(written by Samsooki, editing, layout, design and CH obsession by 0timelost, cleown, and mead33)
City Hall: Episode 6 – One Woman’s Protest, One City’s Hope
The battle is on, between City Council Member Joo Hwa, and the lowest ranking Civil Servant and junior secretary Mi Rae. Joo Hwa has just demanded that the Mayor fire Mi Rae. Mi Rae is not in an accepting mood, and retorts that Joo Hwa is abusing her power. Joo Hwa’s reply is honest, if not a little coarse, “this is why people are so eager to grab power in the first place – for one reason alone – so that they can abuse.” (Note: if I had some steel wool and personal genie that could transport me to that scene, I would take the steel wool and wipe that smirk from Mrs. Perky Evil’s face.)
With that, Mi Rae is literally bum-rushed out of City Hall, and as a parting gift, all of her belongings are tossed out with her like garbage. Jo Gook witnesses the whole incident.
Mi Rae has just been humiliated and physically assaulted in front of everyone at City Hall, but she doesn’t shrink away. Instead she gets up right away and tries to barge into City Hall. The Mayor’s aides block her entrance, shocked that she would have the audacity to return! Who does she think she is, anyway! Mi Rae’s response is heart-warming and even tear-inducing:
Mi Rae: You say you processed my resignation? You say that I no longer work in the secretary’s office? Do you know who I become when you removed my ID badge? I become a taxpaying citizen of Inju and who are you, a civil servant, to block my entrance? I am here to see the Deputy Mayor, and if he agrees, then you have no reason to block me!
Mi Rae then looks to Jo Gook, who is standing there quietly, and asks whether she can have a moment with him.
But Jo Gook smiles, almost like this is all a joke, and tells Mi Rae to stop trying to use him – it is getting tiring. With that, he turns and leaves. Even Soo In is shocked at Jo Gook’s really harsh response. (Note: is this another Jo Gook lesson to be learned? What does he gain by being a jerk?) Mi Rae is left with an upturned mess on the ground, no job, no prize money, and no support from anyone.
But knowing what we know about the definition of the word, ‘resilience’ and how there is a picture of Shin Mi Rae next to the definition, we can almost predict Mi Rae’s response:
Mi Rae: Alright then. An ordinary person will now become a fighter.
Mi Rae’s first effort – Get the newspapers involved! This effort fails, however, when the wily slimy Joo Hwa coaxes the newspapers from reporting the incident. The lack of newspaper coverage to Mi Rae’s press conference did not escape the notice of Jo Gook and Soo In, who acknowledge that they seem to have some skill at controlling the press.
Jo Gook is finally ready to make his first move – he is holding the documents that will undoubtedly spell the end of the current Mayor. But Jo Gook wonders whether the information that he has should be given to Mi Rae, since she hasn’t yet proven she can actually do something with it. Would Mi Rae be able to use the information effectively?
Jo Gook jokingly refers to Mi Rae again as King Kong, but this time Soo In objects, saying, ”Mi Rae actually is cute and charming in a naïve sort of way.” Jo Gook grins, asking if Soo In is interested in King Kong. Soo In nods, “yes.” Jo Gook’s smile immediately fades, realizing that Soo In is serious. Is there a hint of jealousy in Jo Gook’s face? (And if so, why? How can Jo Gook still have any claim over Mi Rae at all, given how he has treated her?)
Jo Gook gets a call from BB, and Jo Gook leaves his assistant at City Hall. Jo Gook is off to make a personal and private report on Inju to BB. Brimming with confidence, Jo Gook gives a smug report on how things are going. But BB is not happy at all. All he sees is a complete lack of progress from Jo Gook, and the smug look on Jo Gook’s face is just the face of a person who has no idea whether he is doing a good job or a poor job. Why has Jo Gook not gotten rid of the mayor yet? What exactly has Jo Gook been doing down in Inju all this time?
In an effort to show exactly how disappointed he is in Jo Gook, BB smashes a recently-made pottery piece. BB notes that in this batch of pottery, the one pottery that BB had the most hope for, that piece came out the worst. BB ends the conversation with crushing statement: he doesn’t believe or trust in Jo Gook at all.
As BB is leading Jo Gook around the compound, they walk past BB’s retainers. BB stops to talk to one of them. Jo Gook cannot believe who he sees: It is Ha Soo In! BB orders Soo In to join him, and a stunned Jo Gook follows both of them to the garden gazebo.
Jo Gook watches as Soo In pours tea for BB, a task that the favored Jo Gook likely once did. Is he being replaced by the younger Soo In because BB no longer has faith in him? BB orders Soo In recite what Jo Gook has been doing in Inju. Soo In doesn’t miss a thing, giving a detailed history of what Jo Gook has done.
Soo In and Jo Gook leave the compound, but immediately outside, Jo Gook explodes at Soo In, demanding to know how long it has been since he started spying for BB. It has been 4 years.
Soo In, his words laced with irony, remarks that he has the same dreams as Jo Gook, and that, he may not get another chance to say it, but he has learned many things from Jo Gook. Jo Gook reaches back to deck Soo In but stops, perhaps realizing that Soo In is correct – Soo In is a mirror of what Jo Gook has done and what Jo Gook has taught him. A sobering lesson.
Jo Gook tells Soo In to get out of his sight. Jo Gook then heads back inside to get some answers from his father, BB.
Jo Gook: You have never had faith in me? I…I have always believed in you.
BB: For that, thank you.
Jo Gook: And even if the whole world doesn’t, I thought that you would always have faith in me.
BB: With that, you would be mistaken. And, when have I ever given you reason to have faith in me? You are a politician, but it seems that you are stupid in every way. Didn’t I teach you that being truthful to other people will destroy your cause? In politics, there are two kinds of people. The kind who walks to the top, and the kind who are stepped on. And now you are like this (a slobbering mess) because someone who worked for you has betrayed you, how can I have any use for you?
Jo Gook: No, you are mistaken. It is fine if the reason is betrayal, but it is jealousy. I don’t think there is any reason now not to hate you.
Struggling to contain his tears, Jo Gook walks away after announcing he will not be visiting for a while and bidding BB to take care of himself. But, what does Jo Gook mean when he says, “I don’t think there is any reason NOW not to hate you?”
Meanwhile, back in Inju, Mi Rae has made up her mind. She will fight back with a one-woman protest. The reaction of her friends is not that encouraging, but if there is anything we know about Mi Rae, it is that she fights to the end. Mi Rae fighting!
Protest Day 1
Mi Rae has her placards and she starts off with a cute message: “If my fortunes are good, next year I’ll date one of these guys.”
And she ends her cards with this: “If the prize money isn’t given to me, I will chase you until you look like this.” Mi Rae’s clever placards draw attention to her one-woman protest, but the Mayor and his staff are not amused.
The Mayor orders his staff to remove Mi Rae, and the protest turns ugly. But even against four guys, Mi Rae won’t budge and in the struggle to get her to move, her dress is torn. (It makes me angry to even recap this part.) Jo Gook, watching from a distance, finally steps in and stops them.
Jo Gook slowly picks up the dropped placards and gently hands them back to a Mi Rae, and then starts to walk back towards City Hall as Mi Rae doesn’t say a word.
An eternity in a few seconds later, Jo Gook stops, turns around, and then takes off his jacket and gently wraps it around Mi Rae, hiding the large tear in her dress. No words are needed.
Does Jo Gook feel responsible in some way, since if he hadn’t intervened as he had during the contest, then Mi Rae would not have won? Or was it the fact that he ignored her when she asked for help as she was fired? Why help her now? This, like a lot of questions about Jo Gook, is a debatable point. But what isn’t debatable is that Jo Gook has feelings for Mi Rae now, and both of them know it.
Back in the Mayor’s office, Joo Hwa continues her sociopathy and promises to get rid of Shin Mi Rae, but in exchange for her husband Jung Do’s job being safely returned to him. Mi Rae’s closest friend and mother of three kids, Boo Mi, is to be fired next.
Joo Hwa hails Boo Mi to a conference room and threatens her. If Mi Rae does not stop her protest, then Boo Mi would be fired. Boo Mi rushes over to find Mi Rae and then tells her what happened. Mi Rae asks if Boo Mi did anything that was illegal or against procedures. Apparently, Boo Mi, like everyone else at City Hall, is tainted. Mi Rae doesn’t know how to respond. If she gives in now, nothing will change. It is an impossible situation.
Protest Day 2
As Joo Hwa promised, Boo Mi is fired. She leaves City Hall, carrying her box of things and walks past Mi Rae who is holding her second day of protest. Mi Rae is heartbroken. But before she can try to work things out with Boo Mi, Joo Hwa’s second surprise comes. Eggs came pelting at Mi Rae. Apparently, they hired a bunch of goons to throw dozens and dozens of eggs at her. This is just so awful to watch.
But someone IS watching. Jo Gook watches from his window, with a pained look on his face. What is he thinking? Why is he not doing anything? Do something!!
Late that evening, Jung Do meets with a bruised Mi Rae, and asks for her reason in doing this. Mi Rae answers that in the beginning it was for the money, but day by day, other reasons kept forming. Jung Do asks if he can get back everyone’s jobs and the prize money, will Mi Rae stop the protest? Can Mi Rae agree to return to the status quo, where she would make coffee for everyone, and Jung Do would continue diligently working on corrupt activities?
Mi Rae’s answer is a single word: no. Mi Rae has seen to much, and now this isn’t just about money or someone’s job. This is about what is right. Impressed by her utter fearlessness, Jung Do encourages Mi Rae to continue her protest.
Meanwhile, Jo Gook is at the restaurant where Mi Rae’s friends work. Jo Gook can only think back to the events of the last few days. He then recalls the moment when he stopped by Mi Rae’s house after the Day 1 protest. We see that Jo Gook was there at Mi Rae’s house after the protest, watching Mi Rae from afar, and he saw Mi Rae carefully hanging the jacket that he had wrapped around her waist to hide the ripped dress after the assault. And also, we see that Jo Gook was watching as Mi Rae appears to drift into another place and into another time, as she begins to dance with his jacket.
It is a touching and beautiful scene, as both Mi Rae and Jo Gook are re-living the intimate dance that they had during the Baendaengi Contest – Mi Rae, with the jacket, and Jo Gook, watching Mi Rae. Jo Gook’s face reveals only sadness though, as he can sense that his heart is in danger of being caught in the rising typhoon that is Shin Mi Rae, and he knows that nothing good will come from this. But does that justify being on the sidelines and not even trying to stop Mi Rae from being assaulted by a gang of low-lifes?
Unlike a certain Jo Gook we know who may be wallowing in self-pity, Mi Rae’s friends aren’t ones to sit still while their friend is being abused! To help Mi Rae, they make a video blog of Mi Rae’s protest and post it online. The video blog spreads like wildfire across the internet and encouragement posts from people reading internet portals, popular and very awesomely stylish blogs like Dramabeans.com, popular culture community pages like Soompi forums, come pouring in!
And even Boo Mi, jobless at home due to Mi Rae’s protest, with a family of her own to feed, and still angry enough to not take Mi Rae’s phone calls, sees the video blog and begins to realize exactly what Mi Rae has been up against – being unjustly fired, humiliated, and having the Mayor’s men physically assaulting her, ripping her clothing, and some paid goons whipping dozens of eggs at her.
Boo Mi starts to write a snide comment, but then deletes it, and then swallows as she gets emotional and writes something else:
“This girl is a friend of mine. She makes me so proud… Brat, fighting!”
(Note: If you aren’t tearing up as you watch this scene, you don’t have a heart. Seriously.)
Protest Day 3
The third day of protesting brings supporters! Mi Rae is so surprised! Her friends’ video blog has created a web sensation with over 3,000 visitors in a single day! Shin Mi Rae fighting!!
The next morning, Jo Gook is waiting for Mi Rae outside her house. Jo Gook offers Mi Rae his help (finally!), but only if her goal is the same as his (pff… I knew it, jerk.). Mi Rae asks what Jo Gook’s goal is, and Jo Gook answers plainly: oust the current mayor and have a secondary election held to replace him.
Mi Rae is shocked. Her protest to be treated fairly and to get others treated fairly has now reached a critical level.
What a powerful episode. Even recapping this had me wiping away tears. And what a fascinating switch from Episode 5. This episode marks an absolute change in the drama series. Now, we have a clear / steady / solid (choose one?) plot! And instead of straight comedy with slight political undertones, now we have an awesome love-story brewing, with compelling story lines to follow, mixed together with a larger idea of what and who political corruption ends up hurting. Mi Rae is now fighting, not just against Joo Hwa, but against a corrupt political machine. Mi Rae is now standing against the abuse of power and against those that wield it. The bigger the enemy, the bigger the heroine. And Mi Rae has just taken a courageous step towards becoming a very big heroine.
And on the other side, we see that Jo Gook has serious feelings for Mi Rae, but he knows that those feelings could lead to disaster for him and his ambitions to reach the Blue House. He knows that he likely cannot have both, and if he indulges in his feelings even for a short time with Mi Rae, he will hurt her very badly. And what about Go Hae? How will Mi Rae be able to fight everyone at the same time, if Jo Gook has to remain on the sidelines and just watch, like he did when Mi Rae was being assaulted by egg throwers?
But sometimes, there are no answers. Jo Gook and Mi Rae are falling for each other, and things are happening now that neither can control. Jo Gook’s goals and Shin Mi Rae’s goals are likely not the same, and yet they need each other. I feel like this could end very badly for everybody.
With a single episode, City Hall has become a drama series that cannot be missed. Seriously.
The ones to watch for in this Episode: Jo Gook and Shin Mi Rae, independently and together.
Jo Gook’s scenes with BB are really special, and we are finally getting to see the acting range of Cha Seung Won. Really powerful scenes with him and Choi Il Hwa (as BB), and Cha Seung Won’s eyes blaze with intensity that is scary. But not to be outshone, Kim Sun Ah has reached deep in this episode and brought her “A” game to the table.
And it doesn’t hurt that this episode puts on an absolute clinic on what it means to be a hero.
It is interesting to note here is the striking difference between Shin Mi Rae and Jo Gook. Both suffer tremendously in this episode. Shin Mi Rae, being both physically abused and having her closest friend’s family seriously harmed because of her. And Jo Gook, with the betrayal of his closest confidant and with the realization that his father never once trusted him, never once believed in him. But while we see the mettle that Mi Rae brings, I can’t really say the same thing about Jo Gook. He has yet to find a source of strength that will allow him to overcome his own doubts and emotional trauma. For all Jo Gook’s brilliance, he is still just a shell of a person, and that shell has been cracked.
Finally, after six episodes, City Hall has begun in earnest.
On To Episode 7!