Bad Guy: Episode 9
Bad Guy sure got good last week, didn’t it? Perhaps it’s no coincidence that this is when Tae-sung steps it up, plot-wise. His presence has been building gradually, and now he’s starting to take center stage. This drama is at its most compelling — hitting the right mix of humor, pathos, and intrigue — when it’s The Tae-sung Show. But rather than wishing the drama would actually make it the Tae-sung Show, I’d rather it upped the Gun-wook factor to match that level of writing. Say, I’d be happy with a Gun-wook And Tae-sung Show.
SONG OF THE DAY
Kim Yeo-hee – “하지마” (Don’t). Kim Yeo-hee is the much-talked-about “Apple Girl,” who scored a recording deal after uploading Youtube videos wherein she sang along to backing music she played on iPhone apps. [ Download ]
EPISODE 9 RECAP
The rain-soaked scene with Gun-wook puts Tae-ra in a strange mood as she returns home. Her pent-up sexual tension has been released through the confrontation — not all of it, just some — enough that she’s sorta loose-limbed and listless. She excuses herself to take a shower — with her clothes on, so either she’s just that out of it or she needs to cool down her raging libido.
She attempts to, um, scratch that itch by making an advance with her husband, who is working late. Placing a hand on his shoulder, she urges him to join her in bed, but he removes her hand and sends her off without him. I wonder if he’s truly that busy with his trial, or if he just doesn’t have sexual interest in his wife, as the marriage is a political one. (Side note: I’m actually shocked, but impressed, that a drama is portraying a woman with active sexual desires, who initiates sex, without being The Hussy character.)
Gun-wook calls his old stunt team for a favor, and the four men convene at the construction site that night. Gun-wook keeps an eye out for the thieves who have been stealing material from the construction site, and when a truck drives out the dark lot, Gun-wook’s team springs into action.
They back their car up to block the truck’s exit, and his team checks out the truckbed while he threatens to call the cops and the Haeshin bosses. Only… the truck is empty. No stolen materials.
He was sure these guys were the culprits and is duly surprised. Gun-wook is stymied for all of a few seconds, before another truck emerges from the site. (I wish they’d played his mistake for a longer beat, because as usual, he regains the upper hand without doing much.)
Gun-wook jumps onto his motorcycle, skidding to a stop in front of the truck to prevent its exit. Dude, you’re going on a lot of faith that they’d stop rather than hit you. Especially when the little man on the little bike is about to nail them for a felony.
Gun-wook calls Tae-sung to report that the has caught the thief, and cops round up the criminals. Tae-sung expresses mild interest, but not enough to witness the arrest himself.
Tae-sung does, however, do him a solid by giving Gun-wook credit for the bust. President Hong already likes Gun-wook, and at this news he calls him in for a meeting and offers him a job working with the company.
The gallery opens with a themed party, and now we see why Ryu-sensei’s glass mask was such a coveted item. The opening exhibit is all about masks, and accordingly, a good number guests wear them to the party.
Gun-wook greets Jae-in and uses her as a way to push Tae-sung’s buttons, almost taunting him with their closeness. This has two effects: (1) It makes Tae-sung jealous, and Gun-wook enjoys discomfiting him, and (2) on a subtler level, it primes Tae-sung to want Jae-in’s attentions. (Gah, I just want these two boys to be best friends. SO MUCH.)
Spotting Tae-ra in the crowd, Gun-wook uses sign language to send her a message. She doesn’t know what it means, but she tenses and turns away from him (and temptation).
Bored out of his mind, Tae-sung proposes “a fun game” to inject excitement into the evening — they’ll play prince and the pauper, switching suits and identities for the night, aided by masks. This drama plays with the question of “What would you do if you were Tae-sung?” quite a bit, which highlights the dramatic irony: Gun-wook knows he could have been, but everyone else means it rhetorically. As does Tae-sung, who tells Gun-wook that this game will let him be him for the night, as though that’s something he should feel honored about. It’s a little condescending in that entitled Hong way.
He goes along with it and dons Tae-sung’s white suit. In the gallery, he deliberately pours champagne on the ground and drops the glass, shattering it loudly. He staggers like he’s drunk, to the mortification of the Hong ladies.
Tae-ra excuses herself when her stocking runs, and seeks out a storage room in which to change. A be-masked Gun-wook relaxes there, but she assumes it’s Tae-sung and addresses him as such. She doesn’t realize the truth until Gun-wook starts to sign her the same message he’d signed earlier, then removes his mask. He translates for her: “You are the most beautiful woman here tonight.”
Somewhere in the middle of the exchange, his phone goes off — it’s Mo-nae, calling as she wanders the gallery looking for him. His bold words already have Tae-ra on edge, and the ringing phone adds a jittery energy to the scene.
Mo-nae, attracted by the sound of Gun-wook’s ringing phone, heads toward the room, and rather than being caught in this semi-compromising situation, Gun-wook swiftly maneuvers Tae-ra to an alcove. Thus Mo-nae doesn’t see them when she looks inside.
Gun-wook takes advantage of their closeness to stroke Tae-ra’s hair, purposely poking holes in her composure. He notes, “Your heart is racing.”
Tae-ra shoves away, but he grabs her arm and yanks her back. What ensues is one pretty steamy makeout session, even as Mo-nae and Tae-ra’s husband talk right around the corner.
This is a case where the drama played the slow burn just right — the innuendoes, fantasies, and hand-holding escalated the tension, and now we arrive at the breaking point. This scene wouldn’t have had nearly the same sizzle if they’d jumped at each other right away, nor would Gun-wook have had the satisfaction of playing with Tae-ra’s repressed emotions.
When Tae-ra leaves the room, she comes face to face with her unsuspecting husband and Mo-nae, so rattled that she can barely put together a coherent sentence. Her frayed nerves take another hit when Gun-wook emerges from the room right behind her, and she is barely operating on enough brainpower to maintain her composure, much less come up with a good explanation.
Thankfully, Mo-nae assumes this is Tae-sung, since the mask is back on, sparing Tae-ra the possibility of spontaneously combusting in anxiety.
Back in the main gallery, Jae-in calls over a still-masked Gun-wook, having seen his drunken antics and assuming that Tae-sung is up to more trouble. Gun-wook raises his mask briefly to reveal his face and fills her in on the switcheroo, giving her the tip to have some fun with the scenario. Tae-sung will think that everyone believes him to be Gun-wook, which offers her a prime opportunity to play this to her advantage.
Therefore, Jae-in finds the masked Tae-sung and addresses him as Gun-wook, pulling him outside to chat. He visibly perks up when she starts to talk about Tae-sung in a confiding manner.
He listens with particular attention when she muses that Tae-sung broke the mask to draw his mother’s attention. She wonders, “But if nobody turns back to look at him, how much must that hurt his feelings?”
Though Jae-in is probably drawing upon real sympathy, she’s definitely being manipulative here. This ruse gives Tae-sung the impression of having the upper hand — he’s in on her “secret” — while in actuality reserving it for herself.
Jae-in: “I feel strange. I keep having feelings for him. He’s different from you, Gun-wook — I feel sorry for him. You’ll be fine on your own, but Tae-sung seems like someone you shouldn’t leave alone. That must be why I keep thinking of him. If even one person in that family treated him with warmth, and asked if he was eating well…”
Jae-in’s assessment of Tae-sung’s character is on point, and now she cuts through his outer shell so keenly that it’s too much for him. Abruptly, Tae-sung jerks up and leaves without a word.
Gun-wook watches the exchange from a distance like a puppetmaster, only now his machinations have a slightly sordid twist because when you’re dealing with people’s perceptions of love/romance, it sorta makes you a pimp. Like the Engineer in Miss Saigon, which is an apt description for Gun-wook.
Leaving Jae-in, Tae-sung breathes heavily from the shock of being seen through so easily, but soon he smiles, gratified at Jae-in’s “confession.”
Gun-wook joins Tae-sung on the bench, and the latter asks what he’s been up to. Feeling puffed up about Jae-in, his words are teasing instead of cutting: “Don’t go around bugging her. She says she doesn’t like you.” (When he thought Jae-in might like Gun-wook more than himself, he was snippy with Gun-wook, but now he’s feeling rather secure. It’s cute.)
At the end of the night, Jae-in cleans up the gallery. Gun-wook comes up to her and wordlessly starts to help her clear things. She gratefully accepts the help, but Gun-wook shoots her an intense look, saying sardonically, “You’ve grown up.” The words have a tinge of bitterness to them, like he’s upset with her for making that progress.
Tired, Jae-in rests against Gun-wook’s back and asks him what she could do for Tae-sung that he would like. Gun-wook replies that it doesn’t matter what Tae-sung likes — she should make him like what she likes.
She asks, “If you were Hong Tae-sung, what would you like?” Again the double meaning. When he replies “home cooking,” he’s taking her question at face value — after all, he IS Tae-sung, and that’s what he wants. However, Jae-in bursts out laughing, saying that she meant what he’d want if he were Tae-sung, not what he wants now. Potayto potahto, lady.
The next day, Gun-wook gets another piece of his plan in motion. In a parking garage, he waits until his target heads toward his car, then backs his car into the other man’s vehicle, playing it off as an accident. The man is annoyed, but Gun-wook’s humble apologies mollify him. When they exchange business cards, we see that this is Kang Yoon-chul, the president of an investment firm.
Gun-wook accompanies President Kang to the mechanic’s, and comments that he happens to be looking for a investor. What a happy coincidence! Gun-wook gives the impression that he’s quite wealthy and important, so Kang is flattered to be given the VIP treatment.
At the Haeshin offices, Gun-wook encounters Tae-ra at the elevators, who is puzzled to see him here without Tae-sung. When Gun-wook leans in — which makes her even more high-strung, if that’s possible — she demands to know what he’s intending to do with her. He asks, “What are you worried about?” He leans in even closer, and Tae-ra closes her eyes in anticipation of a kiss.
But instead Gun-wook just speaks into her ear, telling her that today is his first day working here. The kiss fake-out makes Tae-ra feel like Gun-wook is toying with her, and she leaves the elevator in a huff.
Jae-in joins Gun-wook for a coffee break and congratulates him for taking a job with Haeshin Construction’s planning team. Deducing that this indicates acceptance from the Hongs, Jae-in asks hesitantly, “Then… are you going to marry Mo-nae?” His answer (“No”) brings a small smile to her face.
Engineer Gun-wook gives her a gym membership to Tae-sung’s club. He seems to have this perverse satisfaction in setting her up with Tae-sung, and while it’s part of his plan, it also annoys him. It’s as though he wants to push her to see how far she’ll go, and the harder he pushes, the more it annoys him, even though HE’s the one enabling her.
The two cops pay a visit to Madam Shin, who greets them with her trademark iciness. They inquire about Sun-young, and although she hadn’t known the girl died, the news hardly tears her up. She retorts, “Things with Tae-sung always end up like that.”
However, the next bit of news rattles her good: The last person Sun-young was seen with was the young boy they had un-adopted. The cops share their theory that the Other Tae-sung was angry at the Hongs after his noona was cruelly rejected by Tae-sung.
Madam Shin shoots down their theory, as the boy supposedly died. That’s news to the cops — there’s no record of his death — but she states firmly that he died twenty years ago, and tells them coldly not to come round ever again. Geez, she makes it sound like they’d want to be around her. It’s no picnic for them either, yunno.
As soon as the detectives leave, Madam Shin calls her employee — the head housekeeper who once fed the young Gun-wook sweets in secret — and orders her to find the Other Tae-sung no matter what. Leave no stone unturned, money is no object, keep it a secret, et cetera.
There’s an interesting beat when Gun-wook is in Tae-sung’s office and the latter brings out an old toy from childhood. Tae-sung has brainstormed an idea of a robot theme park — which, btw, is proof that he ISN’T just a lazy fuck-up but actually wants to prove himself with work, if only he were given a reason to try.
Gun-wook immediately recognizes the toy from his own brief time being Hong Tae-sung, and it’s both silly and sad that this one little piece of plastic could evoke such primal feelings of jealousy, indignation, and loss. It’s a literal way to foreshadow the transference of this possessive rivalry to Jae-in, who is their new toy.
Trying out Gun-wook’s suggestion, Jae-in comes to the fancy new gym dressed in a hot pink tracksuit, ready to manufacture another run-in with Tae-sung. That’s pretty easy since he brightens to spot her; he casually approaches her machine and takes a seat next to it. Bait taken!
Jae-in is getting better at playing hard to get, so she ignores Tae-sung and walks to a different machine. He gives her the “Oh, so now we’re playing this game?” look and follows to a nearby machine, and this takes them to the treadmills.
But his presence distracts her and she misses a step, falling from the treadmill and twisting her ankle. Adorably, Tae-sung swiftly kneels in front of her and gruffly orders her on his back. As girlfriday noted in the piggyback post, this is an excuse to introduce skinship before they’d get there naturally, and he takes full advantage. Does he really think she’s hurt? Hardly. Is he going to let this chance slip him by? Oh HELL no.
So he exaggerates his concern, yelling at the doctors and insisting that they take her injury seriously, totally playing the part of the overreacting white knight. Hilariously, he’s put in his place by a man in a neck brace with much more severe injuries, who shushes him.
Jae-in is checked in, and I LOVE Tae-sung’s reaction to being called her guarantor. Just look at that expression (above) when he tries (badly) to pretend that being her guarantor is, like, geez, such a hassle. “Guarantor” is a word that implies legal responsibilities, but in Korean it’s also a compound word literally meaning “protector” — and he’s never been called anyone’s guarantor before. Tae-sung may act irresponsible but it’s not because he hates responsibility — it’s that nobody has seen fit to give him any.
He couldn’t be giddier if she’d called him oppa. Well, maybe he’d be a LITTLE happier with oppa, but he’s pretty damn happy with this. He even enjoys performing that very basic guarantor duty of retrieving her prescription.
He drives her home, and Jae-in has to admit the attention is nice. She jokes, “I’ll have to get hurt again.”
But that makes Tae-sung’s smile fade and he replies, like a little boy, “I don’t want to go there again. It’s no fun the second time.” Aww. My heart, it twists for this man-child.
As Jae-in walks away, she stumbles again, and Tae-sung grabs her to prevent her fall. The moment grows still with romantic anticipation, and Tae-sung moves in for a kiss.
(This is another example of an “upgrade” in Jae-in’s act with Tae-sung, compared to her transparent attempts with Gun-wook. I think this stumble is real, but that’s what I mean — she’s working Tae-sung much more effectively.)
When he gets home, he looks like a shy teenager who has just had his first kiss, trying to contain his excited smile but unable to maintain nonchalance. It’s adorable and breaks your heart a little.
He sends Jae-in a text to remind her to take her medicine, and even looks happy to peruse the hospital bill. When she texts back a thank-you message, he can’t contain his smile.
Meanwhile, Gun-wook has spent his day working his scheme. He meets with his investigator, then “bumps into” the same President Kang as though in coincidence. Kang is eager to oblige Gun-wook’s request to pick his brain about stock investments, and they arrange a meeting.
When he gets home, Gun-wook is in a frustrated mood which grows when Jae-in calls and fills him in on the gym situation. (She leaves out the kiss.) At first her mention of a twisted ankle stirs concern, until she adds that Tae-sung looked after her very attentively.
Gun-wook’s response is terse, with an accusatory undertone: “I’m sure he was. He won’t forget the first woman to take care of him. Good thing you got hurt.” The words sting a little and Jae-in calls him out on it, but he blows her off.
Continuing with his scheme, Gun-wook prepares for a weekend event involving his newest target and adds President Kang to his Wall of Crazy. Key in this new plan is the man in the blue blazer (below), who is involved with Kang’s investments. He also turns out to be the Hongs’ eldest son — the successful good son that makes his parents proud.
Eldest Son is present at a weekend family gathering, to which Gun-wook is invited by Mo-nae. Madam Shin pointedly takes issue with Gun-wook’s presence, calling it inappropriate for Tae-sung’s secretary to be here. Mo-nae leaps to defend him, and is thrilled when Dad informs her that Gun-wook was hired at the company.
Mom’s warmth toward her elder son is noticeably different from her attitude toward Tae-sung, and it’s no surprise that Big Bro likewise takes Mom’s side. He admonishes Tae-sung for his recklessness and urges him to start acting like an adult now.
This sours Tae-sung’s mood, and he points out that he’s just as much a part of the family as his siblings: “Why does everyone keep forgetting that? Is it because our bloodlines are complicated?”
Brother rebukes him, and Tae-sung laughs, “I must have hit a sensitive nerve.” The sniping continues until Dad interferes to tell both Tae-sung and Madam Shin to watch it.
Madam Shin ignores him and declares, “This is why you made your girlfriend die.” Ouuuuch.
Unsurprisingly, that sets off the bomb. She accuses Tae-sung of driving his girlfriend to suicide and says shrilly, “How will you bear your punishment for that? Do you have the right to talk like this?!” The last bit she screams at him.
Provoked, Tae-sung retorts, “Yeah, she died because of me. Happy?” The last part he yells right back at her.
Gun-wook may be in the thick of this as revenge-baiter, but he can’t remain unmoved at this cold mention of Sun-young. Tears fill his eyes and threaten to overflow, and he has to look away. Tae-ra clocks Gun-wook’s reaction, but nobody else sees how this affects him.
(It’s also, I believe, the first time that Gun-wook has ever seen Tae-sung react emotionally to Sun-young’s death. Will this be a turning point? Please oh please don’t just gloss over this plot point!)
Angrily, Tae-sung turns to the rest of his family and says that they treated her just as poorly and therefore have no right to censure him. He orders them never to say her name again.
This housekeeper is an intriguing figure with an unknown agenda. Just as the president’s secretary (the man) seemed to have a grudge against Young Gun-wook, this housekeeper also harbors her personal alliances — she seems sympathetic to Gun-wook, but has to serve her mistress.
President Hong receives a package in the mail, and opens it to find a dossier. He has never heard of the company in question or its stock matters, but the name triggers recognition in Big Bro, who tries to distract his father’s attention. He must be involved in some (shady?) business dealings that he wants to keep a secret, and Gun-wook uses this to bait him.
In a brief interlude, Gun-wook hangs out with Mo-nae and her niece, then joins Tae-ra on the deck while Mo-nae heads inside briefly. You can practically hear Tae-ra tense in anticipation.
Gun-wook uses his line on Tae-ra about her pretty daughter resembling her mother. It’s the same thing he told Madam Shin, and both times he says it with that infuriating faux-sincerity — they can sense he’s not being earnest, but they can hardly take issue with the words.
Tae-ra tells him that “that day” (their kiss) was a mistake, to which Gun-wook does a masterful job acting hurt, as though he has deeper feelings for Tae-ra and doesn’t want her to cut him off. He grabs her hand — another startling moment of intimacy, at least for Tae-ra — and asks for an explanation. With an almost pained expression, she tells him, “You’re really cruel.”
At that, Gun-wook lets go of her hand and excuses himself, leaving with a lingering backward glance. Bravo, that was a pretty good performance — he managed to make himself seem vulnerable and to give her the illusion that she wields power over him, while actually possessing it himself. In this way he and Jae-in are in similar places this episode, even if their motivations are different.
It must be noted that the housekeeper also catches this exchange — not all of it, but enough to take notice of the charged air and remind us that she knows more than she’s telling.
Mo-nae emerges with her harmonica, wanting to play Gun-wook a tune. The harmonica was the first gift Gun-wook ever gave her, and she tells her sister proudly that this is the longest she has ever played an instrument. Looks like Gun-wook was spot-on when he called her a dilettante, because she has always been able to flit from one interest to another whenever the whim caught her.
The meaning of this isn’t lost on Tae-ra, who asks her sister whether she really likes him that much. Mo-nae nods, “Yes.”
Won-in lingers around the convenience store, watching a group of schoolboys hanging out in front. Gun-wook surprises her from behind, then teases her for scoping out guys and offers to help her in the romance department.
A phone call interrupts, and Won-in marvels to see that Gun-wook actually answers it today. His expression grows serious as he processes the message, then hangs up and dials a new number — Jae-in’s. He offers her the tip that Tae-sung has passed out drinking, which is another opportunity to score points with him. While this is true, the way he says it — a little censoriously — rankles her.
Won-in accepts Gun-wook’s offer of dating help, but now Gun-wook advises, “Make someone love you. Don’t love them.”
Despite not appreciating Gun-wook’s tone, Jae-in primps for Tae-sung and arrives at the apartment where he has passed out — his (and Sun-young’s) old building. The security guard helps her load a nearly unconscious Tae-sung into the car, and she’s about to depart when someone knocks on her window: the two cops.
Tae-sung had agreed to meet them here to talk about the case, but it looks like they’ll have to postpone the meeting until he’s conscious.
Mention of the accident that occurred here triggers Jae-in’s memory, and she tells them that she was in this neighborhood on that night and. At around 2 am, she saw a tall man dressed in black who caught her attention as odd. The cops are interested, because this corresponds to the guy seen arguing with Sun-young.
Although Jae-in never saw his face, she offers the clue that he had a scar on his back, and finally they have a break in the case.
I still don’t see Gun-wook and Jae-in as romantic interests, but the emergence of Gun-wook’s annoyance (I won’t call it jealousy yet) adds a layer that I like. Just as Jae-in’s interactions with Tae-sung are growing complicated, blurring her “acting” and reality, so are hers with Gun-wook. Murky, confused, frustrated emotions are always interesting from a story standpoint.
Starting last episode, Gun-wook started to drop little hints about his past identity, as though he’s daring the Hongs to recognize him as the boy they discarded. There was the scene where he mentions the dog in the rain to Madam Shin, and here he signs to Tae-ra and makes reference to his deaf father. It makes sense that he’d want his victims to know why they’re being targeted, but I can’t help but see connections to Tae-sung’s behavior — a boy making a mess so his mother will notice him. I’m not saying Gun-wook wants the Hongs to love him, but there’s almost an air of petulance in him. Like it’s a bid for attention so he can say, “You’ll be sorry!”
All series long, I’ve felt a little frustrated by Gun-wook’s maddening silences (accompanied by his knowing smirks) — we feel left out and frustrated. That’s how the characters should feel — Madam Shin, Tae-ra, Tae-sung — but we, the audience, ought to feel a little bit closer to Gun-wook. However, a silver lining is that his silences force the other person to reveal themselves. For example, he might respond to Tae-ra’s probing question with a raised eyebrow, and Tae-ra will fill the awkward silence by talking — and what she says is more revealing about herself than it is about him.
One thing that caught my attention about Mo-nae’s attachment to Gun-wook is how she explains that it doesn’t even matter that Gun-wook doesn’t love her. She knows this isn’t the behavior of a doting boyfriend, but it isn’t a dealbreaker for her because “My love is enough.” I haven’t seen much similarity between the sisters, but this suggests that she’s poised to head down the same path as Tae-ra did — a loveless marriage that satisfies neither party. It also shows that for all her first-love giddiness, it’s still a stunted love, because Gun-wook is an object to her. If she can possess him, that’s enough. It’s a nicely subtle way of reinforcing how the Hongs treat the people around themselves as pawns or toys.
I think we’ve all noticed that Jae-in has more chemistry with Tae-sung than Gun-wook, but even more than that — despite feeling almost blasphemous saying it — Kim Jae-wook is stealing the limelight from Kim Nam-gil. It’s sort of hard for Kim Nam-gil to be as captivating when he’s stepping back to let the other characters play out their psychodramas while he watches. It’s like the Wizard of Oz where you have the man behind the curtain — he’s a key figure manipulating perception, but aren’t we more interested in Dorothy & Co.?
THEORIES & SPECULATION
So what is Madam Shin’s deal?
She thought Other Tae-sung was dead and makes her housekeeper check the story, but Tae-ra wondered in an earlier episode what happened to the child. Which means that Madam Shin knows something the family does not. Which begs the question: What? Also, why?
There could be many explanations, but at the crux is her housekeeper. Madam Shin trusts her, but she has shown sympathy toward the boy. Did she (or other servants) cover up for the boy’s whereabouts, telling Madam Shin he died to keep her from going after him? Did Madam Shin actually order him killed? That seems ridiculously far-fetched, and yet… not unbelievable. I would argue that she wouldn’t even bother herself with such a nonentity — Gun-wook isn’t her husband’s love child and he’s not detracting from her life or happiness — except that she seemed to harbor particular coldness for him. Did she have something to do with the DNA results coming back after he’d already been adopted? (You’d think they would have checked before the adoption.)
Madam Shin is a hateful icy bitch of the first order, but I love the actress. Especially after seeing her as a flighty but well-meaning mother in Flowers For My Life, and a high-strung, silly mother in Sons of Sol Pharmacy. Lady’s got range.
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