(written by Samsooki, editing, layout, design and many many late nights by 0timelost, cleown, and mead33)
City Hall: Episode 3 – Of Baendaengis and Men
We left off Episode 2 with Jo Gook and BB discussing the future of Inju as one would discuss buying or selling a condo. BB asked Jo Gook to take over Inju and become its mayor, but Jo Gook has apparently set his sights higher. For reasons only a son abandoned by a father would understand, Jo Gook wishes for something more from BB, and declines to take over Inju. Jo Gook’s path upward is clear in his mind – municipal government, then provincial government, then the National Assembly, and then finally, the Blue House; there shouldn’t be any reason for a detour through Inju City.
But BB mocks Jo Gook’s lack of understanding, and laughing a very harsh laugh (well, he tries to laugh – it is clear that BB has never laughed a day in his life as a Sith Lord). BB’s wheezing laughter shreds Jo Gook’s pride, as it slowly becomes clear that BB doesn’t seem to have Jo Gook’s long-term interests at heart at all.
BB reveals that he wants to build his political base at Inju (as a first step in BB’s path to the Blue House), and to do that, he wanted Jo Gook to take over Inju by becoming the mayor. Disappointed at Jo Gook’s lack of interest, BB gives Jo Gook a final warning. If Jo Gook doesn’t want Inju, then he should put a puppet into that spot instead. Jo Gook leaves BB’s compound, finally understanding that maybe he isn’t the heir-apparent, after all.
After a rough visit with BB, and feeling beaten down and humiliated, Jo Gook heads to the one place where he feels he can get some comfort and solace. He goes to his fiancée’s apartment.
Meet Go Go Hae, the very elegant. Go Hae, the very beautiful. Go Hae of the flawless skin, perfect hair and warm smile. Go Hae, daughter of one of the richest men in Korea, and engaged to be married to Jo Gook. If Jo Gook is Korea’s Renaissance Man, then Go Hae is Korea’s Mona Lisa, with a smile that usually means anything but content or happy.
And, in this case, Go Hae is not too happy with Jo Gook. Her smile barely changes though, as she discusses her disappointment that her very own fiancé didn’t tell her that he went from the provincial government to deputy mayor of Inju City. But Go Hae reveals that she isn’t upset at him for not telling her what happened; rather, she is upset because it looks like he has taken a backwards step away from their ultimate goal, which is to become the President and First Lady of Korea. Way to kick a Jo Gook when he’s down…
In a coy fashion, Go Hae then asks if Jo Gook will head back down to Inju in the morning, which surprises Jo Gook, who remarks that she seem willing to do things that shouldn’t be done. In a rather telling reply, Go Hae admits that it was her dad that told her to up the level of her charms on Jo Gook. Interesting.
Meanwhile, at some secret hotel room, it is business as usual for the local Inju politicians. The Mayor, his Chief of Staff, and Council Member Min Joo Hwa are busy at work, transferring the budget money appropriated for the Miss Baendaengi Beauty Contest to a golf bag, which will then be put into the car of Boo Jung Han, the Mayor’s crony friend and incumbent National Assembly member.
Morning comes to Inju, and we find two developments at City Hall: They are trying to move City Hall’s physical location, building to a new site, which is causing certain landowners to profit nicely. And Mi Rae has not shown up for work- she is using up her vacation days, location unknown.
As Jo Gook slips away from another pointless City Hall meeting, he is met outside by reporters asking about the Miss Baendaengi contest and the issues of sexism inherent in beauty contests. Jo Gook steals the show, using all of Mi Rae’s arguments that she used on Jo Gook when she was pleading her case to be allowed to participate. “Is beauty only skin deep? Is beauty just about physical appearance?” Jo Gook asks rhetorically and breaks out his Janet Jackson X move saying, “That’s not what I believe.”
In a slight twist of irony, Jo Gook might actually begin to believe the nonsense he was spouting. While he was just hamming it for the reporters, the fact that he quoted Mi Rae word for word indicates that her words may have indeed affected him to some degree. Something to watch for.
Meanwhile, the final 15 Baedaengi contestants are sequestered in a hotel to ensure that the rules are being kept. Mi Rae struggles to learn the dance routines and is generally making a rather big nuisance of herself, as she is a half-generation, few sizes, and more than few inches of flexibility set apart from the other contestants. To the other Baedaengi’s, Mi Rae is just a big embarrassment.
Meanwhile, Jung Do and Jo Gook keep butting heads as the former keeps trying to make a real event out of this rigged contest, while the latter (despite his statements to the press) cannot understand why he is constantly being asked to participate in a meaningless activity. In a fit of anger against Jo Gook’s two-faced ways, Jung Do excuses himself from his supervisory role and cancels all of the planned events leading up to the contest.
Jo Gook is now at a loss, having no connections in Inju and no idea what to do. Jo Gook tries to rope in Mi Rae for help by asking to talk to her privately. Mi Rae has other ideas, however, and plays the exasperated girlfriend of Jo Gook to impress the other contestants and to stop them from continuing to look down on her.
Which leads to this classic scene:
(Of course, given that one of the judges will be Jo Gook, Mi Rae is really just asking for trouble by pretending to have a relationship with Jo Gook, but the priceless looks on the other contestants’ faces make any potential storm clouds a LOT easier to handle. Oh yes, it was quite worth it.)
Jo Gook is able to enlist Mi Rae’s help in coming up with new activities for the contestants, arguing that he helped Mi Rae out by pretending to be her ex-boyfriend in front of the crying Baendaengi’s. But the apparent Mi Rae-Jo Gook conspiracy brings out Council Member Min Joo Hwa out from under her slimy rock, and back to the sequester hotel room where Jung Do is, to gain information and somehow block Mi Rae.
Unfortunately, Joo Hwa has no ability to move her husband around like a chess piece and both of them know it. Jung Do and Joo Hwa are a beaten couple, and even their attempt to pick at each other’s weaknesses – Jung Do’s lack of ambition, and Joo Hwa’s complete lack of integrity – has grown tired and weak even to their own ears.
Joo Hwa starts to walk out of the hotel room, but then realizes it is the same room that, years ago, they had rented when they were still in love. It is a sobering moment for each as they realize how far from love they have gone. Is it wistfulness in the eyes of Joo Hwa?
Here’s what they used to look like, together as newlyweds, during a flashback sequence. Of all the scenes of City Hall so far, this is by far my favorite scene. They are soooooo cute here!
Back in Jo Gook’s room, the bottles of beer grow empty as Jo Gook and Mi Rae continue working on the Baedaengi Contest activities long into the night, and talk moves from the contest activities to Mayor Go. Jo Gook tries to get Mi Rae drunk to obtain the dirt on Mayor Go’s illegal activities.
Jo Gook moves closer to receive the secret information from a drunk Mi Rae…
…only to find out that Mi Rae’s “big secret” is that Mayor Go wears wigs. Mi Rae isn’t so easy to crack, even drunk. Jo Gook is further irritated when he has to carry a passed-out Mi Rae out of his hotel room. He dumps Mi Rae on the hotel lobby couch.
The next morning, after the usual accusatory stares of the other contestants, and Mi Rae playing it up for all it is worth, the contestants are hustled off to the fishing boat (per Mi Rae’s proposal), to help the fishermen catch the baendaengi in nets.
The contestants are dying of seasickness, the smell of fish and diesel, but this is nothing for Mi Rae. She proves her heart for service by helping to pull in the heavy nets, carrying the boxes of raw fish, and then even passing out raw baendaengi dipped in hot pepper sauce while the other contestants remain useless.
It is a triumphant moment for Mi Rae, who shows that she is more than an airhead beauty, more than a secretary who can only make coffee. She is part of Inju’s industry, she is one with the common people of Inju City. And what is that look on Jo Gook’s face? Is it admiration? Is it budding respect? Is it something more…?
Normally, I would have ended the recap here with a hint of a budding romance, but in one of those “Let’s introduce a new character for the heroine to overcome when things are going well,” a former resident not seen in many years has come back to Salem, I mean, Inju City.
Jo Gook’s mom is back in town – Jo Yong Hee. Her name itself, like many of the names of the City Hall characters, is a play on words. Her name means silence, and she has suffered her betrayal by the mysterious man in the car for many years, in silence. Will she remain quiet?
And in another shocking revelation we learn Jo Gook’s mom didn’t come alone, but with a cute tyke named Jo Rang who calls Jo Guk “Daddy!” OMG. Jo Gook is a father?!
Who’s the mother?
A step… sideways? This episode figures to be the last of the City Hall introduction episodes, as there really aren’t any more characters to introduce. Still, the editing and the story lines seem to be going in random directions. My feeling after the first 3 episodes is one of relative disappointment. There simply isn’t enough of a story to hold onto… yet.
Still, for all flaws City Hall has presented up until now, including the apparent lack of an over-arching story line, the drama series is improving minute by minute, and not least because of Kim Sun Ah’s and Cha Seung Won’s entertaining performances and the beginnings of some really good on-screen chemistry.
Let’s see what the next episode will bring.
THE ONES TO WATCH FOR IN THIS EPISODE: Go Go Hae and a flashback of a young newlywed named Min Joo Hwa.
Go Go Hae and Min Joo Hwa are two intelligent, power-hungry women with a ton of money and connections. They are women used to getting what they want, albeit on different levels.
Go Hae is truly a stunning beauty, with a softness, refinement and elegance that is almost too good to be true. But what was with that admission that her dad told her to use her charms on Jo Gook? Is Jo Gook her fiancé in name only?
And Jung Do’s memory of how he and Joo Hwa used to be was so cute! The burning question, then, is what happened to Joo Hwa to turn her into the raging sociopath that she is now?
And finally, now we have 3 really interesting, really different, and really strong women characters; Go Hae, Joo Hwa and Mi Rae. I wonder what would happen if you placed them all in the same battlefield and told them to square off….?
On To Episode 4!!