artist, but he’s innocent the crime he’s been arrested for. “Tell them to handle this one through the law.” Mun-ho isn’t stressed out, and even figures this might be fun, since he’s innocent and has nothing to worry about.
The Kyung-tae flashback warms my heart: Shin had warned Kyung-tae that if he didn’t comply with Do-woo’s demand, Kyung-tae may face more prison time. But Kyung-tae had nodded and understood, saying, “But you have to send money, and visit me regularly. And you can bring Eun-soo along. If you come with her, that’s better.”
Do-woo is not pleased, and reproaches Shin: “If you weren’t mentally prepared to, you shouldn’t have come. You’ll just get me angry.” He doesn’t yet grasp Shin’s point, which is that Shin is no longer going to play Do-woo’s game. Shin has realized that his mistake was deciding to beat Do-woo at his own game.
Do-woo turns sharply to face him, curious and annoyed. He must be uneasy, because he even backtracks a little — remarkable, that! — and asks, if he raises the price, how much would Shin sell the land for? But this is still missing the point, and Shin reiterates that he’s not going to kneel anymore. He’s done conceding to Do-woo. After all, that tactic would only work if there were only one Chae Do-woo in the world.
Shin: “But what if there were a hundred, thousand people like you? You want me to get down on my knees and beg every time? I can’t do that.”
Shin: “Know that I’m not going to fight by your methods anymore.”
Do-woo: “That’s the problem, that you fight at all.”
Shin: “Know one more thing. At first, I was alone, but now I have a good number of people. Try capturing as many as you can — ten, a hundred. There will still be many of us left. I came to tell you that.”
Shin starts to leave, but pauses for one last remark: “In reality, you’re scared because you’re alone.”
After her meeting with Kyung-ah, Eun-soo is driven home, but along the way she can’t get past the feeling that something is wrong, and heads back to the office.
She gets there just as Shin is leaving — and while he put on a good face for his meeting with Do-woo, once he’s out, he’s drained. His step falters, and finally, he collapses.
Now, this I find incredibly fascinating: Do-woo knocks over Kyung-ah’s purse and finds pills inside. He asks what they are, and she identifies them as birth control.
While some people might think she’s merely not ready for a pregnancy, Do-woo’s suspicious — is there an ulterior meaning? (This plays on her question of whether Do-woo’s illness is hereditary. It’s almost like he is aware of her fear and is defensive of it.) He responds coldly:
Do-woo: “You’re in my castle as my queen. So any child you have becomes my heir. You can’t make decisions about my heir on your own. Do you understand? I’d like a response.”
She says she understands, and Do-woo warns her not to pull anything else like this behind his back.
Shin awakens in Chae mansion, where Myung-sun and Eun-soo both (cutely) argue over who will tend to him. He’s been asleep for a day, and has no recollection of how he got here.
That also gives Eun-soo the opportunity to tease him about how outrageously he behaved yesterday while he was delirious from his illness: at the emergency room, he had ripped off his IV and tried to walk out in his bare feet, insisting he had places to be.
He was diagnosed with high fever, exhaustion, and malnutrition, and still carries a high fever.
A while later, Bum-hwan drops by to pay him a sickbed visit. Shin is still miffed at Bum-hwan for dropping his investment, so while he isn’t actively angry, he’s aloof. Bum-hwan, on the other hand, treats him the same as ever. (Since Bum-hwan is removing his money, that means the farmers now owe Bum-hwan the investment of 3 billion won, which they’ll have to figure out a way to repay, or get a new investor.)
Bum-hwan assumes Eun-soo is Shin’s new girlfriend — and before either has a chance to correct him, Bum-hwan approves of the choice and goes off on a hilarious spiel about how it’s time Shin moved on and let himself be happy, too.
Either unaware of Eun-soo’s identity or not caring that she’s already rich, Bum-hwan hands her an envelope of “allowance money.” He does it casually, like a big bro giving his kid brother’s girlfriend a couple bucks to buy snacks. Eun-soo says she’s not Shin’s girlfriend and tries to return the envelope, but since he won’t take it back, Shin waves at her to just accept it.
When Bum-hwan leaves, Eun-soo opens the check, and her eyes widen. There are so many zeroes she can’t even be sure of the amount. Shin looks at the number — it’s 3 billion won. Which happens to be the amount of money he’d invested, then retracted, from the farming group.
(I KNEW Bum-hwan couldn’t be a complete selfish bastard! I’m so glad for this turn, because I wasn’t enjoying being peeved with him, lol.)
Next on the agenda is gathering the farmers together for an unannounced visit to Mayor Oh’s office. Being the coward that he is, Mayor Oh sees their approach and tells his people to call the police.
When the group storms his office, Eun-soo is introduced as their new investor. (AHHH, they are so S-M-R-T! Bum-hwan has stepped out of the project officially, but because of his contribution, they can name Eun-soo the official investor. It’s not much of a difference in practice, but in theory it protects Bum-hwan from Do-woo’s reach while also giving the group a layer of protection, since Do-woo wouldn’t ruin Eun-soo.)
Shin is introduced as their spokesperson, and reminds the mayor of his threat to expropriate the land. He tells him to go ahead. Do it.
Clearly it had been a bluff meant to threaten the farmers into selling to Do-woo, and Mayor Oh fumbles to react appropriately.
Do-woo receives the report that rumors of expropriation are circling among investors, which is making it even more difficult for them to acquire the land.
Pissed off, Do-woo asks why Kyung-ah isn’t in the meeting (she had “urgent business”), then strides out of the meeting, ignoring his employees who tell him they need more money. Other investors have started calling — if Do-woo is unable to acquire the farmers’ land, they may withdraw their funds, too.
Kyung-ah’s important meeting is with Chairman Chae. She explains that if all had gone according to plan, things would have been manageable, because Do-woo always prepares for the worst. The difference this time, Chae tells her, is Kim Shin.
Kyung-ah informs her father-in-law that Do-woo is changing, in a way she’s never seen in the past three years. If Do-woo had only waited patiently, he could have successfully taken over the farming venture, but he pushed too hard.
Therefore, she says they need a way to protect Chae Dong. Although Chae approves of Kyung-ah’s business sense (for instance, she chose her words strategically to appeal to him by “protecting” Chae Dong), but he isn’t about to trust Do-woo’s wife.
Ah, but Kyung-ah dangles a nice carrot in front of his nose: She owns 17% of Chae Dong stocks. Surely that’s something worth considering.
Mayor Oh thinks Shin must be bluffing about expropriation, but Shin assures him he is not: “We started a new plan, and the name of that is frontal attack.”
Shin pulls out the expropriation manual/book — something Mayor Oh didn’t read very carefully — and points to a particular clause. If a city expropriates land, it must use it for “public works.” As in, a school or rental apartments. (Mayor Oh gulps.) Furthermore, they must form an expropriation committee and present a bill, and a land price must be negotiated and agreed to by both sides.
The mayor is really sweating now, but thankfully for him, this is when the police arrive. Shin tells the others not to panic and instructs Eun-soo to stay behind with the mayor while the rest are taken to the police station.
Jae-myung is still working with their lawyer on getting Kyung-tae and Mun-ho out of jail, and angrily rails against the nonsensical Korean laws. For instance, Kyung-tae’s specific crime of using telecommunication to spread falsehoods carries the threat of five years in prison, but in actuality the law hasn’t been applied once in the past fifty years. Do-woo used an antiquated, unused law to get Kyung-tae.
Meanwhile, it’s refreshing to see Eun-soo’s temper flaring for once as she tells Mayor Oh to release those people immediately: “Aren’t you even embarrassed as mayor? You send your citizens away to jail for wanting to talk to you? Aren’t you ashamed?”
Fed up with the mayor, Eun-soo says she’ll go to the police and be arrested too, since she’s one of them. She starts to head out — and comes face to face with Do-woo. She turns down his offer of a ride home and dinner because she has to release her friends from jail.
That’s all it takes to get Do-woo to instruct Mayor Oh to have the people released. He turns to Eun-soo — now she doesn’t have to go to the station. That means she can have dinner with him.
Sure enough, the group members are released. They’re much less angry about this than Shin, and in fact are rather cheerful, saying this kind of opposition isn’t new to them.
When Jae-myung picks Shin up, he says Shin ought to sue the city for false imprisonment, and indicates the farmers: “You’re their teacher, tell them you want to sue.”
However, Shin’s learned a little something in the past few days: “Jae-myung, it’s the opposite. They’re my teachers. At first I tried to teach them, and that was utterly ridiculous. They’re people who have fought their whole lives. I’ve only done it for three years. I’m just learning to walk by comparison.” (Jae-myung asks, a bit skeptically, whether he means they’ve fought their whole lives against Do-woo; Shin clarifies no, not Do-woo but someone like him. To them, Do-woo is just one of many oppressors.)
Detective Kim continues in her uphill climb to investigate K’s movements on the night he killed the mayor. She finally makes a breakthrough while questioning people in a nearby neighborhood when a man recognizes K in the picture. He remembers K clearly, because he had a distinctly unpleasant look. (K always strikes me as looking vaguely vampiric.)
The man recounts how he had seen K climbing out the back of his truck; K had hitched a ride without him knowing. The driver had called out, but didn’t chase him because he figured there was nothing to steal in the back anyway.
Do-woo takes Eun-soo to a fancy place for dinner. He reacts when Eun-soo takes out her cell phone, but is pleased when she merely turns it off.
Do-woo’s tone is gentle, in that deceptively calm (almost babying) way, as he asks where Eun-soo got the money to invest and who advised her to do it. He knows she’s not very business-minded.
Eun-soo entreats, can Do-woo just leave the farmers alone? Can’t he have a farm alongside his hotels and casinos?
Do-woo: “Is it Kim Shin? Do you like him, like a woman likes a man? Is that why you changed? Is that why you left my side to go to him, pitting me as the enemy and helping him?”
Eun-soo: “That’s not it.”
Do-woo: “It’s not?”
Eun-soo: “I’m just continuing what I’ve been doing. I’m the same now as I was ten years ago. I apologize to the people who’ve been hurt by you or Father, and help them if I can. You said it was okay for me to do that. So don’t hurt people, and I won’t have to do that either.”
Do-woo: “You once told me to tell you if I was having trouble. Then you’d help me.”
Do-woo: “If I ask you to help, will you?”
Do-woo: “I need you, Eun-soo. Because you’re not with me, I can’t stop.”
Eun-soo: “What do I need to do?”
Do-woo: “All I want from you is one thing. Be with me.”
Eun-soo: “You have unni with you. So, oppa—”
Do-woo: “That’s okay. She knows who you are to me. I married her because she understands. You are my heart. I don’t have one inside me — because that’s you. Have I told you this? If you’re with me, I think I can stop. Eun-soo. Help me.”
Holy hell. Do-woo actually does seem scared… Is he? Or is it more emotional blackmail?
Whatever the intention, Do-woo comes home in extremely good spirits — Eun-soo’s moving in tomorrow. He asks Kyung-ah to prepare for her arrival with the excitement of a child eager to open his Christmas presents.
When Do-woo asks if it’s okay, Kyung-ah pins a smile on her face and agrees. That makes him happy; he knew she would understand.
His jovial mood is cut short when a servant informs them that the police have arrived. It’s Detective Kim’s two subordinates, who are told Do-woo is not home and turned away from the door. Detective Kim instructs them to stake out the house overnight, because at some point somebody will have to enter or leave.
The atmosphere at work the next day is chilly, as the planning office is inundated with phone calls. Do-woo remains tense and silent, while Kyung-ah answers the phone, explaining that the expropriation rumors are just rumors.
Kyung-ah tells Do-woo that if they remain silent on the matter, the rumors will spread more. He asks if she has any ideas, which surprises her, because he’s always got his own plan and never asks for advice from others. She says this in a teasing way, actually pleased that he’d consult with her.
Her smile fades at his next request, however, which is for her to find Shin. He points out that she’s still on polite terms with him; maybe he’ll listen to her. Do-woo explains that Shin is the brains behind the farming group: “Use whatever means you can to get him to leave. If I do it, it’ll backfire, so you do it.”
Kyung-ah is uneasy at the “use whatever means necessary” clause, but Do-woo tells her he’ll leave it to her to figure out how. Do-woo: “There’s no need to think too much on it. Just spend a bit of time on it, and I’ll take care of the next step.”
Kyung-ah’s alarm level rises from yellow to orange: “Take care of it? How?”
Eun-soo packs up her things for the move, and tries to call Shin. However, he’s on the phone talking about Kyung-tae’s case, so she isn’t able to get through.
Meanwhile, at work, Do-woo steps out to the rooftop to survey his city-kingdom. The atmosphere is ominous, dark, as he addresses K.
Do-woo is sending K away, because there’s a limit to how much he can keep him out of trouble if he remains here. He hands K money, passport, and a plane ticket.
K speaks up (it is SO weird to hear his voice when he’s silent most of the time). For the first time, he’s without his customary confidence. He practically pleads, “If I go, when can I return?”
Do-woo doesn’t answer, but he does have one more request, which he issues with coolness. Do-woo: “Before you go, there’s one thing you have to do for me.” He takes out the gun he’s wearing, and hands it over to K, saying, “That thing I held for you — I think you’ll have to use it. Can you do it?”
Do-woo warns, “Remember, this time, you’ll do it when and where I tell you to do it.”
In the past couple of episodes, we’ve actually seen Jae-myung losing his temper, which is a change from his laid-back (literally) and cool attitude thus far. Perhaps the writer is using Jae-myung as a vehicle to criticize the Korean judicial and law enforcement systems, which she can do because as an American lawyer, Jae-myung is an outsider to the Korean ways and often says with disbelief how absurd the Korean system is. Only on a few occasions have I felt this cross over into heavy-handed territory, which I suspect I feel as an American who knows that such a simple comparison is flawed. But for dramatic purposes, the juxtaposition works to highlight the injustices of the Korean way.
Aside from that theme, though, this also points to Jae-myung’s aloofness gradually wearing down. For several episodes, he’s been reluctantly inching toward the group, increasingly of his own will. In the beginning he was more or less dragged into things, and even when he became part of the team he could find safety behind the illusion of being dragged along by Shin. This may be what the detective really signifies in Jae-myung’s storyline; romantic interest or no, Jae-myung actively calls her friend first, actively decides to stick around after she says he’s free to walk away.
But WTF, Do-woo? omgomgomg. You crazy mofo.
Okay. I know that Shin and Do-woo are in a battle to bring the other down, but part of me (a very small part) thinks that Do-woo killing Shin would kind of be like cheating. I mean, their rivalry has no rulebook and they aren’t bound to any concept of fair play… and yet, I wonder if Do-woo ordering Shin’s death — and not even by his own hand — is almost an admission of defeat, on one level. He couldn’t win with his brain, he couldn’t outwit Shin, he couldn’t beat him on the playing field. It’s tantamount to overturning the chessboard to avoid facing checkmate — because if you have to overturn that board to avoid losing, you’ve kinda already lost.
And yes, I recognize that in their world, it’s more than “just a game.”
Regarding Kyung-ah’s birth control pills. First of all, I think it’s an interesting detail because I had always thought of their relationship as asexual, and now we know it’s not. Do-woo seems so cold that I wouldn’t be shocked if he were celibate, because I can see him thinking he’s above bodily pleasures. Then again, even given a physical marital relationship, Do-woo’s perspective toward sex may be more of a dominance issue, a egoistic desire to carry on his lineage, a duty as a king to secure a successor.
Still, on the whole, it’s odd, isn’t it? And even odder that Kyung-ah would consider having his child, knowing as much about him as she does and recognizing that no matter how she tries to love him, he isn’t going to recognize her as a woman. At least, not as a woman aside from being his queen in name, a sort of figurehead to complete the portrait (illusion) of an ideal ruling monarchy.
Yet even though his marriage is more a formality than anything, I don’t think Do-woo is passionless. Was his “you are my heart” conversation freaky as hell or what? I haven’t actually ever thought of Do-woo’s interest in Eun-soo as incestuous, because it wasn’t sexual or romantic, but just… obsessive. His desire to keep her with him is broad in scope, not pinned down to one particular function. So while his behaviors may overlap with actions that are traditionally viewed as romantic, Do-woo doesn’t look at Eun-soo through that specific lens. She’s not slotted into a specific woman’s role in his life (wife, sister, mother) — she’s just Everything.
However, this dinner scene was the first time I actually questioned Do-woo’s interest in Eun-soo, because it just seemed so defined as a romantic date. Their other encounters weren’t played out in such distinct, recognizable social constructs, but the dinner was the closest Do-woo has come to treating her as Not-My-Sister, if you know what I mean.
Also, I knew Eun-soo’s promise to help him would come back around to her! Although she wants to help Do-woo, it leaves her at his mercy to claim that promise. What is up for debate is whether he’s asking for help now as a tactic to gain her cooperation (and keep her away from Shin), or if he genuinely wants/needs her. I’d say it’s a manipulative maneuver, except his emotions as he tells her of his missing heart seem believable (and so creepy).
- Story of a Man: Episode 16
- Story of a Man: Episode 15
- 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