Switcheroo this week — I’ll do 6, and girlfriday takes on 7.
Bad Guy continues to fly under the radar, which is sort of a shame — not because it’s better than some shows that are getting better ratings (that’s always going to happen to somebody), but because SBS has really knocked this one around. If ever a show was set up to fail, it’s this one — and that’s too bad, because at its height it was bringing in a 15% rating, which in this day and age is a pretty solid number. I’ve noticed my own interest in the drama becoming an afterthought, which isn’t due to a lack of enjoyment but because I’ve gotten in the habit of NOT having a show to watch.
(On the other hand, it’s not a show that is SO good that I feel that guilty about that; if it were a work of genius I’d probably feel pained at its plight.)
SONG OF THE DAY
Bad Guy OST – “슬픈여자” (Sad woman) by Seo Yoon [ Download ]
EPISODE 6 RECAP
Ditched by an impatient Ryu-sensei (who has no time for the squabbling between the two Koreans over his glass mask), Jae-in and Tae-sung find themselves stranded on the road.
Jae-in is more annoyed than Tae-sung, who at least finds some humor in the moment (mostly at her expense), but the cold soon has them both shivering and looking for help. He goads her to call her buddy Gun-wook, but she’s already tried; he’s not picking up the phone.
Jae-in wonders why Tae-sung wants the mask, and he asks her the same thing. She answers that “someone I really respect is opening a museum,” and she’s putting together the exhibits. At mention of his cold stepmother, Tae-sung’s mood sours and he says vaguely that she’s “not all that.” Assuming that he’s judging Madam Shin unfairly, Jae-in jumps to her defense and tells him not to talk when he obviously doesn’t know anything. Do you taste those words, Jae-in? You’ll be eating them soon.
Back in Korea, the two stymied cops look into the Other Tae-sung’s school records, only to find that there’s no photo of the child here, either. That’s because Tae-sung #2 only attended the school for six months before he’d disappeared as a truant. Dead end.
Tae-sung calls Gun-wook on the sly (to avoid Jae-in’s suspicion), ordering him to go to Ryu-sensei’s studio to find out where they’ve been stranded, then come pick them up. Yet Gun-wook is clearly up to something, and blatantly ignores all subsequent phone calls. Instead, he takes care of a few of his own matters in a leisurely fashion, continuing his “research” into the Haeshin Group family.
After killing some time that way, he takes his sweet time moseying over to Ryu’s studio, where the latter assumes that he’s Jae-in’s boyfriend. Laughing, Ryu informs him that he just left his woman with another man. Gun-wook doesn’t correct him and lets him think he is the boyfriend, but rather than display concern, he asks about the glass mask.
Seriously, if I were Ryu-sensei, I’d be pretty perplexed (okay, irritated) with all these strangers swooping in from another country, pestering me repeatedly, and squabbling over my mask. But I suppose the gifts of soju make everything better. Hey, I get that.
I suppose he senses something in Gun-wook that he likes — Gun-wook has got an interesting air and he’s not as demanding as the other two. Ryu asks for his thoughts on the glass mask, pointing out the contradiction of making something meant to cover a face out of a transparent material.
Gun-wook scores some points by repeating some of Jae-in’s words about art being made for the artist to treasure. Therefore, a different way to look at the piece is that a person who works only with glass would have made a glass mask as a way of treasuring it.
He asks whose face is in the mask, and the question startles Ryu — like he wasn’t expecting Gun-wook to get to the heart of the matter so sharply.
With Gun-wook making no haste to find them, Jae-in and Tae-sung tramp across snowfields to seek shelter at some kind of shed. They sit in the cold, while Tae-sung twists open one of the bottles of Jae-in’s soju (meant for Ryu-sensei) to warm up with liquor.
A truck rumbles by, and Jae-in runs up to beg a ride of the driver. As she does, her phrasing is eerily similar to another incident in Tae-sung’s past — he flashes back to the first time he met Sun-young, when she had hitched a ride with him.
They’d been in Japan, and Tae-sung had commented that a woman hitching a ride with a man is sending risky signals. Sun-young, however, hadn’t been too worried and accepted the ride, perking up when Tae-sung muttered to himself in Korean, happy to run into a fellow countryman.
The two hitchhikers huddle in the back of the truck, taking swigs of soju as Gun-wook drives behind them at a distance, keeping an eye on them. As he drives, he thinks back to Jae-in’s words — how she angrily admitted that she almost liked him — and how they started to bond.
What’s your game, dude? Clearly he has no intention of helping, and he’s taking some half-assed actions to cover his tracks so that Tae-sung doesn’t catch on to his hidden agenda. But what’s the point of this? To make him suffer a day of cold? Given Gun-wook’s ultimate plan to orchestrate the grand demise of the Hong family, this seems like small potatoes.
The truck takes the pair to town, where they warm up at the hot springs with tea. Tae-sung grabs Jae-in’s forgotten scarf and returns it to her, a brief hint of flirtation in the air (on his side.) Now that they’re comfortable again, he’s satisfied with this scenario and being in Jae-in’s company for the evening. Enough so that when Gun-wook finally calls — claiming that he has been looking everywhere for them — Tae-sung dismisses him for the day.
So Gun-wook settles back for a dip in the hot springs, ignoring yet another phone call — this time from his druggie contact. And here I’m thinking, Dude, don’t piss off your lackey. Your unstable, unpredictable, easily excitable hired henchman is not on your side, bro.
And no, neglected lackey does not take his neglect well.
Tae-ra gets ready for a rare event — her husband is joining her for a real family dinner, for once. Mo-nae storms into the place, fuming and accusatory. How dare her sister and mother conspire to send her abroad to America? She overheard her mother talking about it, and Mo-nae doesn’t buy for a second Tae-ra’s lame excuse that it’s merely supposed to be a sisterly bonding trip.
Seems like the Hongs are going about the Mo-nae thing all wrong. Sending Gun-wook to Tae-sung seemed like a shrewd move, and might have worked if he wasn’t actually out for revenge. But this? This is classic Shakespearean blunder, Mom and Dad. What, haven’t you read Romeo and Juliet? Or seen the movie? Psst: It does not end well for your little princess. Granted, the Romeo and Juliet scenario isn’t complete without Romeo’s active participation in the romance, but Mo-nae’s brimming over with enough youthful, er, passion (read: foolishness) for the both of them.
Mo-nae hits Tae-ra where it hurts, challenging her, “Do you even know what love is?” Does the fact that Big Sis married without love mean that Mo-nae has to, too? She asks Tae-ra point-blank whether she loves her husband. Tae-ra is spared from answering that uncomfortable question by the arrival of her husband.
(Ironically, it seems like Tae-ra might have even grown to love her husband if only he paid her some attention. He greets her pleasantly, and when she’s asked about him by other people, Tae-ra always hesitates, like it bothers her that she’s in a marriage of convenience. She does care that her marriage is a farce; if she were perfectly fine with it, this shouldn’t upset her.)
Mo-nae storms out and vows that she’ll marry Gun-wook, no matter what.
At the resort, Jae-in relaxes in the hot spring while chatting with her sister, and her voice carries over to the men’s baths, where Tae-sung listens in amusement. Gun-wook also overhears, and while the conversation isn’t highly illuminating, she is much more relaxed and free with Won-in than she is with either of them.
There’s an undercurrent with Gun-wook in this scene, as he looks at Jae-in as though he’s disappointed or rueful — perhaps in the way their paths are going to be diverging, or running contrary to one another? More on that in the comments section.
Tae-sung sends Gun-wook to retrieve his wallet, which he dropped yesterday at the shed. Wordlessly, Gun-wook complies.
Meanwhile, trouble is brewing at the Hong mansion, because Mo-nae didn’t come home last night. Tae-ra tells her mother about Mo-nae’s outburst at being sent away, and offers to check all the usual spots to find her sister.
Madam Shin asks Tae-ra what’s going on with her husband these days, because he apparently met with her father about money matters. She speculates that his father, who was mounting a business enterprise, must have run into trouble, but wonders at Tae-ra’s lack of knowledge about any of this. Doesn’t she talk with her husband? You know your marriage is in trouble when your ice-queen socialite of a mother who entered into her own political chaebol marriage finds yours surprisingly distant.
As it turns out, Mo-nae is easily tracked to the hotel suite where she checked in the prior night. Tae-ra shows up to bring her sister home, and is not greeted with warmth. Little Sis declares that she’s off to Japan to meet her Gun-wook oppa, to which Tae-ra grabs her wallet and takes her money and credit cards, forcing her compliance.
Back in Japan, Gun-wook finds Tae-sung’s dropped wallet. As the location is close to the studio, Ryu-sensei spots him, and the two men end up taking a trip to a graveyard. He must assume that Gun-wook is here on Jae-in’s behalf, and he leads him to a particular grave, where a box houses the glass mask.
Taking it out, Ryu now explains that this is the grave of the person whose face is captured in the mask. Peering through the glass, he wonders, “If I wear this, could I see the world she saw?”
Looks like Ryu-sensei’s got his own tragic love story, because just then another man pauses a distance away, bearing flowers. He’s clearly on his way to the same grave, and the two men recognize each other.
Being in the cemetery reminds Gun-wook of Sun-young’s death, and he watches everything with his usual impassive stare. He asks Ryu who that man was, and the answer is the expected one: he’s the man that the woman (of the glass mask) loved.
Ryu philosophizes that when you’re in love, the world only exists for the one you love. That means the mask only allowed her to see the one she loved. How… tragic?
(It’s a nicely melancholic sentiment and I quite like the actor who plays Ryu, but the tragedy of the glass mask is purely cerebral. His love triangle story is shorthand for romantic tragedy, so I recognize what feelings it’s meant to evoke without actually feeling them.)
But thankfully, the drama has other tragic beats that are far more effective, and the following is a shining highlight of the episode.
Jae-in heads out to see Ryu-sensei again about the mask, but she is told to return later in the afternoon and therefore spends the day killing time. When she spots Tae-sung heading out on his own errand, she assumes he must be after the mask as well, and tags along in order to keep from being outmaneuvered. Tae-sung doesn’t correct her misconception, and she follows him to a small udon restaurant, wondering where Ryu is.
Unlike before when he found amusement in messing with Jae-in, today Tae-sung is in a darker mood, and locked up in his own thoughts.
He sits at the counter and steals glances at the middle-aged lady working behind the counter. A flashback identifies this as his mother — the mother he’d lived with before he was taken to live with the Hongs. Like Gun-wook, Tae-sung had also had his own family prior to being uprooted and was fiercely opposed to leaving his old family behind. In order to get him to agree to leave, his mother had promised to come for him, but clearly she never did.
His mother peers over at him but doesn’t recognize him, and Tae-sung averts his glance into his bowl of noodles to keep from staring at her too intently. But the emotion overwhelms him and he can’t stop himself from bursting into tears, and he rushes outside to vomit in the alley.
Jae-in follows him outside and asks if he’s okay. The udon lady also looks out at them quizzically, and Tae-sung sees her standing there. As though desperate to keep his identity hidden and to allay suspicion, Tae-sung grabs Jae-in to him. This appeases the woman’s curiosity — they look like a simple couple hugging — so she returns to the store, and Tae-sung asks Jae-in to confirm that the woman has left before letting her go.
Tae-sung thanks Jae-in with sincerity, but she’s utterly bewildered and has no idea what just happened. He walks off, leaving her puzzling over his odd behavior.
Next, Jae-in returns to Ryu’s studio, where she learns that he already gave the mask to her friend. It’s now in Gun-wook’s possession, and as he contemplates the mask, we wonder — who will he give it to now?
Mo-nae sneaks out of her house only to be immediately accosted by the two detectives. They ask for Tae-sung’s phone number in Japan, but she doesn’t have it. Remembering that Gun-wook is with him, she dials his number instead, and is thrilled when he answers the phone (for once!).
One cop urges her to give him the phone right away, so she reluctantly hands it over. At the request to speak with Tae-sung, Gun-wook hands over his phone.
The cop explains that they’ve reopened the investigation of Sun-young’s death and have a few follow-up questions for him. Tae-sung is in no mood to humor them so he says in annoyance, “It’s all my fault, so what’s to investigate?” and hangs up.
The cop is left with a dead line, and I have to say I get a kick out of the single-mindedly pissy reaction of Mo-nae. When she can’t get Gun-wook to pick up the phone again, she all but stamps her feet in frustration.
This means that Gun-wook’s phone rings incessantly on his end, and Tae-sung picks up to yell that he has nothing more to say to them.
But to his surprise, the voice on the other end isn’t the cop but a man who drawls in Japanese, “Finally, you pick up.” It’s Gun-wook’s lackey, who has been trying to call him all day but who has gone unanswered. Seriously, dude, you shoulda just answered your damn phone.
Immediately suspicious, Tae-sung orders Gun-wook to pull over. The lackey is following behind them, and also pulls to a stop by the side of the road. The guy peers closer at their car, which Gun-wook steps out of while Tae-sung takes his call, and recognizes him, saying, “Hey, you look like that guy who went overboard.”
Now Tae-sung realizes that this is the guy who sold him fake drugs, and demands to know why he’s calling Gun-wook’s phone. What’s their relationship? What does he want? To which the lackey laughs in his maniacal way, answering that he wants money.
Tae-sung gets out of the car and approaches Gun-wook, who stands on the bridge, and as he draws near, he flashes back to the brief glimpse of his underwater attacker. Suspicious, Tae-sung asks him to confirm when he came to Japan, and whether he really came here because of Mo-nae. Hearing that he used to be a stuntman, Tae-sung deduces, “So you must know how to swim. That was you in the ocean, wasn’t it? I’ll give you the chance now. Kill me.”
Gun-wook doesn’t react, so Tae-sung shouts louder, “Now that I tell you face to face to kill me, are you scared? Try and kill me!”
But instead of attacking Tae-sung, Gun-wook lunges for a figure behind him — the druggie, who is now approaching from behind. The druggie laughs that Gun-wook’s game is over now, and they engage in a fistfight.
Somehow the fight morphs into a three-way fight where all three are fighting on different sides. Tae-sung is shoved to the side as Gun-wook attacks the druggie, but he sees with shock that the man grabs a shard of ice to use as a weapon. He plunges the ice into Gun-wook’s abdomen, which breaks the skin but doesn’t loosen Gun-wook’s grip. He growls that the druggie had better disappear if he doesn’t want to die, and the druggie runs off.
Tae-sung is confused, but the fight has mollified his anger toward Gun-wook, since it makes it seem that they aren’t working together. Gun-wook explains that the guy had contacted him by saying he could offer Tae-sung more drugs, and Gun-wook had turned him down.
Disappointingly (for us), Tae-sung buys that explanation, and even feels a little guilty for jumping to (the right) conclusions. The men limp back to their cars and head back to the hotel, where Jae-in sees them both arrive. Gun-wook is more injured than Tae-sung but he keeps his stab wound hidden, and Jae-in helps Tae-sung up to his room, where he collapses on his couch.
Tae-sung pretty much passes out, and Jae-in spies the glass mask in the room just as Mo-nae calls. She asks about Gun-wook, wondering if Jae-in has managed to run into him, since he was sent to work for Tae-sung.
It’s only now that Jae-in realizes that this is, in fact, the Haeshin Group heir, and looks at the sleeping Tae-sung in a new light. Now she recalls their introduction, and how he had given her his real name, although he let her believe that it was just mere coincidence. She also remembers that Tae-sung had told her that his reason for wanting the mask was as an act of rebellion — so this must be Madam Shin’s son.
With this revelation comes the realization that Gun-wook, then, had also been lying to her by going along with her misconception. She confronts him in his room to demand to know why he never told her.
He reminds her that she was told his name, pointing out, “Now you must see him in a special light. Now that he’s a chaebol’s son, he must look grand. Have you fallen for him?”
Jae-in takes issue to his insinuation that she’s angling after Tae-sung as a gold-digger. She retorts that yes, she admired that house, and envied their money. It was natural for her to feel curious after finding out that they had an unmarried son. Gun-wook replies that she seems to have passed beyond curiosity, and brings up her behavior toward him when she thought he was Tae-sung.
Jae-in hears the unspoken threat there and asks if he told the truth to Tae-sung. He remains maddeningly silent, so she asks him not to tell, then leaves. As she makes her exit, the skyline erupts into a display of fireworks, which seem to be a recurring motif in this drama. What could they mean, other than giving us a point of dissonance between the romance of the lights and the uneasiness of the scenes they decorate.
Gun-wook grabs his injured side in pain — symbolic, or just coincidental? — but doesn’t let on that he’s hurt.
In the morning, they cross paths in the courtyard of the resort, and Gun-wook passes by silently. She speaks up first to say that she’s leaving for home, and asks if he plans to return as well.
He says that he quit his stuntman job — he runs Tae-sung’s errands now. That news doesn’t sit well with her, and she calls after him to stop his departure, but changes her mind and tells him, “Never mind.”
Gun-wook walks off on his errand, and she leaves in the other direction.
Meanwhile, Tae-sung awakens in his room to find a note that Jae-in has left for him. It congratulates him for acquiring the mask, and advises that “rebellion should be done face to face.” It’s her way of encouraging him to face his opponent in person, and he smiles to read the note.
Now in a more receptive frame of mind, Tae-sung thinks back to the cops’ investigation and now calls Mo-nae to ask for their number.
As for Gun-wook, he sits in a sullen mood in Ryu’s glass-working studio, thinking of Sun-young’s death.
There’s no doubt that Kim Nam-gil is a good actor with screen presence, but I’m still finding Gun-wook a tough nut to crack. I wish there were a way to get past that mask of impassivity Gun-wook wears — I don’t have to sympathize with him, or like him, or even understand him completely. But I have to be able to follow his logic, even just a little, or else he leaves me completely lost and confused.
Why is he toying with Tae-sung in petty, meaningless ways like taking his time leaving them out in the snow for an afternoon? What does he want from Jae-in? Why does he keep ignoring his phone?
That last issue — his phone-ignoring habit — even makes it difficult for me to feel tension when he encounters his first hitch in this episode, which would otherwise be a much-needed twist of events. Gun-wook has been playing invincible puppetmaster for too long, and I welcome the complication when Tae-sung almost finds out the truth. But then he makes up a story on the fly, and Tae-sung — who had until then suspected him of trying to drown him — just shrugs and accepts that answer. Poof, dramatic tension gone.
The only moments when he shows some hint at deeper feeling are the scenes where he looks almost-maybe-kinda conflicted about Jae-in, but the problem with those is that I don’t feel any romantic chemistry there, so I don’t believe that he has any genuine emotion for her. For instance, there was a somewhat out-of-place flashback in this episode, when Gun-wook had followed Jae-in to a high-end store as she shopped for a replacement purse. She declines the purchase because it’s too rich for her blood, and it’s like he finds a point of connection in that. He gazes at Jae-in with such loaded meaning at times, only I don’t know what that meaning actually is.
(Sidebar: Note that her bag is a real designer brand, so she’s the kind of woman who appreciates the real thing, but has to scrimp for ages to afford it. I suppose she needs to appear more well-off than she actually is because she is constantly working around super-rich types like Madam Shin so it’s a sort of investment into her own image, but I also think she aspires to a grander lifestyle than she can afford. It’s what happens when you are privy to that lifestyle but aren’t a part of it yourself. I can see how Gun-wook might understand her on that point.)
On the other hand, I love what an emotional wreck Tae-sung is. In one way he’s the complete opposite of Gun-wook, in that his vulnerability is available for us to see front and center. But he’s also got a mean, violent streak running through him, and their childhoods share striking similarities, which makes them quite alike in other regards. But whereas Gun-wook is TOO polished, too wrapped up with a tightly controlled bow, Tae-sung is a bundle of nerves. The scene where he cries into his food is just raw and striking, and I love it.