(written by Samsooki, editing, layout, design and fierce debating by 0timelost, cleown, and mead33)
City Hall: Episode 2 – Oh, My Virgin Eyes!
The Miss Baendaengi Money Laundering Scheme is a go, and the Mayor orders newly appointed Vice-Mayor, Jo Gook, to take responsibility for the project. Jo Gook smells something fishy and immediately objects, pulling Mi Rae into the conversation and asking how he can take responsibility for the project when he doesn’t even know his way around town. Mi Rae is mortified that her plan to win the prize money might be derailed if the pageant doesn’t happen and shames Jo Gook into accepting responsibility.
Jo Gook, the number one ranked political prodigy and the heir-apparent to BB’s secret machinations for national domination, has been outclassed and outmaneuvered by an idiot mayor and a Level 10 Civil Servant / coffee tea secretary. Mi Rae is rather pleased with herself. Jo Gook is understandably nonplussed.
Lee Jung Do, the Director of the Culture and Tourism Bureau, is ordered to work with Jo Gook in making the plan a “success.” Smarting from being outfoxed by Mi Rae and the Mayor, Jo Gook is derisive of the whole project and tells Jung Do to do whatever he pleases and to leave him out of it. Jo Gook turns to go but is stopped when Jung Do politely but firmly requests that they work together, and not to treat him so dismissively. They have a short stare-down, in which Jung Do wins. Jo Gook is taken aback because it is suddenly apparent that he has misjudged Jung Do – the latter is not just a mindless hack but a thinking person with quiet dignity and intelligence.
Back in the Vice-Mayor’s office, Jo Gook discusses this turn of events with his personal assistant and only confidante / friend – Ha Soo In. Soo In is a Jo Gook clone, right down to the expensive suits and the A point collars, and perhaps the only difference between them is age (10 years younger or so?) and experience. Jo Gook and Soo In share a laugh about the plotting by the Mayor and his cronies, finding amusing the weak attempts by the locals to shift likely blame but take any potential credit. Jo Gook is not worried, merely amused and bored by it all.
Jo Gook wonders what childish deeds he did while working at the provincial government level, to deserve being the target for such amateurish attempts by local politicians to bully him.
Mi Rae waltzes in with coffee and tries to hook the eye of Jo Gook, who simply won’t bite. She stands around, not leaving, trying her best to look alluring and cute. Jo Gook passes a note on the back of the Baendaengi presentation, giving a direct and immediate order to Soo In to kill this crazy girl. Soo In is understandably alarmed…
…but not as alarmed as he is about to be, when Mi Rae announces that she would like to enter the Miss Baedaengi Beauty Contest, and tries to score some early points off of Jo Gook by showing off her “S-line” to the two of them.
Soo In is frozen like a young deer in headlights of an oncoming truck and is speechless; but Jo Gook is not. Mi Rae starts to recount how pretty she really is, and how people wonder at how doll-like she looks, but Jo Gook interrupts:
Jo Gook: Miss Shin Mi Rae!
Mi Rae (shyly): Yes?
Jo Gook: What kind of doll? Shrek? King Kong? Alien?
An uncomfortable silence. Mi Rae is shaken by Jo Gook’s harsh and rude reply. After an eternity in a second, Mi Rae swallows her pride, smiles politely and says, “As I mentioned before, refills of the coffee are free.”
But if Jo Gook thinks that would dissuade Mi Rae from bothering him further, then he is badly mistaken. Mi Rae then goes to Plan B, literally shadowing Jo Gook around for days, and extolling the virtues of alternate views on beauty. Jo Gook has had enough and turns around swiftly, which causes Mi Rae to run straight into him.
Jo Gook is in no mood for these games, and Mi Rae’s attempts to sway Jo Gook is not working. Jo Gook should have realized Mi Rae wasn’t about to quit, and should have elevated his threat level to orange, but it is unlikely he would have been prepared for Mi Rae’s own elevation of her game plan. Mi Rae follows Jo Gook and Soo In to the local pool where they work out by swimming laps in wetsuits (this is a good idea, actually, the suit keeps you buoyant so you can swim longer). Mi Rae decides to go with Plan C.
Actually, this is more like Plan Z. Poor Soo In looks like he will collapse into the pool:
“Why are you doing this?” Jo Gook cries out, blinded for a moment. Mi Rae sadly admits that there is an age limit on the pageant that prevents her from entering. She is years too old for the maximum age limit of 24 years, so she needs him to raise the age limit. At that moment, Mi Rae’s cell phone rings and it is the credit card collection agency again, and Mi Rae unsuccessfully tries to cover up the call.
Aha. Mi Rae’s recent bizarre behaviors are explained. While the youngster, Soo In, is totally bewildered by the atypical and completely fearless Mi Rae, the older Jo Gook seems to be changing his mind. He tells Soo In that he no longer thinks that she is that weird.
Jo Gook, at that moment, realizes that Mi Rae had been acting unashamedly, without any thought to her own pride or ego or what others would think of her, because she had a defined and attainable goal in mind. And THAT doesn’t make her crazy – that makes her completely sane. The principle is “do whatever it takes” and that is a principal Jo Gook recognizes inherently. He is realizing that there is much more to Mi Rae than he previously thought, and even more than maybe Mi Rae herself realizes.
Still, Mi Rae knows that Jo Gook hasn’t agreed to the rule change to raise the age limitation, and so she brings in her own backup team of computer savvy netizens to cause the Inju government website to crash and create ruckus over the age limit, inherent sexism in beauty contests, wasteful spending, etc.
The uproar seems to be having the desired effect… when, in a bit of a non sequitur, the Governor of the State, comes calling for a visit to Inju City Hall. Quickly, the welcome wagon is drawn for the Governor.
In a blatant show of favoritism and giving a clear warning signal to the Mayor, the Governor ignores Mayor Go and walks away with Jo Gook, chatting. Mayor Go and his directors (except for Jung Do) are shocked at the development. Clearly, Jo Gook is not someone to be messed with.
Meeting in Jo Gook’s office, the Governor and Jo Gook discuss plans to unseat the current National Assembly member Boo Jung Han and/or the current Inju Mayor. Mi Rae is ordered by the Mayor to eavesdrop by serving tea. When Mi Rae enters the office, Jo Gook, curious and watching Mi Rae carefully, allows Mi Rae to continue to eavesdrop. Shortly thereafter, Mi Rae is questioned by the Mayor as to what she overheard. Not wanting to be used by Jo Gook or the Mayor, Mi Rae feigns ignorance. But the Mayor realizes that Mi Rae is hiding the truth and punishes her by giving her manual labor tasks to do in the street, after returning stacks of books back to the library.
Jo Gook, dying to know if Mi Rae had revealed what she had overheard, waits for Mi Rae in the administrative library and then compliments her on the choice of tea.
Jo Gook: Can I get a refill on that tea?
Mi Rae (stares at JG)
Jo Gook: Anyone listening? Well, perhaps a place that does refills, do you want to go for some tea?
Mi Rae: No, not really.
Jo Gook: Why not?
Mi Rae: How can a poor King Kong be able to blend in and drink tea like humans? I’d rather just have bananas.
Busted! Jo Gook, you are so busted! It is apparent that Mi Rae’s feelings are still hurt. Mi Rae won’t say whether she told the Mayor what she was allowed to overhear. Jo Gook is now intrigued by Mi Rae.
Meanwhile, power plays are being held. First by the Mayor, who feels his position is precarious enough that he holds an open dinner for his supporters, and finds only a few people show up.
Embarrassingly, Council Member Min Joo Hwa’s husband does not show his face, and who might that be? After a few hints early on, everyone’s guess is correct. It is Jung Do!
And, back at the unhappy household of Joo Hwa and Jung Do, the pain of a wife unsupported is evident in Joo Hwa’s face. (I feel for Joo Hwa here. Jung Do, dude, you never leave your wife hanging, right or wrong. It’s like Husbandry 101…)
So Jung Do is at fault here, right? Shouldn’t a husband always support his wife?
But Jung Do answers Joo Hwa right back, noting that she has never really tried to understand him or his position. Where is her support for him? Aha. The marital union is a mutual promise, and not just a unilateral effort. It is a worthy argument. (Okay, I’ll just shut up now. Grown-ups discussing grown-up things, okay, I’ll be in my room with my Nintendo DS listening to music really loudly.)
Even if Jung Do’s wife Joo Hwa never tried to understand him, it is apparent that Jung Do knows her. He guesses it was her who suggested creating a Miss Baedaengi Contest to divert government tax dollars to shady places, laundering it through the Mayoral office. Joo Hwa responds with sincerity (first time!), questioning whether her husband has any ambition to get some place in life, and not just be a Director of Tourism at some third-rate City Hall. Jung Do heads up to his bedroom – a separate room than Joo Hwa’s room.
Later, Mi Rae and her internet savvy friends are having dinner at a place called Mexico and the Chicken, with some seriously good-looking fried chicken and beer. Mi Rae is still not in the Miss Baendaengi Contest and time is running out to win over Jo Gook. And who might be passing by that very night?
It is Jo Gook! But he is there for a very different reason altogether. Getting out of his car, he stares at the restaurant sign, and starts to remember a moment long ago, on that very spot…
…when he was just a boy, holding onto his mother’s hand, as they were left on the side of the road, their only belonging – a wad of cash in an envelope. It looks like they are being thrown away like trash and abandoned on the side of the road.
Wait, is that … BB?!!? BB is Jo Gook’s dad who abandoned him and his mom?!?
Back in the present, Jo Gook heads inside the restaurant, reminiscing about his childhood, where he had to spend his playtime in this place when it was a seedy bar with hostesses, cheap perfume, red lights and vulgar calendars. He gets a table and out pops Mi Rae, part-timing as a restaurant bar waitress, yet another job for the tireless one.
They sit together, and Jo Gook notes Mi Rae’s ease at drinking. Mi Rae, trying to be demure, says she doesn’t drink much at all… beer is too bitter! Jo Gook doesn’t look convinced. So… maybe Jo Gook wasn’t born yesterday.
Jo Gook motions to Mi Rae to sit down with him, and asks “Why didn’t you tell the Mayor what you overheard?” Mi Rae responds by asking a question of her own, “Why are you so curious? Are you worried for me, or are you trying to be vigilant against me?” Jo Gook responds truthfully, that he just wants to get to know Mi Rae better, giving Mi Rae much to think about.
The next day, Mi Rae is invited to participate in a discussion about the theme of the Miss Baendaengi Contest. Jo Gook is bored and just wants to pick the prettiest girl. Jung Do suggests making the judging categories more about the woman’s character rather than looks alone (including elements like speech, talent, special skills). Jo Gook cannot believe that this much energy is being expended to run a beauty contest. Jo Gook grabs Mi Rae, and uses her as an example of what would happen if the contest is to be run, not as a beauty contest, but as a contest for the best person. In his impatience to prove his point, Jo Gook sarcastically says that Mi Rae should participate! Jo Gook then storms out of the meeting, exasperated that a simple beauty contest is being made into something where he has to do actual work.
The consequence of Jo Gook’s sarcastic statement is not lost on Jung Do, who tells a stunned Mi Rae that she is now in the contest and for her to do her best! Mi Rae is now a contestant in the Miss Baendaengi 2009 Contest!
So the whittling begins, chopping the 87 + 1 (Mi Rae) contestants down to 40. The talent and skills of the contestants are not so great, and judo expert Mi Rae makes the first cut! And with the second round being speech-giving, Mi Rae is a shoe-in to reach the finals! Shin Mi Rae, fighting!
Far from Inju, Jo Gook has gone back to BB to update him on how Jo Gook has taken care of Inju. A cryptic BB is still pushing Jo Gook to take charge of Inju, for reasons yet unknown to anyone but BB.
But Jo Gook is tired of being exiled to Inju. Jo Gook is tired of being forced to take care of over-analyzed beauty pageants and dealing with silly plots by idiot Mayors, and Jo Gook for sure wants more than just to be in charge of Inju. And more importantly, perhaps Jo Gook feels like BB owes him something maybe a tad bit more substantial than giving him a backwater city to govern as Mayor.
Jo Gook: if you are going to give me something, I want something much bigger. What I want, is this whole country!
Well, what would YOU ask for from your dad, if he abandoned you on the side of the road with your mom?
Well, I think this was a little more enjoyable to watch than Episode 1, but I am still not yet feeling this drama – the switches from comedy to drama and back again seem a little forced and uneven. And my opinion of Jo Gook (at least in this episode) is dropping a little bit even as we discover his painful childhood. For a guy who appears to be so intelligent, so smart and instinctive, Jo Gook has made a number of rather large mistakes, misjudging both Mi Rae and Jung Do. More than that, Jo Gook, for all his class, etiquette and skillful use of language, has also shown himself to be no better than anyone else with his mouth, when he seems to insult Mi Rae for no reason other than his impatience. I guess Jo Gook isn’t perfect, after all.
On the flip side, however, City Hall provides not only one, but several male characters who have far more positives than negatives in terms of appearance, personality and character. Aside from the unique and charming Jo Gook, Lee Jung Do is another solid male character – strong, intelligent, confident and full of compassion. And finally, even Jo Gook’s personal assistant, Ha Soo In, continues City Hall’s record-breaking streak of reasonable male characters who are smart, good looking, well dressed, successful, dignified, and confident…three in a row!
THE ONES TO WATCH FOR IN THIS EPISODE: Min Joo Hwa and Lee Jung Do.
Jo Gook may have had the best lines, and Mi Rae may have had the funniest moments, but the scene stealers of this Episode 2 are the embattled husband and wife, Jung Do and Joo Hwa, and their emotional discussion about how each felt disappointed in the other.
It isn’t often that you get to see real real-life played out in dramas. The cause(s) of most conflicts in dramas tends to be so artificial and complex, so stratospheric, that there just is no relevance to the viewers at home. But with this marital conflict, the reasons are the same as in every marriage that is going down the tubes: expectations just aren’t being met, and there is blame enough to go around. The feelings expressed by both are so real and so painful, I feel like I shouldn’t be watching something so personal. I would have fast-forwarded, but I had to recap the episode.
City Hall has turned up the intensity meter a few notches, although apparently not quite yet for Shin Mi Rae and Jo Gook.
On To Episode 3!