Hey, girlfriday here with a little cloak and dagger to kick off the summer season. No new episodes this week, but here’s a recap to tide you over. So far this show has the winning appeal of being aesthetically beautiful—this is some slick, slick stuff—and I don’t just mean the very good-looking cast. It’s not the most inventive in terms of plot, but I like that the biggest mystery is what the main character will do at any given moment, allowing for a much needed jolt of newness in my drama watching of late. Let the games begin!
EPISODE 4 RECAP
Gun-wook shows up to his ménage-a-date with Jae-in and Mo-nae, and when he sees that they’re both there, he doesn’t even bat an eyelash. Well I suppose if you’re a two-timer you should always be prepared for this inevitability.
Jae-in is the only one who doesn’t know the score, as Mo-nae continues to let her think that Gun-wook is her oppa Tae-sung. Jae-in awkwardly chatters on about how they look alike, while Mo-nae looks at Gun-wook guiltily. But she doesn’t care about Jae-in right now. She just wants to tell Gun-wook that she’s not going to marry her fiancé; she’s marrying oppa instead. Er, would that be the smirky guy across the table, who Jae-in thinks is your biological sibling? Awkward.
Mo-nae finally spills the beans that this is Gun-wook, not her brother Tae-sung. Jae-in’s brain finally screeches to a halt as she lets it sink in: wait, this isn’t Hong Tae-sung? She cocks her head to the side and adopts a totally different demeanor, asking, “Hey you, who are you?” I much prefer this “real” version of Jae-in, as her fake gold-digger act was really starting to grate on my eardrums. There’s nothing worse than fake fakery to make me lose my lunch.
Gun-wook replies that it’s as Mo-nae said. He’s Gun-wook, and he never lied; he just never corrected her when she called him Hong Tae-sung. “Because you seemed like you wanted me to be Hong Tae-sung…I pretended to be.” Nice way to throw her not-so-up-and-up motive back in her face.
Jae-in scoffs, bewildered, talking to Gun-wook like he’s a street punk who got caught trying to mess with big sis. Gun-wook spurts out a laugh, as he says ominously, “This is fun.” Jae-in: “You’re laughing? Is this fun? You’re a real bastard. You’ve made an idiot of me in a split second and you’re having fun?!” She storms out in an unnecessarily righteous huff. It’s not unwarranted, but you’re not exactly squeaky clean either, sister.
Gun-wook goes after her to say as much, telling her that she started all of it—the spilled coffee, the phone calls—so why get mad? Jae-in admits to all of it, saying that she was trying to seduce him because he was supposed to be Haeshin Group’s second heir, Hong Tae-sung.
With a tiny twinge of bitterness in his eyes underneath the sneer, Gun-wook asks if she’s disappointed because he isn’t Tae-sung. What, would you rather she want you for your money? Jae-in says that she’s mad that he isn’t Tae-sung, that she got played by a jerk like him, and to rub salt in her own wound, she says what embarrasses her the most is that she almost fell for a guy like him. Thanks for the overshare.
She gets in his face, telling him not to act like he’s better than her, since she now knows that they’re both equally depraved people. I suppose….that’s…one reason to hook up, although it’s going to be really depressing if that’s their angle. Jae-in warns him not to see Mo-nae if his reasons are anything like her own (towards Tae-sung).
She starts to walk away, and Gun-wook says that he wanted to stop her, but he knew that she had to become pathetic in order to stop acting that way. Why is everyone giving out unsolicited life advice on this show? She tells him to stay out of her life, and when she goes, he smiles to himself.
The next day Tae-ra recalls Gun-wook’s words about how fiery first love can be, and I think it’s safe to say she’s totally hot for the guy. While on normal people that would be a passing fancy, to the repressed and straight-laced upper-crust ice queen, it’s coming out like an uncontrollable heat wave.
Tae-ra meets with Mom, who asks her what side of the business she wants to work on next. She thinks she’ll try a hotel or a department store on for size. Oh, is that all? Rich people live such crazy lives. Out of nowhere, Tae-ra wonders if that kid is doing all right. Mom’s like, what kid? That kid, you know, the one you threw out in the street? Tae-ra says that she thinks of him often when they talk about Tae-sung. She wonders how he’s doing, and if things would’ve turned out differently if they had kept the first child. Well, I guess you’re about to find out just how differently they’ll turn out for you.
Won-in spies Gun-wook again, so she gets off the bus to demand her dollar back. Does everybody live two doors down or is Gun-wook everywhere at once? Unless all his run-ins are planned, I’m going to start getting really annoyed at all the coincidences, Show. You’ll be hearing from me.
He says he lives in the neighborhood, (but that could be a lie) and they walk together. Mo-nae calls, and he gives the phone to Won-in, who takes the battery out instead of answering. They sit down at the bus stop in front of the Haeshin Group building (the place where they first met, so I’m thinking he’s just here on his daily stalking route).
Won-in asks what “Rope” means, so Gun-wook points to the top of the Haeshin building, as he says: “They drop ropes down from that tower, one by one, for people. People think that they can climb that rope, and everything will work out. So they grab one. But they’re rotted out, so people fall, and fall…I have one rope left. That’s it.”
President Hong decides it’s time to meet Gun-wook, since Mo-nae is in such a state over him. He thinks it’s best to pre-empt a crisis by bringing Gun-wook onto his side. It’s the power play that Gun-wook is banking on, I think, as chaebols tend to react to problems in the same way every time: throw money or power at it. If Mo-nae is his rope to get a position within the company, it’ll fast-track his revenge plot.
Jae-in deletes the Hong Tae-sung entry on her cellphone, and when her sister comes home, she finds Jae-in in a fugue state, doodling mindlessly on the floor. Looks like this is a common occurrence, as her sister’s reaction isn’t at all one of surprise. Interesting…I like that we’re getting some layers because this character desperately needs them. But if it’s because of some childhood trauma of the same vein as Gun-wook’s, I’ll pass.
Gun-wook stalks Madam Shin’s gallery, and when she arrives she eyes him suspiciously and calls security on him. Heh. He just looks at her with amusement, like a cat watching a canary with a one-track mind.
Gun-wook sits in his Mastermind Lair of Evil Plottery, as voiceovers remind us why he’s going after the Hong family. Listen, I wasn’t going to rehash this, but you’re doing the flashbacks, Show, so you opened the door. Can’t we just say that your whole sad childhood raison d’etre happened and never speak of it again? I can’t understand why you didn’t choose one of the two much better options you had for the backstory: either go epic, a la East of Eden, or keep us delightfully in the dark, since you know, you’re a mystery show?
Gun-wook gets a call from President Hong’s office, calling him in for a meeting. Bingo. Jackpot, baby. He cleans up, and hot damn, this guy looks good in a suit. *Pause for effect.*
He arrives in front of the Haeshin building and stops for a moment to take it all in. He smiles devilishly, indicating his plan is moving along nicely. He looks rather excited to finally get inside the belly of the beast.
Once inside President Hong’s office, he betrays a moment of weakness, as he recalls a fond memory of being here with his father as a boy. But he gathers himself as President Hong turns around in his chair.
In the meeting President Hong looks over his impressive resume (apparently he did lots of other things than go to stunt school, like attend Hong’s alma mater), as he notes that something about him feels familiar. Okay, anvils. No need to hurry out of the gate there.
It’s clear that Daddy rattles Gun-wook the most, and he feels something complicated toward his once-father that he doesn’t really have for the rest of the family. President Hong asks why he returned to Korea. Gun-wook replies, “To find my family.”
President Hong takes a liking to him right away. He pinpoints Gun-wook as having a PSD degree (they bond over quoting Alan Greenberg’s famous words that being Poor, Smart, with a Deep desire to become rich—is better than any MBA). So he offers Gun-wook an opportunity.
Jae-in comes to the Hae-shin building to consult on another art piece, and is forced to work with her ex-boyfriend, who is still a dime-store slimebag. In a hilarious bit of physical comedy, Gun-wook listens to their entire conversation by riding the escalator down, and then up, right behind them.
Just as dirtbag asks Jae-in if she wants to come over since his wife’s in Paris…Gun-wook decides to swoop in for the rescue. He puts his arm around her, calling her “my Jae-in,” and has the desired effect on the ex.
But then, a twist: Jae-in scoffs at his gesture, pushing him aside. She tells him she doesn’t need him to rescue her and pretend to be her new boyfriend, and goes right back to talking about work. Ha. Gun-wook stands there awkwardly, not knowing what to do with his rejected arm. Okay that? Made me like her possibly for the first time ever.
Once the ex leaves, Jae-in speaks to Gun-wook informally, through gritted teeth: “What are you, to assert yourself like that? Get out of my business.” That just makes him smile. He follows her to her car, and drags her by the wrist and tosses her in the passenger seat. Oy. Already with the unleashing of my bad side, Show? Fine, he’s the eponymous bad boy, so he’s no gentleman. I’ll give you that. But it’s also scary how creepy this guy would be in real life. Like in a no-boundaries-no-means-yes kind of way.
But apparently the only thing a kidnapper-stalker needs to do to win a girl over is take her for a drive. Who knew? Gun-wook takes Jae-in on a scenic drive with the windows down and the music blaring, and she starts to smile and he does too.
I guess we’re to believe that Jae-in brings out something real in him? I just have a hard time believing that because the disconnect is so harsh. Is he the cold, calculating operator, or the goofy escalator-riding guy who wants to hang out at the beach? I need more of a bridge between the two—a middleground, half-badass, half-marshmallow Gun-wook, to seal the deal on that idea. Not that it appeals to me, since I’d rather he be a badass all the way.
He suggests a scream therapy session, so they both unleash their frustrations on the ocean. They laugh and smile at the awkwardness of it.
Meanwhile, Tae-ra gives her sister Mo-nae the skinny on Gun-wook’s induction into the Haeshin Group. He’s been given the job of going to Japan to help out with Tae-sung’s work and once he returns successful, Dad will approve of her marrying Gun-wook. Hm…if his “job” is to straighten out Tae-sung’s act, he’s got his work cut out for him. In exchange, Mo-nae has to promise to focus on school.
Don’t fall for it! Chances your father’s motives are on the up and up? A googolplex to one. Mo-nae buzzes with excitement, while I feel really sorry for her because she’s just going to pine away for X years for him to return and break her heart anew. Sigh.
Tae-ra asks Mo-nae if she like Gun-wook that much, and Mo-nae explains that it’s like having twenty years’ worth of static shock to your system at once: she’s shaking with anticipation. She asks if Tae-ra’s husband ever made her feel that way. I’m thinking the answer is a resounding no, but if you asked her about Gun-wook…the answer might be different.
Gun-wook and Jae-in share some soju seaside, and Gun-wook asks if that ex-boyfriend was the reason she was so hell bent on seducing Hong Tae-sung. She says that she loved her ex sincerely and thought he was the best man in the world, only to have him dump her and break their engagement to marry someone with wealth and status. Well, it’s not the best defense for your poor attempt at golddiggery, but I get the ill-conceived logic behind it. I suppose I would have more contempt for you if you were actually a successful golddigger, but you aren’t in the least, so that’s something you have going for you.
She goes on to say that there’s no such thing as love. My experience with making blanket statements like that is you’re going to end up eating your words. In a big dramatic way, no less. She asks Gun-wook’s name (like she’s just realizing his presence there), and says he’s no different, thinking lightly of her. He does concede with a laugh that she’s amusing. He clearly sees her as a shiny new toy.
She asks him not to ever run into each other again, since he’s an embarrassing connection to the Hong Tae-sung debacle. He asks if that’s something that can be controlled. She doesn’t care; she doesn’t want to see him again. You sure had a nice date by the ocean with a guy you never want to see again.
He gives her a present—it’s the fountain pen she had bought for Mo-nae back in Jeju. She’s in utter shock that he’s the same stuntman from that day, and something about that fact melts her resolve. They laugh warmly with each other at the strange coincidence, and she finally lets down her guard…
…which is exactly what Gun-wook wants. Ooh, devious. Well played. But to what end? It’s a mystery, and I like it that way.
So Jae-in’s being sent to Japan too, to retrieve some pieces for the gallery. Looks like our love triangle will set sail in Japan.
The cops are trying to locate Sun-young’s phone, and who should have it? Gun-wook of course. He flashes back to the night she died, where she clearly calls him “Gun-wook ah,” and asks for his help. She says she’s going to spill everything, which he stops her from doing. He calls her “noona.” Then she switches to call him “Tae-sung ah,” asking what she should do. She cries and he holds her.
Gun-wook looks at her with fierce eyes, and says with a shaky voice, “Don’t call me…Tae-sung.”
She calls him both Gun-wook and Tae-sung, which is very enlightening. It’s even more intriguing that Gun-wook calls her noona, indicating anything from a familial relationship to a very close friendship. In any case, she’s someone who knows of his identity crisis.
Gun-wook goes to visit Sun-young’s ashes at the cemetery, narrowly avoiding the detective who’s come to inquire about any visitors. He then packs his bags and heads to Japan. Yes! Let’s go find Tae-sung!
President Hong is all too pleased that things are going according to plan. Either a) Gun-wook will successfully straighten out Tae-sung and bring him back ready to work, or b) Tae-sung will drive Gun-wook bonkers and he’ll run away from his failure. It’s a simplistic plan at best, sir, but it doesn’t account for the very real possibility that they will become best buddies…or lovers. What?
President Hong plans to send Mo-nae away to study abroad, and says that Gun-wook is smart, but there’s something unsettling about him. Would that be the I-will-serve-your-liver-to-the-dogs vibe that he’s giving off?
Then we get a cool montage showing the parallel spaces of Gun-wook, Tae-sung, and Jae-in, and then in one set, Gun-wook appears behind Tae-sung in his split screen. It’s a clever and slick way to indicate that they’re occupying the same space now, and Gun-wook is circling his prey.
On the streets, Gun-wook makes a cash drop to a drug dealer, and a homeless man asks for some money, saying he’ll work for it. Smiling, Gun-wook says (in Korean so the guy can’t understand) “Will you kill someone?”
The drug dealer finds Tae-sung in a club and offers him the new product: Special T. Tae-sung’s a textbook mess, so he buys the whole supply, taking one right away. But then the cops arrive to bust the club, so he foolishly decides to make a run for it. They catch him, and Tae-sung tells them to do whatever they want, but just don’t send him back to Korea.
After the drug results come in, though, the cops release him right away. Tae-sung wonders if the drug is so new that they don’t know what it is, but the cops apologize for wasting his time over vitamins. Ha!
He leaves the police station and beelines for the drug dealer, chasing him furiously down the streets of Tokyo. He crosses paths with Jae-in for a split second, running into her and knocking down the contents of her purse. She drops her invitation for a work party in the street, and someone stops to pick it up. It’s what any polite stalker would do.
Back in Korea, the detectives find someone suspiciously loitering near Sun-young’s apartment, and stop a guy who doesn’t know that Sun-young is dead, but does know that Tae-sung was an orphan along with Sun-young when they were kids. Only we know that the Tae-sung he’s talking about is Gun-wook.
Jae-in goes to her work party, hoping to meet an artist contact. Tae-sung is there, and he strikes up a conversation with her. He’s not exactly thrilled to meet another Korean, but she’s pleased. He basically tries to seduce her in the least flattering way possible, by insulting her social station and motives for being at a party like this.
They’re interrupted by a man who jumps off the boat into the water. Jae-in urges Tae-sung to save him, so he dives in. But once he’s in, Gun-wook’s waiting for him with scuba gear on. He grabs Tae-sung from behind, holding him down underwater.
I enjoy the sumptuous visual palette, and the very steady, calculated hand of the director. Every frame feels planned and thoughtfully designed, which can have an overworked downside, but here I feel swept along, since the story is about being swept along by the main character’s mystery master plan. I like being able to take in the imagery in the quiet beats between scenes, and the fact that characters are given silent moments to breathe and just act physically feels much more like art cinema than a television show. I find myself being drawn to the carefully composed long shots more than the close-ups, which is saying something, since tv as a medium is all about the close-up.
That said, the plot isn’t exactly blowing me away. The tropes feel familiar, although I do agree with javabeans that this drama’s take on the chaebol family does feel more like an indictment on the wealthy elite, which I find interesting. I sort of wish there were even more mystery, because things are almost becoming too transparent too quickly for my taste. I like that Gun-wook is unpredictable, but I’d almost rather him be a little more unstable too. Perhaps Tae-sung will provide that instability and throw a much-needed wrench in Gun-wook’s plans. I mean, I like that Gun-wook is smooth, but I need him to run into more trouble, or else I won’t have anything to root for.
THEORIES & SPECULATION
Since we know he’s not going to kill Tae-sung in Episode 4, I wonder what the elaborate water torture is aiming at. I thought he was faking the drowning to maybe meet Tae-sung as someone indebted to him for saving his life, but it looks like he’s just going straight for the physical violence. If the animosity between these two is going to be set up this early (as opposed to getting close to him first), then it’s possible we’re headed for a reversal, in that these two might actually end up on the same side. Perhaps that’s where Jae-in will throw yet another wrench in the works.
Jae-in is someone I don’t quite get the purpose of yet. I know, she’s the love interest. But is that it? Because in a story like this, that’s kind of a secondary role. She was at least an interesting if unclassy complication when she was seducing Gun-wook thinking he was Tae-sung. But now she happens to be in Japan too, and Tae-sung happens to be at the same party, and I don’t know…
I know they’re trying to make it a big Three Paths Collide sort of thing, which is apparent from the slick montage when Gun-wook and Jae-in arrive in Japan. But the three of them meeting isn’t really epic, since both of the new arrivals have been conveniently tasked by the Hong family. But it might be the case that once Jae-in finds out who Tae-sung is, she’ll pick up her ill-advised golddigging efforts again. I’d rather she fall for Tae-sung outright, in which case Gun-wook might be compelled to show a little mercy for her sake. But he seems to be keeping her strung along for a reason, so I’d be even happier if he was just trying to use her for the grand plan.
Tae-ra is a fascinating character that I wish we’d spend more time with. Right now she’s relegated to being the family taskmaster, but I’d like to see more of her personal life. I hope that the hints of fiery passion between her and Gun-wook will erupt at the worst possible moment, wreaking havoc with every character around them.
As for Sun-young, I suspect that she’s just someone who got entangled with that family and then realized what Gun-wook was up to through a series of coincidences. But two possibilities spring to mind: 1) Gun-wook actually sent her to Tae-sung to seduce him on purpose, from the very beginning, to some end that didn’t pan out because she really fell in love with Tae-sung; or 2) She dated Tae-sung thinking he was still the same Tae-sung that she knew as an orphan. Only when she meets Gun-wook, she realizes she’s with the wrong guy, prompting her freak-out and leading to some truth-spilling which jeopardizes Gun-wook’s plans. I certainly hope it’s something along those lines, because if she’s also just a jumble of coincidences, I’ll be sorely disappointed.