Bad Guy: Episode 5
is back this week! is apparently postponed again this week. Sigh. Although I appreciated having the time off from new recaps last week, I have to admit that not having the pressure of a new episode made it harder to recap this one, since I am nothing if not a procrastinator. But with the World Cup coverage slowing now that the early rounds are done, hopefully we’ll be back on schedule soon. And while three five pre-emptions may not be the end of the world, I’d hate for the drama to lose traction just as its story is getting more interesting — I enjoyed Episode 5 the most so far.
SONG OF THE DAY
Bad Guy OST – “기다림은 상처만 남기고” (Waiting only leaves behind pain) by BMK [ Download ]
EPISODE 5 RECAP
Episode 5 backs up in time, taking us to the night before the boat party that ended Episode 4.
Tae-sung picks up a chatty Japanese woman with his line about having a yacht, showing us that (1) he was repeating a lame line when he used this on Jae-in, and that (2) even without finesse, his looks and money are all that he needs to get himself laid regularly. He doesn’t even have to do any work, so eager is the girl to marvel at his money and keep up a steady stream of one-sided conversation.
In complete contrast, Jae-in settles in to her hotel room, having picked a cramped space just barely larger than the size of the bed, as she talks on the phone with her sister.
There’s a cute moment when Won-in sneaks a beer from the fridge; Jae-in hears her pop the can open and asks suspiciously, “You’re about to drink a beer, right?” Won-in looks around the room nervously before insisting her innocence, which Jae-in informs her must be proven by the presence of the correct number of cans when she returns.
I find it oddly sweet that Jae-in tells Won-in that the room overlooks a magnificent view, as she actually looks ahead at an expanse of white wall. She’s not bragging; it’s the sort of thing a parent might say to keep a child from worrying that they’re struggling financially.
In the morning, Tae-sung unceremoniously kicks out his bedpartner, telling her to get lost. He comes back from a morning jog to find a group of thugs awaiting him on the dock; two henchmen throw buckets of paint at the boat while Tae-sung watches in angry confusion. Who the hell are they?
The floozy rushes out of the boat and rushes to assure the thug — her supposed boyfriend — that Tae-sung lured her to the boat, and that she’s still devoted to the boyfriend. Tae-sung scoffs because that’s a load of bull, and he sneers at everyone to leave.
All the while, Gun-wook watches from a nearby dock, clearly involved somehow. Tae-sung notes that the beefy boyfriend is “a crappy actor,” which tells us he’s sharp enough to smell a setup.
However, Tae-sung doesn’t give much of a damn, and he’d rather just wash his hands of these annoyances. He shoves the guy away and tosses him the keys, telling him to take the yacht. With that, he leaves the scene.
Now we’re up to the morning of the yacht party that closed last episode, and Jae-in roots around in her bag for her party invitation. She had dropped it in the street, where someone had picked it up. Now we see where it ends up: Gun-wook arrives at the fancy resort to leave it for Tae-sung at the front desk. Tae-sung doesn’t know who it came from, but hey, for a bored profligate like him, why not make an appearance?
As we saw in the previous episode, Tae-sung hits on Jae-in with a few canned pick-up lines, and she is insulted by his cavalier attitude. He insinuates that she’s making a strategic appearance at this upper-crust shindig to score a rich man, assuming that she’s dangling after him.
Jae-in, on the other hand, had been sincerely glad to converse with a fellow Korean in a room full of strangers, and is insulted. Which is when the partygoer falls overboard and splashes around in the water, and Jae-in cries for Tae-sung to do something about it.
I’ve noted that every episode has at least one big moment that totally loses me, and this is it. First of all, Jae-in’s insistence that Tae-sung must go in and save the drowning man is pretty ridiculous. What, like you can’t do it but the guy should? Rather than disliking Jae-in, though, it makes me hate the writing for reducing her to this plot device that forces Tae-sung to make the dive.
Furthermore, Jae-in’s urging ought to be unnecessary, since the drowning man is actually bait for Tae-sung to jump in. But he doesn’t know that, and the panic of the moment and Jae-in’s cries that he’s going to die make Tae-sung flash back to memories of Sun-young and how he failed her. So he growls, “Who says he’s gonna die?” and jumps overboard.
Here’s how the bait worked: Gun-wook saw the party invitation and decided to make use of the opportunity. He delivered the invitation knowing that it was likely Tae-sung would show up to the random party, then hired the man to fall overboard to entice Tae-sung into making some kind of heroic effort. As soon as Tae-sung dives, the Gun-wook grabs him and holds him underwater.
Tae-sung struggles and manages to work himself free, breaking through to the surface for air. But Gun-wook drags him back down, and Tae-sung struggles some more. He manages to wrest off his assailant’s diving mask, but only gets a cursory look at his face before consciousness fades.
As girlfriday noted in the previous recap, I’m a little confused at Gun-wook’s motives here. I say that in a curious way, not criticizing — we may find out in the future, but right now I’m left to wonder what he got out of this. I can’t believe he meant to actually kill him since that would make his revenge too easy, but I don’t see what he was trying to accomplish. Did he just do it to freak Tae-sung out? That seems reckless. He put together an elaborate plan, which means he’s operating on more than sheer emotion or hate. I’m left puzzled, but hoping that the drama does a good job of explaining this.
Back in Korea, the two cops track down Choi Tae-sung (aka Gun-wook) to the orphanage where he’d been sent after being rejected by the Hongs. The orphanage director still remembers the boy because of his severe gash, which left a scar on his back. The boy had stayed until Sun-young had been adopted — he had bonded solely with her, and disappeared afterward.
They look through the orphanage records for old photos, but find that the page with Choi Tae-sung’s picture had been ripped out. (I’ll just call him the Other Tae-sung or Tae-sung #2.) Old Cop notes that the page was torn a long time ago, and let’s just ignore the ridiculousness of that expert judgment (“The rip looks old!”) and take away the clue that Gun-wook must have been planning his revenge for a long time. The director’s only other hint is the name of Tae-sung’s old elementary school.
Young Cop is kind of a douchewad (yeah, he’s hot but he’s also an asshole), but he makes the connection that Tae-sung #2 has quite a compelling motive for revenge: He was dumped by the Hongs AND his beloved Sun-young noona was cruelly rejected by Hong Tae-sung.
Back on the boat, Tae-sung lies asleep in a hospital bed next to the other man overboard, who gets up and walks out, perfectly fine. Gun-wook strips out of his wet suit and changes back into his normal clothes.
Some time later, Tae-sung awakens to see Sun-young smiling down on him, and for a moment he looks up at her in hopeful surprise. But his vision focuses and instead shows that it’s Jae-in at his bedside.
Jae-in steps out to talk to her hostess, leaving Tae-sung to think back to his attacker in the water. He huddles in bed, unnerved and a little scared.
When a cell phone rings, Tae-sung grabs it — Jae-in’s — to turn it off, but the name on the display catches his eye: “Madam Shin.” Curious, he calls back and hears the voice of Mommie Dearest. Tae-sung identifies himself and asks what her relation is to Jae-in. Madam Shin answers curtly, and asks why he called.
Voice catching a little, Tae-sung says, “I’m sick.” (Note that in Korean, “I’m sick” can also mean “I’m hurting.” Make of that whatever you will.) He’d usually never say something so vulnerable — and to someone who so obviously hates him — but his reckless facade cracks just a bit, like he’s making an overture for help. But Madam Shin just tells him to go to the hospital and starts to hang up.
Face twisting in hurt, Tae-sung blurts, “Wait a minute!” She asks suspiciously if he needs money, and her callous response brings back his rebellious streak; face hardening, he retorts that he’s got tons of that. She asks if he’s met the guy they’ve sent to him (Mo-nae’s new suitor), and tells him to send him back right away. (The implication is to drive Gun-wook off by being horrible to him, so they can rid themselves of him quickly.)
Madam Shin tells him that one loser in the family is enough — Tae-sung being that one — “so do something to help your family for once.” She hangs up, and Tae-sung fights back the tears in his eyes, looking like a little lost boy. It’s a little heartbreaking.
This means that he’s feeling particularly wounded when Jae-in comes up to him on the deck. Sensing his mood, she makes small talk to break the ice.
Tae-sung asks what a mother normally says when her child says he’s sick. Jae-in replies, “When her child is hurt, a mother usually says she hurts ten times more.” He says a little bitterly, “I guess so. If she were a real mother, she would, right?”
Jae-in asks who Sun-young is, because he’d called her that. Tae-sung answers in a wavering voice, “She was someone who could ask, ‘Are you hurting?'” Jae-in advises that he call her. Tae-sung blinks away tears as he says, “She won’t answer.”
Jae-in sees that he’s cold, and starts to go inside to retrieve a sweater, but he grabs her arm, then leans his head against her shoulder. Jae-in awkwardly stands there, not equipped or wanting to console this stranger. This happens just as Gun-wook walks by, dressed as a waiter, who goes unnoticed by the pair.
She pulls back and apologizes for making him jump into the water, at which point Tae-sung grabs her and kisses her.
(Love the fireworks in the background, which supply the scene with a discordant note — the romance of the setting contrasts with the non-romance of the moment.)
Jae-in pulls back from the kiss, glaring at Tae-sung for his rudeness. She slaps him and storms off.
The fireworks continue to burst in the sky as Tae-sung sinks to the deck, wrought with… despair? self-loathing? In any case, it’s a complex slew of emotions, and he’s well-nigh overwhelmed by them.
Meanwhile, Gun-wook boards Tae-sung’s discarded yacht while a voice message from Mo-nae narrates over the scene. (Since Gun-wook paid the thugs to harass Tae-sung, this puts the boat into his possession.)
Mo-nae explains that Tae-sung is the black sheep in the family, but he’s not a bad guy: “He may even be the most pitiable out of us.” That’s sort of a sliding scale of pity, but yeah, he’s on the extreme end of it.
Gun-wook cleans the paint off the yacht, looks through the rooms, and makes himself at home. Pulling on Tae-sung’s monogrammed shirt, he thinks of his three names and wonders, “Who will call me by which name?” He dons Tae-sung’s clothing like he’s adopting this persona, acting like the real Tae-sung for the day.
But it’s only for a day, because the next we see of him, he is back in Gun-wook’s clothing and presents himself to his new employer with a smile. Tae-sung doesn’t have any great liking for this guy, but he puts him to work as his all-around assistant. So Gun-wook picks up tennis balls as Tae-sung plays, puts up with Tae-sung misdirecting him as they jog, and stands by silently while Tae-sung eats.
Tae-sung asks if Gun-wook can really stick it out — it’s nice that they’re being straightforward rather than pretending like he’s not being a dick on purpose — and gives him a mission. He wants to find the drug dealer, because Tae-sung feels the dealer has got a vendetta against him but can’t figure out why. Bring him so he can find out what the deal is.
They follow the guy to his apartment, and Gun-wook offers to check it out first. This is just an excuse for him to talk to the guy — since they’re in cahoots — to preserve whatever plan they’ve got going.
Gun-wook signals for the guy to run, and waits some seconds before pursuing him. Tae-sung joins the chase, but they lose him in traffic. Gun-wook acts like he’s been injured, and Tae-sung is none the wiser.
Tae-sung fumes over losing the guy, finding it suspicious that they were so close only to let him slip away. Gun-wook offers some words of wisdom that pique Tae-sung’s interest: “The thing about cats is, they don’t bite and kill a mouse all at once. They catch it, pretend to let it go, and play with it. When they finally get bored, they kill the mouse.”
That appeals to Tae-sung, whose impatience is allayed, and he gives Gun-wook his second mission: get back his yacht. But Gun-wook is ahead of him, and holds up the keys. He explains that he’d gone to find him at the yacht and instead found others there; thus he regained it for him.
But the thing about Tae-sung is, he’s no dumb rich boy. He’s quite sharp, actually, and he broods over his memory of his attacker. The vague outline of Gun-wook’s figure in the water niggles at his memory, and he turns suspicious eyes to Gun-wook, telling him to look at him face to face.
Tae-sung demands Gun-wook’s alibi and says suspiciously, “You know me too well.” Gun-wook manages to brush this aside, but Tae-sung isn’t wholly convinced. He moves on to the next mission, though: Find Moon Jae-in, the woman helping Madam Shin with her gallery, and find out what she’s doing.
Jae-in’s subject of interest is the elusive glass-blowing artist Ryu-sensei. Thanks to a tip, she tracks him down as he prepares to give a lecture. He mistakes her for his aide and gruffly instructs her to show him to the seminar, so she complies.
After the lecture, Jae-in introduces herself again, revealing that she’s not actually his aide and that she’s interested in one of his glass masks. While Ryu-sensei would normally dismiss these queries, he’s in an accommodating mood and tells her to come by to his studio tomorrow. He adds that she’d better bring that Korean soju with her, or the deal’s off.
During the seminar, Jae-in had glimpsed Gun-wook in the audience, but hadn’t had the opportunity to talk to him until now. Jae-in greets him with friendly warmth, and although they’d already begun to melt the ice back in Korea, their banter here is reinforced by the “strangers in a strange land” sense of camaraderie they now have. This is the moment I really started to dig this pairing, because Jae-in and Gun-wook as buddies have a lot more chemistry than they had previously.
Gun-wook comes along with her as she buys a train ticket (to see Ryu-sensei tomorrow), looking at her intently — sadly? — while she’s in a cheery mood. Almost wistfully, he asks, “Why Hong Tae-sung?” She makes a light answer: Napoleon once said that you don’t get respect because of your virtue, but because of a fancy carriage. Tae-sung is a fancy carriage.
Jae-in suggests lunch, and Gun-wook sends her along first while he runs an errand. Unfortunately, Gun-wook gets a call from Tae-sung calling him back right away. In no place to argue, Gun-wook has to go, leaving Jae-in waiting at the table with two lunches. When she calls, he says he’s sorry and promises to buy her a meal later.
Jae-in eats alone, while Gun-wook is relegated to shadowy bodyguard status as Tae-sung dines in a grand room, stony-faced as he is attended to by a geisha. This drama is really making luxury seem heartless and empty, isn’t it? Not that I’m complaining; I’m enjoying seeing a more cynical angle than the Cinderella-esque glorification of money that we always see in other dramas.
To underscore everyone’s loneliness — Jae-in in a big, strange city; Tae-sung in a room as hollow of emotion as it is of people — Gun-wook also eats alone that night, sitting by himself at a ramen shop.
In Korea, we have a scene with Tae-ra fencing with her instructor, which I suppose is here to remind us (1) this family be rich, yo, and (2) not to forget about her. End scene.
The following day, Tae-sung follows Jae-in to the train station, where she grimaces to see him. He taunts her with more comments about being a gold-digger, and she retorts that he owes her an apology for forcing a kiss on her.
A budding argument is curtailed when Tae-sung looks up to see the shifty drug dealer across the way, on a different train platform. Unfortunately, Tae-sung can’t get to him with an incoming train blocking his route. Pissed off, Tae-sung shouts at the dealer, who cackles tauntingly at him… before dropping out of sight. Did he run off, or was Tae-sung imagining things?
Jae-in yanks Tae-sung back from the edge of the platform, because he’d gotten dangerously close in his outburst. As they regain their composure, she quickly lets go and drops her hands.
Tae-sung finds Jae-in and her disgruntled reactions amusing; he pokes at her annoyance like a schoolyard boy taunts a pretty girl. He sits by her as they await the train, and announces his name: “Hong Tae-sung.” She’d asked for his name before but he’d been coy; now he identifies himself. Naturally the name startles her, and Jae-in asks hesitantly whether he’s acquainted with the Haeshin Group. His roundabout answer makes it seem like he’s not that Hong Tae-sung, and she relaxes.
Jae-in leaves him to board her train, but to her dismay, he again takes the seat next to her. Gun-wook also boards the car, but Tae-sung signals to him and he takes a seat at a distance.
As Gun-wook looks out the window, he loses himself in a memory of Sun-young’s last moments. She had stood at the edge of the roof, telling him to stay away, sobbing. When he had reached out a hand toward her — supplicating, not menacing — she had looked down, seemingly making the conscious decision to step off the ledge. And now that we understand his bond to her, we can see that he’s tormented by her death.
Gun-wook looks upset to see Jae-in and Tae-sung sitting so cozily by each other, and decides to shake things up a little. He gets up and walks by their seats, where Jae-in is happily surprised to see him. She invites him to sit with them.
The two men don’t betray their acquaintance, so Jae-in just ignores Tae-sung while talking to Gun-wook like a friend. Tae-sung looks on in puzzlement — how do they know each other?
When Jae-in steps aside for a moment, Gun-wook explains that he knows her because she’s friends with Mo-nae. Tae-sung orders him to keep pretending like they’re strangers, because he wants to continue his plan to snatch the glass mask first to piss off Madam Shin.
Still, Tae-sung sneaks annoyed glances at the other two, who chat like close buddies. When Tae-sung butts into their conversation, Jae-in talks back and tells him to mind his own business. All of a sudden Tae-sung has gone from the orchestrator of a plan to the one left on the outside, and he is not pleased, particularly when Jae-in and and Gun-wook mutter back and forth, trading inside jokes.
They arrive at their destination, but the two men can’t go to Ryu-sensei’s studio together since Jae-in thinks they’re strangers. Tae-sung takes a moment alone with Gun-wook to order him on standby, and he can’t resist sniping, “You guys sure are friendly.”
Jae-in hasn’t made hotel accommodations, so Gun-wook directs her to the hotel where he’s staying. This allows Tae-sung to get to Ryu-sensei first. (Random note: It’s rather poetic that the artifact Madam Shin is after is a glass mask, isn’t it? Brittle, beautiful, cold. But more importantly, it’s an item whose very nature — being made of glass — contradicts its inherent purpose — to mask.)
Tae-sung introduces himself as the gallery contact, saying that Jae-in couldn’t make it and that he’s taking her place. Ryu-sensei doesn’t care about the details, and he’s appeased by Tae-sung’s offering of the requisite soju. Satisfied with that, he leads Tae-sung to retrieve the mask.
Jae-in arrives moments later, and hears from one of the other workers that Ryu-sensei just left with a buyer for the mask.
She rushes out to see Ryu-sensei driving off, and rushes after him. Grabbing a taxi, she follows Ryu’s car, and the taxi driver signals at them to pull over.
When the car stops, she sees his companion is Tae-sung, who pretends that he wanted to buy the mask for himself. While the two argue over who gets to buy it, Ryu-sensei gets fed up with waiting and gets in his car to drive off, leaving the two behind.
Gun-wook checks into his room, sitting in a listless funk when he gets a call. It’s Mo-nae, who greets him happily and starts to chat about mundane things. Gun-wook lets the phone drop out of his grasp and leans his head back, sighing heavily as Mo-nae keeps talking.
Still really enjoying the show, even with its flaws. Despite the stellar directing, the evocative music directing, and the moody cinematography, I’d have to pinpoint the writing as its main detractor. It’s not necessarily bad writing; it’s just not on the level of the others. It’s too bad that such a potentially great drama is kept at merely good level by some lazy writing choices, but overall I get a lot of enjoyment from watching Bad Guy. And writing — and writing, and writing — about it. I appreciate any drama that lets me examine every little thing from multiple angles and keeps my brain engaged.
This was a great episode for humanizing our two leads, which comes not a moment too soon. I still harbor some reservations about the Jae-in and Gun-wook romance, because it still feels like the show wants us to buy it more than we do — but at least this episode brought that disconnect closer together. It introduces an element to the triangle that I really dig, which may just help me get past the initial block against the pairing. And the link? It’s not Mo-nae, as the first four episodes set up, but Tae-sung.
Speaking of whom — it was a particularly good episode for Tae-sung, beginning with that scene in the infirmary. As I mentioned, he struck me so much as a lost little boy, not unlike Gun-wook once was. I won’t go so far as to say that Gun-wook was better off being rejected by the Hongs and losing his loving adopted parents, but let’s just say that he sure dodged a bullet with the Hongs. Meanwhile, Tae-sung was stuck with them, for better or for worse. Mostly worse.
And yet, Tae-sung isn’t this easily sympathetic character, either. He can be a pretty big asshole when he wants to be, and even if we understand WHY, it doesn’t excuse his behavior. I like him as this damaged, rebellious, intensely lonely young soul who feels forsaken by the world and therefore lashes out against it — but I like him even more as the jerk who doesn’t want our sympathy for it. Well he does, but he also doesn’t. It’s that dichotomy that I find intriguing.
Surprise of surprises, I even liked where his attraction to Jae-in is going, precisely because it’s not a simple matter of him falling for her. He likes her, but more because she’s an oddity at this point, not because she’s The One. She snaps at him and refuses to fall for his limited charms, so it’s as much (or more) about ego as it is about feelings. (I say limited because frankly, he’s not exactly acting the part of the chivalrous prince. He acts like an entitled jagoff with women, and she ain’t gonna reward that behavior.)
This also makes me appreciate the Jae-in/Gun-wook setup for the first time. Previously, their attraction felt way too fast, and it seemed unnatural that he should be looking at her with moony eyes already. While I still think it’s too fast, at least it’s a little more believable now.
But if I let go of that bump regarding the speed of the romance, I actually quite enjoy how this triangle is shaping up. Gun-wook knows that Tae-sung is intent on pursuing Jae-in and he doesn’t like it, but he’s not in a position to stop it. He doesn’t want Jae-in to fall for Tae-sung, not (only) because he’s jealous but because he knows that Tae-sung sees her as a challenging toy. So there’s an element of protectiveness there, such as when he joins them on the train, and then approval when he sees how Jae-in rejects Tae-sung.
I also like that for once, this Japan trip actually has a narrative purpose (other than to fulfill the foreign-location-shoot bragging rights). I doubt Jae-in and Gun-wook would have bonded as quickly at home, because there’s nothing like bonding over a mutual enemy in a strange land. A mutual enemy you both want to use and show up, who treats you with disdain.
Their camaraderie is also reinforced by the way they speak banmal to each other, which ironically started out of rudeness and transitioned into friendliness. At first, Jae-in used banmal with Gun-wook because he pissed her off, but as soon as that antagonism melted away, it actually brings them closer together.
THEORIES & SPECULATION
When this drama introduced the issue of the Two Tae-sungs, I was dreading the drawn-out misunderstandings that we’d be served. Happily, we have moved right along — the cops are smart enough to be on the right track with this Tae-sung #2 thing, and that’s welcome. (Too bad some of their deductions have been based on damn flimsy logic — like a torn paper LOOKING old, seriously? — but at least they’re on the right track with it instead of dancing circles around the wrong suspects.)
Now that we know that Tae-sung didn’t kill Sun-young, the question is: Why did she jump? Why was she so distraught, and what was she afraid of? Many of the clues are probably going to be found in their childhoods, which will probably be revealed in dribs and drabs. Did Gun-wook find Sun-young after she was adopted? Did he manage to live with her as a child, or near her? Or did they remain out of touch until their adulthoods? (The fact that she called him Gun-wook suggests the latter.)
I have a curious hang-up with the Gun-wook character, and I wonder if it’s an acting thing or a writing thing. Maybe Kim Nam-gil is just doing too great a job at the revenge angle, but it makes me suspicious of the romantic angle. I, like girlfriday, remain skeptical about this mopey, romantic Gun-wook at the center, because in every other way it contradicts what we know of his character. He’s badass vengeance guy, not emo hipster guy! So is this confusion because Gun-wook is playing everyone — including us, the audience — and that makes us unsure which part of him to believe and which is a persona? Or is it that the writing isn’t melding those two halves of his character? I’m inclined to blame it on the writing, but perhaps we’ll find out later that this all works in the larger picture. But until that happens — IF it happens — I’m confused by Gun-wook’s motivations. Maybe I’m supposed to be. I just don’t know what to make of him NOW.