(written by samsooki, with 0timelost, cleown, and mead33)
Episode 12 – “Onward and Upward, the Return of City Hall Recaps, Episode 12.”
I have to begin this episode recap with an apology. I had every intention of trying to stay with the production schedule of about 1-2 recaps per week until completion, but a certain Mrs. Samsooki got herself all preggers and then out popped our first child, and that really put a kibosh on my plans to finish quickly. So I have to apologize first to my wonderfully patient and talented team of editors – 0timelost, cleown, and mead33 for sticking with this project, as well as to javabeans, who never stopped supporting this effort. Finally, I deeply and from my heart apologize to everyone who has waited so long for these recaps to resume. Hopefully, I am ready to begin anew and to finish this wonderful drama. As many times as I have watched and re-watched this drama, I know that it that deserves my undivided attention and effort to do the best job I can do.
Given the time that has gone by since our last recap, I think we should refresh our minds with all that has happened so far. Luckily, soompi’s own (and dramabeans frequent visitor) Alodia had very coincidentally created a beautifully done MV clip of parts of the first dozen episodes. With her permission, we get a treat for this recap. Enjoy!
And now, we can begin Episode 12!
Mi Rae has just given her oath of office as Mayor of Inju City, and she gives her first speech. Her words are good and warming to the heart, balancing folksy talk with a kind of stirring poetry that stirs the tear ducts in your eyes.
Mayor Shin Mi Rae (in her very first speech to Inju City): I may be someone who doesn’t know a lot about politics (“jung-chi“), but I will still strive to be a mayor who has a lot of “jung” for you.
In a way, this speech sort of represents the whole drama series in a single sentence. Mi Rae takes a concept (“jung”) that the people of Inju consider to be dirty, opaque, unreachable, unknowable and ultimately, unwinnable (i.e., politics), and she flips its meaning into something that the people of Inju City can actually believe in: her own heart. The Korean word for politics is “jung-chi,” and the root of the word is “jung” (Chinese character – 政), but the Korean word “jung” has plenty of other meanings: “jung” can also mean passion, affection, compassion, and love (Chinese character – 情), faithfulness (Chinese character – 貞), order (Chinese character – 整), vigor and vitality (Chinese character – 精), and justice (Chinese character – 正). Each of those concepts starts with the word “jung,” and Mi Rae has just flipped the script – no longer will the Mayor’s office be politics as usual, but will be a place for justice, faithfulness, vitality, and compassion. How cool is this woman?
Jo Gook is bright with pride, and you can see it on his face plain as day. He IS impressed. Maybe he can learn something from this strange woman who has ascended to the highest seat in Inju City without the benefit of even a college education. As Mi Rae and Jo Gook make eye contact, Mi Rae beams at Jo Gook. But as Mi Rae turns away, Jo Gook’s warm mien turns from happy to concerned.
Outside, Mi Rae sincerely thanks Jo Gook, not for making her the Mayor, but for teaching her that she can be other people’s hopes, echoing Jo Gook’s lessons from the campaign. Jo Gook smiles and acknowledges how perfectly awesome he is. There are few who can pull it off without appearing cocky, but Jo Gook is the man and does it with panache. They shake hands. For the first time in their relationship, Jo Gook and Mi Rae are equals.
Unlike previous Mayors who might have strutted around as victors, Mi Rae celebrates her ascendancy to Inju City’s highest civil position by serving dduk (rice cakes) to everyone. Jo Gook gets the first box of dduk, and then it is off to City Hall for Mi Rae. She greets her new staff members with dduk rather than shaking hands. Everything that Mi Rae does seems to be the opposite of what they are used to. It is a confusing time for the permanent staff of City Hall. With the Directors tailing her to see what she will do next, Mi Rae starts her tour of City Hall, stopping at various offices. One stop leads her to meet the folks at the Union of Municipal Employees, and she delivers her best lines yet:
Mi Rae: I didn’t come here to expect your unconditional support. I want to reward those who perform their duties well, and I will punish those who do not. And in the same way, when I do something well, I expect you to support me with your strength, and likewise if I take unjust actions, I want you to know that you can feel free to criticize me.
Director (honestly touched): We welcome your election to Mayor, and we sincerely give you our congratulations.
If only all meetings could go that well! Not surprisingly, Mi Rae’s first contact with her former boss, the head secretary, is a disaster as the wart-faced grease monkey treats Mayor Shin with open disdain. (If you guys are wondering why Mi Rae just doesn’t fire him, it is because in Korea, it is rather difficult to lose a permanent employment position. And it is even more difficult to lose a career civil service position that is attained through taking exams and working your way up the administrative ladder.
Mi Rae would basically have to accuse the Secretariat of doing terrible things (sorta ironically, the accusations would all be true), just like Joo Hwa did to Mi Rae and Boo Mi. But since Mi Rae does not have the support of anyone in City Hall yet, Mi Rae’s job security is far less certain than the “lifers” who remain in place even as Mayors come and go. For now, Mi Rae is stuck with everyone at City Hall.
While Mi Rae is acclimating herself to her environs, the Directors, the Secretariat, the Deputy Mayor and Joo Hwa are scheming to ensure that Mi Rae finds her term of office to be as unpleasant as possible. They refuse a direct order to meet with Mi Rae, and laugh at her behind her back in the Deputy Mayor’s office. It looks like these guys really haven’t gotten the message. Every single time they have attempted to look down on Mi Rae, they ended up getting burned. This time is no exception. Mi Rae crashes the party at the Deputy Mayor’s office, and drops the biggest bomb she has in her arsenal: she is not going to give a dime of funding to the pet project that the previous Mayor had been developing for more than two years – City Hall relocation project.
The reaction from everyone in the office is immediate – this is the project on which all of their political capital is based. Mi Rae certainly has their attention now!
Meanwhile, Jo Gook has disruptive plans of his own. Jo Gook informs the provincial Governor that Jo Gook does not plan to run for the National Assembly under their party, but plans to run as an independent. Thereafter, Jo Gook meets up with a group of potential backers and gives the exact opposite speech that he gave to Mi Rae when Mi Rae fired him.
Jo Gook: What I hope to give to you, and what I hope to receive from you, is just one thing: the heart.
The potential backers: Heart??!
Jo Gook: Do you know the kind of person I despise the most? Those people who say that “politics requires power, money and brains, and what good can the heart do for a politician?” What can a sincere heart achieve? What kind of miracles can it create? Do you guys want to stand with me and find out? Don’t you guys want to become Inju City’s new blood, to become my men, to walk together with me down this exciting path? How about it, everyone??!! Raaaaaaaaaaawrrrr!!
50% crazy man Howard Dean, 50% William Wallace from Braveheart, Jo Gook seems to have dumped all his hard-nosed win-at-all-costs mentality and has become 100% thief of Mi Rae’s most basic principles. Jo Gook is no fool, as he realizes that even if he doesn’t yet have the moral fortitude of Mi Rae, he can still take her entire political playbook. Jo Gook has taken to stealing every sincere comment that Mi Rae made during her campaign. It is one thing if Jo Gook believes it sincerely, but at this point, I am not sure what he believes.
Back at City Hall, Mi Rae is at a loss for how to get things done, since nobody is willing to help her. But slowly, she might be winning backers. The secretary who tossed out all of Mi Rae’s things upside down onto the ground when Mi Rae was fired, comes to meet with Mi Rae and offers to secretly help her. It is a small start, and even the longest, most difficult journey must begin with that first, tiny step.
Back and forth we go. On the other side of town, Jo Gook apparently is not content to just “borrow” Mi Rae’s words (*cough* thief!), Jo Gook stops by the Mexico and Chicken Restaurant to see if he can’t enlist the aid of Mi Rae’s loyal friends to be his campaign staff. Jo Gook offers money, but Mi Rae’s friends aren’t that interested. Doesn’t he know what motivates Mi Rae and Mi Rae’s friends by now? Probing a bit, Jo Gook figures out that what Mi Rae’s friends want… is to know is the relationship between him and Mi Rae. His targets now set, Jo Gook launches into his own fairy tale weaving.
Jo Gook: Wowee…. When I first met her, she was the kind of woman who could clear my head in a split-second, she was! This kind of feeling, could this be love?
Mi Rae’s (gullible) friends: OMGOMGOMG!
Jo Gook: Yes, friends, this weird woman and I have fallen into the Sea of Love…!
Mi Rae’s friends: And if you could describe Mi Rae in a single word, what would that be?
Jo Gook: Let’s see, how shall I put it? Should I compare Shin Mi Rae to a doll…
Mi Rae (walking in unnoticed): What kind of doll? Shrek? King Kong, Alien??
Jo Gook: Ahh, of course, that would be King Kong… wahh??!
Haha! Mi Rae is not so quick to let Jo Gook off the hook, and plays with Jo Gook, asking for a designer handbag in front of multiple witnesses. Jo Gook takes a pint of bitter and downs it like a man on his last bender. Dude, it is only fair. Man up and get her the handbag!
Jo Gook gets Mi Rae to talk outside, and reneges on the handbag (booo!), but agrees to give Mi Rae lessons municipal politics. Before driving Mi Rae home for the night, Jo Gook takes her to the top of a mountain bluff that overlooks Inju City. The lessons on being a Mayor start this very night. Mi Rae is too tired to walk up the stairs, but Jo Gook offers his hand. It is more than a gesture to help her up the stairs, and Mi Rae recognizes the symbolism inherent in Jo Gook’s outstretched hand.
Mi Rae slowly and cautiously reaches out and holds Jo Gook’s hand. Jo Gook takes her to the top of the bluff.
Jo Gook: What do you see, out there in Inju City?
Mi Rae: Well, I guess my house is over there. And over there is the house where the person that I like lives.
Jo Gook is touched and a little surprised by Mi Rae’s forthrightness. But the lesson still comes first. He holds her, and asks her to envision the kind of city that she would like to build for her people.
With that guidance, Mi Rae begins to understand why Jo Gook has brought her to this place. Her mind expands and she begins to dream of the Inju City she wants to have.
Mi Rae: Over there, I would like to see a municipal hospital. Right now, if you get really sick, it is a 90 minute drive to get to a general hospital in the province capital. And over there, I’d like to see a college library whose lights do not go off during the night, so that the smart people of Inju won’t have to leave to get an education…
And Mi Rae isn’t done, as her mind’s eye draws out a coal plant to help keep Inju City warm in the winter, and a daycare center designed like Disneyland. The future buildings of Inju City glow and sparkle in the night, and both can begin to see a new world that would benefit the people of Inju City.
Mi Rae and Jo Gook revel in the dream of a better world, but Jo Gook sees more than just the future of Inju City in front of him. Jo Gook’s right arm hooks around Mi Rae and he draws her close to him, as they continue to look out over the bluff.
A magical moment. Mi Rae is frozen with fear at first, unable to decide what to do. The man she has fallen for, the man whose jacket she dances with at night when she is alone, this beautiful man has just wrapped his arm around her. Can he feel her heart pounding like a drum?
But Mi Rae makes up her mind to be brave – it is not like her to remain afraid of anything for long. And after an eternity in a moment, Mi Rae’s hand rises over and touches Jo Gook’s hands. Some people who are brave enough can live a lifetime in a moment, and in this moment, there is no one else in their world, no one else in history but them.
And in that moment, both realize the gravity but not the full consequences of love. There is nothing fair, nothing just, nothing simple about it. And neither of them is quite sure whether the admission to each other of this love will be worth it in the end. In a frozen scene like this, pages and pages can be written about their fears, their hopes, and the love that may never find its way to fruition. But really, all you need to do is look in their eyes. Wondeful acting.
I would have loved to have left off this episode like this, but recapping duty calls and so we must move on.
Mi Rae’s first official act is to get Boo Mi her job back. Boo Mi, working as a part-time waitress, feels the love from her best friend. Boo Mi is back, baby!!!
With her team of Jung Do as her chief of staff and Boo Mi as her chief assistant, Mayor Mi Rae holds her very first official meeting as Mayor and receives her first appointment of the day. It is the entire group of directors. Looks like they have some demands to be heard.
In unison, the directors open up their jackets and drop bombs on Mayor Mi Rae’s desk.
Each of the envelopes read, “Letter of Resignation.” With this single, devastating blow, the municipal government has just ground to a complete halt on the first day of Mi Rae’s first full week in office. It looks like the Directors and the Vice Mayor have fired the first shot of this war between Inju City’s Tammany Hall and Mi Rae!
Before getting into the structural elements of this episode, I just wanted to add one more point about Mi Rae being a game-changer for Inju City. Her inauguration speech given after her oath was just brilliant, and not just because she was able to get in a few plays on words. Mi Rae may not have Jo Gook’s brilliant mind for strategy and tactics, but instinctively Mi Rae knows that in order to change people’s attitudes and mindset, she has to change people’s vocabulary. In order for people to believe that politics can be more than just a game for corrupt and power-hungry people, people have to change the way they define the term – not something inscrutable and opaque, but open, just, affectionate and fair. Politics is for the people, and Mi Rae, whether she knew it or not, with her speech, she put politics back within reach of the common people of Inju City.
OKAY! We are now gathering momentum towards the last act of the drama, and the setup pieces for the last act are finally being set into motion. While this is clearly a foundational episode, and so not much actually happens here, a lot of ground work has now been laid and important questions now need answers:
1. The battle lines are drawn between the corrupt political machine anchored by the Vice Mayor, Joo Hwa, and the Directors, and Mi Rae and her forces. Can Mi Rae really overcome the corrupt political machine with just Boo Mi and Jung Do having her back?
2. The love between Mi Rae and Jo Gook is now out in the open, at least between the two of them, but so many things have yet to be resolved, not the least of which is, what in the name of Inju City is Jo Gook going to do about his fiancé???
3. Jo Gook has decided to throw his considerable skill into the political arena at last, and he is about to run for the National Assembly seat. Gaining the National Assembly seat is the next logical step in his ambitions to sit in the Blue House (the Presidential palace), and he has been preparing for this advancement all of his adult life. Can he beat all comers in this upcoming political campaign, and what would happen if he were discovered to be engaged to be married to one woman, but secretly dating a certain Mayor???
4. Jo Gook has severed ties with his former teacher, his absentee father who once abandoned him and his mother, Big Brother, and so he must figure out how to capture lightning in a bottle, much the same way as Mi Rae did in her rise to power. Can Jo Gook do it without BB’s help? And what about his fiancé’s help??
5. Finally, what will Big Brother’s response be, to all of this? Why did he send Jo Gook to Inju City in the first place? It is like waiting for the other shoe (albeit an extremely heavy, steel-toed boot) to drop…
The scene to watch for in this Episode: Mi Rae and Jo Gook, together at last. (Yay!)
The scene alone is worth the price of admission.
Mi Rae’s emotions are so evident on her face – fear, longing, happiness, and uncertainty that she is doing the right thing by letting Jo Gook wrap his arms around her. Jo Gook cannot help himself, and his face reveals only sadness, as if he is watching a tragedy unfold from the inside out. Both actors are just brilliant here, and together with the music and the acting, it is a lifetime to be lived.
One of the things that makes City Hall such an great drama to be watched and enjoyed over and over again is the fact that the main characters are living, breathing adults, and so they are painfully aware that their actions and their decisions have real and serious consequences.
Jo Gook, he who is as smart as any, surely understands that he cannot hold onto his fiancé who holds the key to his future advancement in politics, and hold onto Mi Rae, who has stolen the key to his heart. And Mi Rae, who may not have the worldly intelligence of Jo Gook, but she knows enough to know that she has fallen for someone who has a fiance, for someone who can definitely break her heart, and for someone who might someday be an enemy to her own principles.
All they can do is hold onto each other, to live the moment and to cherish the moment even as their fears are evident on their faces.
Scenes like these are the reason why City Hall rocks.
On To Episode 13! (I mean it this time!)