Runaway Plan B: Halftime report
All right, folks, time to check back in with Runaway Plan B. I’ve been watching the episodes despite not recapping it, and now at the halfway mark, I can say that the show is better now than it was at the outset. I’m still a few points away from loving it, but I’m more invested than I was.
I said in the initial recap (and the podcast) that I liked it with some reservations, because there were a few key points that kept me from jumping fully onboard. Like the super-slickness, the style-without-a-heart vibe, the bravado. And one main weak point still holds it back: While the individual episodes move briskly (how can they not, with all that running?), the overall story progresses at a creepy-crawl. If you cut through the action and the fighting and boil down what actually happened in an episode, you’ll see that plot movement only actually makes up small fraction of the real estate. There’s a lot of time spent on filler stuff, like the other PIs in other countries and whatnot. But maybe that’s intentional.
On the upside, Runaway IS very easy to watch. And it may have taken about six episodes before I cared anything about any character, but here at Episode 10, we’re making some nice movements forward. (Finally!)
Here’s the thing, though: You absolutely can’t take it seriously. You have to approach the drama knowing it’s all fun fluff, whether we’re talking about everyone’s magic designer wardrobe — despite being on the run five times per episode — or escaping from handcuffs with a bendy straw. You’ve gotta roll with the ridiculous punches and laugh at the cheekiness, rather than rolling your eyes in derision, because otherwise you’ll just strain yourself (and said eyes).
SONG OF THE DAY
MBLAQ – “Running and Running” [ Download ]
THE STORY SO FAR: Episodes 3 to 10
(For those who haven’t seen the drama, I’ll refer you to the recap for Episodes 1-2.)
Ji-woo escapes from the Japanese police station, and what commences is one of many, MANY fight/flight sequences, wherein Ji-woo runs, Do-soo chases, and creative tools and bits of scenery are implemented to differentiate the scenes from one another. Ji-woo escapes by sliding into a taxi, then exiting immediately and hitching a ride on a truck.
(Girlfriday made the suggestion to turn this into a drinking game, but I countered that drinking at every instance of battle would destroy livers the world over.
Last we’d seen, Jin-yi ditched Ji-woo on the boat and reunited with boyfriend Kai (Daniel Henney). Ji-woo tracks them down, reporting that it’s time to go after Melgidec (or Melchidec). He’s glib and jokey as ever, while Jin-yi deals with him with barely controlled impatience.
Ji-woo and Jin-yi accompany her to meet her co-conspirator Hiroki (getting there after one pesky car chase — drink! — that slows them down); he isn’t Melgidec, either, but another satellite in the network.
This turns out to be a trap ending in another fight scene (glug), first with Hiroki, then with the cops who arrive and crash the standoff (chug).
They make a successful escape, though Jin-yi hates Ji-woo even more after it because he oh-so-unchivalrously ditched her and let her fend for herself. The next leg of their wild goose chase through Asia is therefore strained (on her end) as he leads them to China, where Mi-jin has ties.
Kai does NOT approve of his girl going off with the untrustworthy perv, which leads to some male posturing (one might call it dick-waving) between the two men, which is actually pretty funny and includes a MacGuyver joke. (Show wins points for that.) His jealousy gets the better of him, and Kai follows the couple to Beijing.
In China, we run into a massive plot detour that is only marginally relevant (though it does produce a number of fight sequences, natch), so I’ll cut to the crux of the matter: Ji-woo and Jin-yi get entangled with gangsters, which yields another separation as Ji-woo ditches Jin-yi to fight them off.
The melee does bring us back to our main plotline by attracting two other groups of pursuers: the cops and Mi-jin’s assassins, who jump into the dog-cat-and-mouse chase.
This ends with Jin-yi being taken hostage by the assassins, but a reversal with the help of Ji-woo turns things around so that the baddies are the ones facing the business end of a gun for once. We learn a few things here: that Jin-yi possesses something that Melgidec wants, in exchange for which Melgidec is willing to bargain her future safety. Jin-yi has no idea what this could be at first, until her memory is triggered and she recalls the old bank note her father had been clutching when he died. (She keeps this information to herself.)
So who’s Melgidec? Chairman Yang, above, is kept mysterious at first, but since this is a summary I’ll cut to the chase: He’s Kai’s mentor and major investor, also the mastermind behind Melgidec, who’s described as a concept more than a person. Call Yang the head of the beast.
Kai’s trusted assistant Sophie knows that Yang is involved in this Melgidec business, but Kai remains in the dark. However, her feelings for the boss start running interference with her orders from Yang, and she ends up telling Kai about the chairman’s attempts to kill Jin-yi, urging him to hand Jin-yi over to save himself.
Kai initially balks, but becomes conflicted as Chairman Yang insists that he must choose between love or businesss, and that he’s smarter picking business. Yang admits to sending killers after Jin-yi and states his intention to bring Kai over to his side, ordering him to retrieve the bank note from Jin-yi and meet him in Macau. And you know what that means… more location shoots!
Although Ji-woo swoops in to save Jin-yi from the baddies, upon realizing that she was the bait, Jin-yi is furious and fires him from the case. But that gets forgotten in the craziness when another interruption cuts in — Do-soo finds them — and here we go again. Take a drink.
I’ll discuss this car chase more below, so suffice to say that Ji-woo and Jin-yi get away safely again. Of course.
On Team Evil, Mi-jin hires Jang to get Ji-woo for her. No loyalty there, since Jang is happy to turn on his old buddy.
Now, the following will be important: Mi-jin wants Jang to lay a trap using Kevin’s will/suicide note to draw Ji-woo out. However, because Jang’s credit with Ji-woo isn’t so hot right now, he recruits Nakamura, who’s also happy to turn on Ji-woo.
Nakamura will take Kevin’s will to the police, and since a suicide note would clear Ji-woo of the murder charge, it’s bound to bring him to the police to check on it. And then Melgidec will have him just where they want him.
Kai has been ignoring Jin-yi’s calls because of Yang’s orders, but now he makes up his mind about his course of action. He reunites with her in Shanghai and is back to his attentive, gentle self. He also tells her about information he has dug up on her case (not telling her that the info came directly from Melgidec): That a large amount of gold and silver went missing in the Korean War, and that her father’s old bank note is connected. Therefore, anybody looking for the note is her enemy.
As luck would have it, this is the point where Ji-woo — having used his own super smarts to deduce the same info — shares his findings with Jin-yi. Only, now she believes (as Kai intended) that Ji-woo is the bad guy, and with a slap and a glare, leaves him behind.
This is also the point at which Kai, or the Dreamy Dullard, as I’ve been thinking of him, starts to get a little interesting.
Kai knows that Yang’s big ambition is to make his son president, and Ji-woo could prove to be a nasty thorn in his side: If news of Melgidec’s misdeeds goes public, his carefully laid plans are toast. Kai has decided that he wants both love AND business success, and has found the perfect way to claim both.
How? Make Ji-woo into Melgidec. In framing the pesky detective as the mastermind behind the murders of Jin-yi’s family and Kevin, they kill a whole flock of birds with one convenient Ji-woo-sized stone.
When Ji-woo gets in touch with General Wee, his Macau contact, he is taken by surprise to be ambushed, since Wee is in on the plot. The fight (Salut!) has Ji-woo momentarily subdued, but he thinks fast and breaks free, and heads to find Jin-yi, leaving her an urgent voicemail: “Your boyfriend is one of them!”
She doesn’t get the call, as she is busy being romanced by said boyfriend. And the expression on Ji-woo’s face when he sees the cozy couple lets us know that the rules are changing in this client-detective relationship…
The sight puts Ji-woo into a foul mood, so when Do-soo gleefully tracks him down at the hotel, he is in no mood for playing around. The fight (you know the drill) takes them poolside, where Ji-woo manages to talk Do-soo into solving this mano a mano. That is to say: no weapons, two men and four fists.
Do-soo’s game for the challenge, and makes a show of tossing his gun aside… only to find himself facing Ji-woo’s. LOL. (Do-soo’s principles once again get trampled by Ji-woo’s willingness to fight dirty, and really, you have to respect Ji-woo’s resourcefulness.)
But Do-soo gets the last laugh, because during their underwater fight (glug glug, in more ways than one), he fakes unconsciousness and takes advantage of the moment to slap Ji-woo with cuffs. Ha!
Good guys and bad guys alike rejoice to hear that Ji-woo is now behind bars in Seoul. Kai presents a set of falsified records to Chairman Yang to cover their asses, which is a paper trail of overseas accounts in Ji-woo’s name. Every time a member of Jin-yi’s family was killed, a sum of money was supposedly deposited. They have bought off Ji-woo’s lawyer and Melgidec has an inside man on the police force, so this should be an easy frame job.
Sitting in jail, Ji-woo is pretty much between a rock and a hard place. He starts working out the facts in his head, and uses a swiped pen to write out a map of the players involved onto the jail wall. And as far as he can tell, everything leads back to that old bank note.
Despite Kai’s prodding, Jin-yi can’t remember what she did with the note. Kai proceeds with his frame job and shows her the falsified bank records correlating Ji-woo’s account with her family’s murders, saying that Ji-woo is Melgidec. Even with this “proof,” Jin-yi can’t quite believe this of Ji-woo, and mulls this over and over. She listens to his voicemail warning her against Kai, playing it on repeat, and thinks back to all the times Ji-woo has saved her, trying to figure out what the truth is.
Although she goes along with it, there are clues that she doesn’t entirely trust Kai, either. She knows he’s lying to her about something — but what?
And so she sneaks into the jail that night to confront Ji-woo. It’s ostensibly to confirm that he’s guilty, but he zeroes in on her uncertainty — he knows she wants to believe that he’s the bad guy, but she can’t actually buy that. He has also figured out the connection between her family and Melgidec: Her grandfather participated in the gold heist way back in the day, and Melgidec, who was also involved, has been offing everybody related to it.
Jin-yi practically trembles with fury as she tells him off, and it isn’t until he’s interrogated that he understands why: Do-soo informs him of the evidence they have found of his overseas accounts, and how the deposits are linked to Jin-yi’s dead family.
Ji-woo swears his innocence and states that this dubious “proof” is the proof — finding out who provided the documents to the police will lead to the real criminal. But really, nobody cares to follow this line of thinking, since the cops are pleased as punch to have him at last.
Well, if you want something done right, you just have to do that yourself. The little matter of being imprisoned isn’t going to hold Ji-woo back, and he plans his slippery exit, surreptitiously stealing the stirring straw from Do-soo’s coffee cup to palm for later use. (Yeah. I know. It’s a coffee straw. We’re just rolling with it.)
He uses that to pick the lock on his handcuffs while he’s being transported by a team of four cops, all of whom are too stunned and slow to react when he starts fighting them in the moving vehicle. (Also, Korea: Maybe it’s time to start cuffing hands behind prisoners’ backs?) He runs, and we drink.
Meanwhile, we see fissures in Jin-yi’s relationship with Kai. He wants to know what’s she’s up to at all times, and while Jin-yi used to hear that as Kai protecting her, now she tells him it feels like he’s keeping tabs on her. Things are a little strained as they visit the monk at his temple, and Kai wants her to keep the bank note a secret. Jin-yi ignores that and asks him if the monk, who was close to her family, ever heard mention of it.
This is where Ji-woo finds them — just in time to hear Kai proposing marriage. Despite these little signs that she’s not fully onboard, she smiles in reaction, though Ji-woo interrrupts and doesn’t give her a chance to answer.
Ji-woo announces that the police let go of him because the “evidence” was flimsy. This is an outright lie, but he suspects Kai of being involved, and this is his way of asserting himself over his opponent. Jin-yi doesn’t believe him and calls him a lying bastard, but then something tilts the balance — Kai, in his smugness to shoot Ji-woo down, declares that the proof is solid, since he got it from reliable sources and handed it to the police himself. Jin-yi looks at him sharply — he’d told her that he got the records from the police. Reliably, pride has made his appearance shortly before his friend, the fall.
Furious to lose Ji-woo yet AGAIN, the cops regroup at headquarters. Do-soo finds the notes Ji-woo had scrawled on his cell wall, and despite scoffing at the cojones of a prisoner dictating to the police how to conduct the investigation, the information IS useful, and he gets down to work researching all the names.
Furthermore, the police are given Kevin’s will/last testament, provided by Nakamura. Trap set!
Tensions bubbling over, the boys fight, we drink, and the monk steps in to stop them. But not before Ji-woo knocks Kai out cold, which infuriates Jin-yi — until Ji-woo points out that Kai has given them a very important clue: Just WHO did he call? If the cops show up, he will willingly surrender. However, he warns, if anybody else comes, that means Kai is in league with the baddies.
Jin-yi insists that Kai is the only person in the world she trusts, but clearly she’s shaken. As they wait for Kai’s contacts to arrive, she declares that this is all to confirm Ji-woo’s guilt, not Kai’s innocence. Well, we know what they say about protesting too much.
At first it looks like Ji-woo’s wrong when cops DO arrive… but a moment later, another car pulls up, and out pop the bumbling assassins. Jin-yi recognizes the girl who tried to kill her (twice), and that’s enough proof that Ji-woo’s not lying. When Kai gains consciousness and calls her, she evades his questions, merely saying that she’s safe.
Jin-yi wonders bitterly if she might lose the one person she trusts; should she choose to believe the miserable truth, or a happy lie? Ji-woo answers that truth may indeed make her miserable, but that a lie would never be happy.
Ji-woo receives one last bit of info explaining Melgidec’s activities: everyone involved in moving the gold that went missing has since died, minus one man. Chairman Yang.
Kai calls a meeting with Yang the next morning to deliver news. Now that his relationship with Jin-yi is entering troubled waters, he has decided to get out of this Melgidec business entirely, and will no longer search for the bank note. He’s not even afraid of Yang’s reaction, and tells him to bring it on. If Kai can’t have work and love, he’ll choose love, and doesn’t want to lie to Jin-yi anymore.
Unfortunately, he’s lied enough already. Jin-yi and Ji-woo have followed Kai to this rendezvous point, and although they can’t hear the conversation, it looks damning and is proof that Kai is (or was) in league with Jin-yi’s attackers.
Jin-yi ignores Ji-woo’s instructions to keep a cool, level head, and approaches Kai, who spies her with guilty dread. She begs him to say it’s not true, but he can’t and hangs his head.
Melgidec’s thugs are called in to take care of the two upstarts, and one knocks Kai to the ground with a swift blow to the head. Ji-woo sees danger and starts racing toward them to jump in, but he can’t stop Jin-yi from being bludgeoned, and it’s only a matter of time before he joins them on the ground, bleeding and unconscious.
Finally, the confrontation: Chairman Yang is wheeled in like the frigging Godfather and smirks at his captives, which include the hapless Jang. They’re useless to him now, and he orders them killed.
Ji-woo bursts out that they can’t kill Jin-yi — not if they want to find the gold. After all that effort to get the bank note, how can they just kill her before finding it?
Ah, but there’s a twist. Yang admits that Ji-woo is right about the facts, but the motivations are off-center. He’s not doing this to get the gold, but to cover up his tracks. He can’t have loose ends dangling about his misdeeds if he wants his son to become president.
And now, time to die.
Ji-woo swears to protect Jin-yi, but they have nothing left to negotiate with. Mi-jin steps in to take care of the offing, and orders her man to go ahead and deliver the painful lethal injection.
In a last-ditch attempt to save them, Ji-woo bursts out that killing them won’t accomplish anything, because they’re hardly the only people who know the truth. Mi-jin, unmoved, proceeds to inject Jang, who frantically begs Ji-woo to do something, say something, save him. He gurgles miserably with his dying breath that Ji-woo has killed him.
Unable to do a thing, Ji-woo watches in horror and Mi-jin smugly confirms that they were bluffing. This proves that nobody else knows the truth, and that her tracks are safely covered with their deaths. Next up: Jin-yi.
I’ll talk more about the finer points of this scene below, so I’ll just say that she’s just barely spared the needle by the doorbell. Mi-jin tries to hide her nerves at the appearance of the police, who have narrowed down Nakamura’s source to Mi-jin.
Do-soo sniffs something sketchy about Mi-jin and her skittishness, forcing his way in as he explains their case. She denies everything, which he picks up on as a guilty tic because she denies things that she ought to know.
This gives Jin-yi and Ji-woo, who have been stuffed into a closet, the chance to untie each other. Fighting off the henchman, they escape to safety, leaving Chairman Yang stewing at this news.
Safe for now, Jin-yi sighs that finding Melgidec has proven even scarier than expected, to see the power that corrupted Kai.
Ji-woo sits in a heavy mood, because while he was falsely accused before, now he feels the burden of actually having a man’s blood on his hands. He says that Jang died because of his bluff, his attempt to save his own skin. For the first time ever, Jin-yi reaches out to Ji-woo — literally and figuratively — and takes his hand in comfort, saying that he did what he did to save her.
They pay their respects at the temple, asking the monk to observe Jang’s death rites, and then Ji-woo steps aside to make a phone call.
He has come to a decision, and calls Mi-jin with new, fierce resolve. He declares that he’s no longer afraid of them; he’s going to win this fight: “I’m going to kill you all.”
A FEW HIGHLIGHTS
When I started recapping these episodes, the first version was turning into a monster post. Some of Runaway’s best examples of fun, cheeky humor are the scenes that fit least into the overall storyline, so I pulled them out to highlight a few favorite bits here.
For instance, the above-pictured scene must be mentioned for the sheer whatthefuckery quotient: Ji-woo has a Japanese pop-star girlfriend, Kieko, but when he arrives to see her concert, he finds that her father is Hiroki. Aka Melgidec’s man. Eep! And the ensuing fight sequence really requires a double-shot of something, ’cause it is ABSURD. Corny beyond belief, in an entertaining way.
Ji-woo’s fight ends up onstage, all while Kieko sings a love song dedicated to him, which the audience assumes is a planned spectacle. (Nope, purely coincidence.) At the very end of the song, Ji-woo — having vanquished his enemies — strolls up to Kieko and surprises her with a tender hug. The crowd goes wild.
Then, take Episode 5’s fight(s) in the streets of Beijing, where Jin-yi is attacked by a fierce, flexible assassin. Really, the girlfight is pretty lame, and gives us that above bit of ridiculousness. Which is then compounded by Ji-woo’s chase with Do-soo, wherein both men speed through crowded streets on pedi-bikes. I don’t know whether to laugh or cringe, and so I do both.
However, this whole extended sequence does serve one legitimate purpose, which is to illustrate the progress in both couples’ relationships. In fact, if I were to pinpoint the first time I felt anything at all for Ji-woo, it would be this next Episode 6 sequence. (Hey, better late than never?)
Jin-yi is peeved at Ji-woo for using her as bait (twice!), and he drops his glib facade for a brief moment to explain sincerely that he did that only because he knew he could save her. As they speed away in their getaway car, the chase with the cops builds to a climax when they zoom through a warehouse and approach what looks like a solid wall. Unable/unwilling to stop and be cornered, Ji-woo floors the accelerator, and in the heat of the moment he grabs Jin-yi to protect her and yells, “Just trust me!” (Lo and behold, the wall is just a makeshift one, and they burst through safely.)
There’s something about Ji-woo’s exclamation, said with urgency and almost involuntarily, that feels very real, which is that thing that had been so lacking up to this point. Everything has been so slick and flippant that the rare earnest entreaty is a welcome breath of fresh air.
On the other team, we have So-ran, and what I love about her is that while she isn’t purposely compromising her job to be close to Do-soo, she isn’t above taking a moment to enjoy where her work gets her sometimes. For instance, take the scene when Do-soo, too impatient to sit shotgun, insists on taking the wheel himself. As he climbs over, So-ran can’t suppress the gleeful smile at having him (however inadvertently) embracing her tightly. LOL. I can respect a resourceful girl.
The chase ends with So-ran getting knocked out (wear your seatbelts!), and Do-soo tends to her in alarm. She wakes up as he’s performing mouth-to-mouth, but she’s enjoying it so much that she doesn’t stop him. (Who would?)
Although he initially treats So-ran like just one of the guys, we start to see that it’s not that Do-soo doesn’t like her; he just can’t allow himself to consider romance right now. He tells her that he can’t date while he’s after Ji-woo, because love has a way of complicating matters. She wisely replies that it’s harder to live without love.
There’s also a running thread of shoes that is adorable, starting with Do-soo’s declaration that the first thing he’s going to buy when he catches Ji-woo is dress shoes, because he can’t wait to hang up his sneakers. After he finally apprehends Ji-woo, he has a spare moment to look at shoes — but he stops by the women’s section, thinking of So-ran and the ankle she twisted in one of their chases. Hilariously, Ji-woo (who’s cuffed to Do-soo) helpfully offers his fashion expertise to veto Do-soo’s sensible, grandmotherly pick for a cute, heeled pair.
Even more hilarious is the fact that Do-soo ends up going with Ji-woo’s pick, and So-ran is so touched that she hugs him near tears.
To reciprocate, she buys Do-soo a nice pair of dress shoes and hands him 1,000 won (about a dollar), to circumvent the old Korean adage that buying a lover shoes will prompt him/her to run away — so if she “pays” for the pair he bought her, she can outwit Fate. But when she asks for 1,000 won from Do-soo for his shoes, he refuses, finding it silly (although there’s also an element of enjoying her pouty reaction).
To So-ran, this is a big deal, and she tries to rescind her gift, but he won’t give it back. After letting her stew a bit, he eventually tells her gently, in assurance, “I won’t run away.”
THE TURNING POINT
I realized that I’d forgotten to continue the drinking game above when I hit Episode 8 or 9, which I didn’t bother to rectify because that’s as telling as anything — that’s when the drama finally started getting good for me. At last, I was into the story enough to forget about the silly bits, swept up into this new urgency.
It was an illuminating exercise to summarize those episodes in the middle, because it highlighted the flimsiness of the plot. It’s not that the story’s uninteresting — on the contrary, it’s a good setup and a good mystery — but that they just took so damned long to get to the point.
This is also when we get more depth in the side characters, which I didn’t think would happen. Well, Nakamura and the other PIs are still wearing out their welcome, but the cop office may become interesting ground for change. (I hope.)
Take Detective Baek (Danny Ahn), the smug twerp who has no idea what he’s doing and pulls rank on Do-soo at every turn, thanks to his uncle (the police department director) promoting him. When he loses Ji-woo, he gets into a heated argument with Do-soo, who tells him to act like a boss. Baek fires back that he doesn’t know how to be a boss! He admits he’s in over his head and clueless. So when the director comes by to chew him out, he’s expecting a reaming…only to have Do-soo speak up to his team, issuing orders efficiently. But he doesn’t take credit, and instead makes Baek look good for a moment, saying essentially, “Didn’t you hear the boss? You, take care of this, this, and that. I’m on it, boss.” Baek looks stunned but grateful.
I suspect it’s no coincidence that he hears his uncle talking to Mi-jin/Melgidec on the phone. Uncle thinks Baek is his loyal toady, but will he be an important asset to Do-soo’s team after all?
Then there’s Rain’s shining moment in Episode 10, when he and Jin-yi are tied up and trying to figure out how not to die. Having offed Jang, the henchman turns to inject Jin-yi next. Fighting his ropes and going half out of his mind with panic, Ji-woo begs them to start with him instead.
Recall his assurance in the past that he’d be able to protect Jin-yi — hence all the seemingly dickish moves he pulled by ditching her, letting her fight for herself, because he was never in fear that she was in true danger. It’s the same reason I responded to his “Trust me” outburst during the Episode 6 car chase.
But this time, he can’t burst in like a superhero and save the day with a smug smile and a jaunty wave. She only has seconds to live, and Ji-woo is desperate to keep true to his promise to save her. And if he can’t save her, then he has to do everything in his power to keep her alive as long as possible, so that as long as he’s alive, she’s alive — even if that means he dies first.
There are all these reasons tumbling around, layered, collliding each other in his panic — that he can’t bear to fail her, that as long as he lives he will be doing his best to protect her, that he needs to buy her time, that he’s clutching at straws. It’s this unchecked, crazed desperation to save Jin-yi that makes this scene so fucking awesome. (And would you look at that? I never woulda thought Runaway would prompt a “fucking” out of me — at least, not in praise.)
Then, after getting free, Ji-woo urges them to get out of there fast before reinforcements come. Jin-yi, however, has been after Melgidec for so long that she can’t bring herself to leave, not when they’re right where they worked so hard to get. The danger is incidental, she feels.
So Ji-woo urges her to agree this once, because he’s going to be framed for Jang’s murder and they need to get out of here. He pleads, “For my sake, let’s go. Just this once, please. This is your turn to protect me.”
And they go.
And THAT, my friends, is how you turn a middling bit of fluff into an addictive ride! Can’t wait to see how this shakes out.