We take off with just another show, this time the action-packed romantic drama that I’ve been waiting for some time now. After Giant wrapped up, and a solid second half in k-drama land is about to close, Athena promised me a fun, escapist way to end the year.
SONG OF THE DAY
TVXQ – Athena (from the Athena OST) [Download]
Episode 2 Recap
Jung Woo can barely believe that Hye In is right in front of him, with her cold, professional attitude explaining that she’s there just to work. He’s like a fangirl, stuttering and smiling shyly, but after telling him to meet at the planned location, she walks off, no dinner eaten.
…And what a location they chose! It’s a gorgeous Italian palace, complete with ginormous gardens, water fountains and luxurious decoration. Hye In arrives to what seems to be a party, wearing her kickass boots – a beautiful girl must always be ready for a good fight!
Just as she enters in a legal way, there’s someone entering via hooks and ropes from the outside, and getting rid of security pretty easily using a gun with a silencer. Meanwhile, Hye In plays the part of the guest, but she seems like she was waiting… someone, the same one that’s killing security guards as if they were insignificant roaches. Once he’s passed the last one, he takes off his mask and it’s revealed he’s Jung Woo – he promptly suits up and goes directly to the main hall.
The spy-couple communicates with undetectable devices, pretending that they didn’t know each other. Jung Woo uses his spy-glasses to identify the target, and informs her to approach a person wearing a white jacket. She does so, and starts flirting with him. Meanwhile, the security guards’ massacre is found out; so much for the surprise factor.
Abusing the sexy ways of the tango music playing, she takes the white jacket guy to dance. Her goal is clear – she has to get a clear print of his hand, using what appears to be some sort of magic fabric (of which her dress is made). After an incomplete print, he tells her just one word “Skinship”. Heh. She grabs his hand tightly, and puts it firmly on her back. Mission accomplished.
With the security team is on red alert, Hye In hurriedly leaves the hall and orders Jung Woo to hurry up if he doesn’t want to get caught. He goes to a mysterious room, with an angel statue in. He touches it gently without even blinking, until he finds a secret in the left hand: it’s the key to start the system. After inputting the password, he uses the print Hye In got to open the safe. All the while, Hye In has been urging him to withdraw, to no avail.
On her way out, Hye In finds some unexpected obstacles. Some guy from the Italian team tries to stop her, and without ever losing her cool, she smiles gently and steps on his foot. She even takes the time to let her hair down before knocking him out.
Jung Woo’s not so lucky, he has lots of guys chasing him, but he disposes of them shooting with amazing accuracy (well, he’s a trained agent, after all, but he looked so dorky before).
When cornered, Hye In takes the ultimate decision to go all sexy badass gunfighter – her long dress was just an extension to hide her weapons. After finally finding her way out of the building, Hye In takes her car and goes to the reunion point while shooting all the random guys who try to stop her. At the same time, Jung Woo is escaping safely as she detonates the explosives that have been placed inside the palace… from her car.
After all the chasing and shooting, he stops right on a bridge and jumps into her strategically placed car. With his spine not frakking reduced to a pulp. Kidding you not.
Eventually, they both escape after blowing up another car and leaving the place almost destroyed.
Adrenaline = kissing? No complaints here, but what the hell. They passionately kiss, but she’s a little violent with the lip biting… And he wakes up.
Just a minute, here.
So, we spent a quarter of the episode watching a dream sequence?
And that’s why everything seemed so out of character – especially Jung Woo. She’s in front of him, with a bunch of kids. He stares at her, obviously embarrassed, and then in a daze after she retakes her duties as a tour guide. Sung Chul finds it deliciously funny to see how bewitched Jung Woo is by this girl.
Sung Chul now takes Jung Woo somewhere still unknown (to both Jung Won and us), telling him that maybe he’ll receive useful information there – but he must enter through the back door. The people there don’t recognize who Sung Chul is or what he’s doing there, so he shows his gun, panicking the guy who’s at the entrance.
Jung Woo finds it easier to enter – he just punches some guy and he’s in. The place seems to be a gambling room, but since he’s no regular there, he awakens the suspicion of the guards. And you know how little fond of security guards our Jung Woo is – he defeats them effortlessly.
While Sung Chul is still discussing with the entrance guy, Kim Ki Soo (Kim Min Jong) appears. At last, Sung Chul can prove he’s no stranger there – he’s Ki Soo’s acquaintance, but he had forgotten the password. They both enter, only to find Jung Woo in complete control of the situation, and showing off that super sweet smile of his. Needless to say, Ki Soo is not pleased.
Sung Chul has a private conversation with Jung Woo, in order to explain Ki Soo’s background: he’s a former North Korean top official, son of the head of the Department of Security. Thanks to his position, he studied in Russia and got his title, but didn’t like to work, and spent all his time playing instead. What’s more, his skills were lacking and he couldn’t do his job properly. Therefore, he ran away to the south, seduced by the gentle scent of capitalism. Sung Chul believes he’s a crucial asset to them, since he has first-hand information from China and Russia.
Jung Won finally gets to tell Ki Soo what’s in his mind – he wants every information he gets about Russia, threatening to trash that place if he doesn’t give anything of relevance. This turn of events makes Ki Soo feel kind of betrayed by Sung Chul, since he’s been helping him with his children tuition fees. That doesn’t make Jung Woo feel any more humanitarian or flexible, he just wants Ki Soo to fulfill his request.
Back at NTS, Jung Woo has nothing useful to do, he’s the shadow of that efficient super spy that starred in his fantasy.
Today, the new director is coming to head-quarters, and isn’t interested in long speeches about generic stuff on the NTS; he wants to check the personnel and installations by himself – especially the people, who he thinks is crucial in this kind of organization.
First, he visits the general situation room (aka NTS’ Brain). He meets Team Manager Park Sook Guk, and his group of highly trained officials (amongst them, Choi Si Won’s Kim Joon Ho). He says that life and death decisions are taken there in matter of seconds, so he trusts they’ll stay alert. After he leaves, the younger guys make fun of Sook Guk for being so uptight when Director came – nothing better than good working environment.
Next stop, the Laboratory – Oh Sook Kyung (head of Scientific Investigations Department) is developing a spying device in the shape of a bug. The Director compliments her, and encourages her to show her final results once the prototype is finished.
Finally, he goes with the field agents. Being the core of NTS, he tells them they must write history, with him as their support – if they have anything to ask, he’ll help them. Jung Won is the first to raise his hand, and informs that he wants to return to NIS. In 4 years, he had completed 21 missions alone (the number would be larger if they counted team missions), while as an NTS agent, he has accomplished nothing. His request is granted, and he leaves immensely satisfied.
Son Hyuk has received the order to find Kim Myung Guk, whose whereabouts are still unknown. He asks for a meeting with the team leaders of the DIS and lets them know that the higher ups have found the East Assian branch’s information about China completely useless, so they’ve changed the Regional Director. From this day on, the East Asian Branch of the DIS will collect information on the development of South Korean nuclear technology. Until they have every detail perfectly gathered, this will be their top priority mission.
At the Blue House, Son Hyuk, as the new DIS Regional Director, meets the Chief Secretary of Foreign Affairs and National Security, Yoo Kang Ho; Han Jeong Pil, Chief Secretary of Policy Planning and Hwang Ho Young, Chief Secretary of State Affairs. Everything goes quite well until the last person appears – Kwon Yong Gwang, NTS director and old friend (see Episode 1).
That wasn’t awkward.
Jung Woo, now relocated as he wished, isn’t having a smooth time at the NIS. His superior accuses him of being arrogant, leaving him with no option but to either reflect on his actions or quit. It doesn’t matter how puzzled he is – he doesn’t seem to understand what he did wrong –, he’s been transferred to the NIS Exhibition Center.
Well, one could say that providence had this ironic way of pairing him up with Hye In – they’re both guides now. Yay?
At least Hye In is enjoying this, seeing Jung Woo struggling with a job so lowly for an experienced agent has to be hilarious. The kids don’t even listen to his half-hearted explanation, so he loses it and starts screaming at them until she comes to the rescue. With a few words and a nice smile, she controls that anarchic scene in seconds.
As they drink some coffee, she teaches him how to grab children’s attention – guys, weapons; girls, clothes. She wonders how long he’ll be staying, but he receives a text message just in time – it’s from Ki Soo.
When they meet, Ki Soo makes fun of Jung Woo’s new job, but eventually gives in and delivers his report. In order to engage himself in a rogue mission, he’ll need Sung Chul’s help, who grasps after seeing the long list of stuff he’ll have to get.
Busan – South Korea. Ki Soo’s report was about one Victor Sevchenko, a Russian Gang Leader who mainly smuggles weapons. A big deal will take place soon enough, so Jung Woo trails him to a big ship. Plan is simple: Sung Chul waits outside while Jung Woo investigates aboard the ship. After successfully avoiding security, he finds some suspicious boxes, only to open them and find just wine bottles.
He keeps on searching, only to notice a creepy altar, ornamented with candles and crosses. A sudden noise warns him of someone’s proximity, so he rapidly hides. From his position, he can witness how that person – Sevchenko himself – is performing some sort of ritual that involves cutting his hand with a knife, and letting his blood spill on a black rose. That’s a bad sign if you ask me, since black roses are generally a symbol for hatred or revenge, and death comes hand in hand with them.
The whole gang leaves the place, and so does Jung Woo, aboard Sung Chul’s car, deeply convinced that reporting this to the proper intelligence authorities is out of the question.
At the same time, Son Hyuk receives a report from Hye In about… Sevchenko. What we didn’t know is that has has ties with the Russian Intelligence Agency, so he has to be behind Myung Guk according to Hye In – they must be trying to take him back, after they lost him to the Koreans three years ago.
Meanwhile, Jung Woo and Sung Chul have followed Sevchenko to a bar. They have to observe him without looking suspicious, so they pretend they’re dancing (pretty awkwardly) after they arrive. Jung Woo keeps an eye on him surreptitiously until Sevchenko decides to leave his VIP location.
The cat and mouse game has started.
Jung Woo initially gets rid of Sevchenko’s guys, so he exits the place chasing the Russian only, but his guys recover quickly and go after him. Han Jae Hee (Lee Ji Ah), NTS agent, is also there in a car in what seems to be a “quiet surveillance”, but is forced to get engaged into a fight with Sevchenko’s guys after seeing that confusing scene.
While Jae Hee is busy kicking some minions’ butt, Jung Woo hasn’t even noticed that his pursuers are gone, focused on getting the leader. They enter a shopping mall, but Sevchenko is faster – before Jung Woo can even think about seizing him, he’s already taken a motorbike and run away.
As a nice bonus to the generally negative situation, Sevchenko was being investigated by Jae Hee’s team – genuinely investigated. Their meticulous work, which had taken six months, is now lost thanks to these two morons. Both groups part ways, visibly upset, but Jae Hee and Jung Woo exchange a gaze full of meaning.
Then, what’s the deal between them? As a handy flashback will tell us, they had a solid relationship some time ago. What happened? How are they two separate strangers? Well, time will tell. However, as of now, they can only remember those happy times while being miserable and drinking alone.
And that, my friends, was the least cliffhanger-y ending I’ve seen this whole year.
How do I write comments after an episode where I felt nothing really happened? We had a dream sequence that took a quarter of this episode, and that pissed me off pretty badly. Generally, I try not to be extremely (as in, excessively) nitpicky but in this case, when I think about it, it just boggles my mind. I mean, you’re the writer, you’re in episode 2, still trying to establish the show’s premise and tone and you say “Hey, what about 15 minutes with a dream?! How awesome is that?!” I mean, no. As an action sequence, I have to admit that I was super excited, impossible shooting and jumping from bridges included, because it had a hell of a good rhythm and was beautifully shot. But when he woke up, man, it was a HUGE let down. It slowed down the storytelling and left me wondering what they were trying to achieve with it. Jung Woo is an adorable loser, and we know it, we have Jung Woo Sung doing a terrific job; so why exactly?
In conclusion, okay, I’ll take it as what it’s supposed to be – Jung Woo dreams of grandeur alongside Hye In – and I won’t think about it any longer. After all, seeing him struggling with his new job while fantasizing about this apparently nice girl as a kickass NTS agent in an italian mission, enfasizes his loser status. And it’ll make it much more better when they engange in a mission for real. Still, sigh.
As I said before, the episode itself as a whole felt slow and a bit irrelevant. Maybe it wasn’t per se, we knew some characters, the agents’ status was set and the correlation chart explored further. However, it was done sloppily, with excessive filler shots, leaving an unsatisfying aftertaste.
To finish, I’ll let the optimism take over my keyboard. The biggest asset this drama has (as of now) is the leading couple (and lots of cash to squander…). I’m not overreacting when I say that I could watch Jung Woo Sung reading the phonebook all day and I wouldn’t be bored. Plus, a somewhat dorky character? I’m damn sold. If you add Soo Ae, whom I find surprisingly strong here, we have a winner leading couple. As a whole, the cast is impressive, I’ll give you that; so I hope the writing team gives them an interesting, funny, action packed and at least slightly coherent drama.