Holy crap. Just when I’d thought this drama had hit a slump, it pulls out this nice surprise. Things just took a turn, and for the better — the stakes (and not to mention the emotional quotient) just got kicked up a real big notch.
SONG OF THE DAY
Top Cloud – “힘이들길” [ Download ]
EPISODE 10 RECAP
Kang-woo tells the reporters that he’s considering marriage with In-ah, which sets off a wave of fan protests at their beloved star being linked to the bitchy actress of limited talents.
In-ah’s initially pleased to hear the unexpected news of Kang-woo’s intentions, until her assistant starts reading her some of the comments. They’re all about how Kang-woo’s wasted on her, so In-ah tells her assistant to put up a comment in support of her. The the immediate netizen response is: “Do you work for In-ah? You’re In-ah, right?” Heh.
Myung-wol is crushed, for the dual reason of liking Kang-woo and (probably more importantly) the fact that failure to win him over means death and dishonor.
This pisses off Chairman Joo, who understands that Kang-woo is rebelling. He can’t exactly find fault with Kang-woo’s response, though, which is that In-ah has been dangling after him so persistently that he decided to date her after all.
Chairman Joo accuses Kang-woo of backstabbing the person who made him into a star out of nothing, but Kang-woo returns that he got here on his own work — the chairman only threw him support once it became clear Kang-woo would be a good investment.
On his way out, Kang-woo runs into In-ah, who’s always has to look that gift horse in the mouth; she got what she wanted, but she snits that he didn’t ask her before making the announcement. He offers to cancel it, so she backpedals and tries to save face by telling him she’ll date him, since he wants it so much. Kang-woo lets her preserve her pride and tells her thanks, but adds, “And sorry.”
In-ah brags to her assistant that her bold moves have paid off, which is so not the lesson she should be taking from this.
Kang-woo thinks back to his early trainee days, when Chairman Joo had seen him dance and brutally declared him a lost cause. Resentful and indignant, Kang-woo had spoken up and vowed to make him regret that judgment, earning him a slap and some more insults.
Myung-wol asks why Kang-woo helped her with her audition, and he replies that he felt sorry for her. Using her own words about marrying to turn her fortune around, he says he’s doing the same thing with In-ah, so she’d best give up now.
She only digs in her heels deeper, vowing to succeed and change his mind.
Chairman Joo won’t let Kang-woo dictate this scenario, so he goes into damage control mode, telling the press that Kang-woo’s announcement was one-sided: In-ah only sees him as a good friend.
That means In-ah’s bubble bursts right away, hearing that her own reps have declared the dating rumors false. To keep her from interfering with his intentions, Chairman Joo orders Ryu to keep her confined to the house, using force if necessary. (It’s necessary.)
Kang-woo hears that Chairman Joo plans to speak to the press today at the book launch of his autobiography. It’s likely that he’s going to bring out the big guns against Kang-woo, so Kang-woo decides he’ll have to swing by the event himself. He orders Myung-wol to pick up an order of congratulatory flowers and accompany him.
Spy Mom and Dad contemplate their dire circumstanaces over soju, worrying that with Kang-woo’s romance out in the public, it really is too late for them to alter their fates. Dae-kang joins them in glum spirits, but for a different reason: He’s seen the latest news from In-ah’s camp denying the rumors, and that kills his hopes that this will free Myung-wol’s affections. Immediately our spies cheer up and exult.
Kang-woo strolls into Chairman Joo’s launch event, bombarded with questions regarding his relationship. Kang-woo shoots a challenging look at the chairman and announces that this is his answer — and grabs In-ah in for a kiss.
Back at spy central, the kiss makes the news, and immediately the atmosphere flip-flops again: Dae-kang perks up, and the spies sink back into despair. Heh. It’s like watching a seesaw with this group. I kind of want this to go on indefinitely, just to watch them deflate and inflate accordingly.
Now that the Chairman’s statements have been refuted right in his face, he’s cornered for now. With reporters watching, the Chairman chuckles and fakes that “Aw-shucks-this-old-guy-was-left-out-of-the-loop-by-those-crazy-kids” amusement as he says that this must be the start of their romance. One asks about Kang-woo’s allegedly faked academic background — which the Chairman had been planning to reveal — but now he has to take the opposite tack and show public support for Kang-woo.
I guess there’s some grandfatherly concern mixed into his motivations, but mostly it’s a sense of self-preservation driving Chairman Joo — if he’s going to destroy Kang-woo, he’s got to do it in a way that keeps the blowback from damaging his own reputation. For now, his hands have been tied, but no question he’s going to find another way to retaliate.
You know, I might have felt the teeniest sliver of sympathy for In-ah, being used as a pawn by these two men, if only she weren’t such a pill. In her case, it’s a good thing ignorance is bliss, ’cause ignorance is all she’s got.
Spy Parental Units decide that they can’t sit by and await their demise; they’ll do whatever they can to break up the star couple. Hee. First it’s Operation Couple Making, now it’s Operation Couple Breaking. Based on their track record, let’s hope that these two have more luck with the latter than they do the former.
And how do they begin? By registering for the Kang-Joo Couple Anti-Fan Club, naturally. HAHA. They head to the neighborhood PC bang and log on, eager to begin flooding the internet, only to find that their technical skills aren’t quite up to snuff. They appeal to a student sitting next to them for help, but the kid is annoyed to be pulled away from his game and refuses. They can’t even be properly affronted at his rudeness because they don’t understand the South Korean slang he uses in telling them off. Ha.
Ryu asks Myung-wol if she’s okay, and she answers that she won’t let this get her down. She doesn’t have any time to waste on despair, and assures him not to worry about her. When she asks after his injury, he says the same — he’s okay, don’t worry.
He congratulates her on the successful audition, and she tells him with pluck that she, Hallyu Crackdown Squad’s Han Myung-wol, will burn down the South Korean entertainment industry. Funny, I’m thinking (and hoping) that she’ll set it ablaze, but in the other, more figurative way.
It’s time for her to shoot her minor role, and Myung-wol prepares for her first take. In-ah comes up, eager to stomp on her hopes, and smirks that she’s ill-equipped to be playing a chaebol. She wonders why she got stuck playing the chaebol’s secretary (a bigger role, but an ironic turnaround) and In-ah’s secretary gets the best line, musing that In-ah would have been perfect as the bratty, mannerless chaebol.
Sure enough, Myung-wol struggles through the scene, her innate politness at odds with the script. In-ah isn’t doing much better, actually, strutting like a princess while Myung-wol shrinks back and delivers her line. (Heh — the line literally means “What [awful] taste,” which is a riff off Han Ye-seul’s famous catchphrase from Fantasy Couple, “Look at that.”)
The director gets angry while In-ah gloats (and tweets about the awful actress getting reamed by the director). Watching on the sidelines, Kang-woo finally can’t take it anymore and calls an end to the shoot, grabbing Myung-wol off the set.
In-ah gets pelted with eggs outside the studio, where a group of angry fangirls demands she relinquish her claim on Kang-woo. Joining them are an odd pair of anti’s, Spy Mom and Dad, who assure the barely-pubescents that they’re totally part of the anti cafe. Hehe.
Kang-woo takes Myung-wol to a fancy boutique to be dressed in their finest, then takes her to a restaurant where he orders the place closed and requests the most expensive meal. Aw, are you using this “lesson” as an excuse to take her out on a date?
He tells her to go ahead and eat, because “There’s nobody here to insult you. Do you know why? Because you look expensive.”
She doesn’t follow, and he says that money and class aren’t things you’re given or denied based on birth — anybody can enjoy fancy clothes or food. Now that we’ve heard about his poor beginnings, going from orphan to street rat to trainee, his advice makes some sense, since he’s basically telling her that she’s no less worthy of nice things than himself. Granted, you still need money for these things, but his point is that if you work hard, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t get to enjoy the spoils of your work like other people.
Kang-woo keeps his encouragement brusque, but it’s clearly encouragement. He says that if she wants to succeed, if she wants people to treat her with respect, she should keep her head up and act like she’s worth it, rather than apologizing to everyone.
Ryu tells Chairman Joo that the fourth book was bought at the secret auction in Singapore, but doesn’t give away that Kang-woo was that buyer. Instead, he reports that the man was described as an ordinary looking Asian man. Chairman Joo gets shifty when Ryu shows him an old newspaper clipping that mention the books. He’s definitely connected, but keeps that from Ryu.
When Kang-woo arrives at home that night, Myung-wol is fast asleep in the car, and rather than wake her, he reclines her seat so she can rest.
Just as Kang-woo is leaning over her to lower the seat, Ryu drives up and sees him hovering, which looks like a more intimate moment from his angle. Making the decision that it’s better for princess In-ah, sitting in the backseat, not to see this, Ryu backs up his car quickly. Declaring that it’s too late for In-ah to visit Kang-woo, he ignores her protests and drives her home instead.
That allows Kang-woo to sit there peacefully without interruption, and he sits back and looks up at the sky, all the while holding Myung-wol’s hand.
Kang-woo’s restaurant “date” with Myung-wol hits the gossip rags, sending In-ah into pissy mode. Er, given that that’s a constant state of being for her, let’s say pissier. So she’s gratified to hear that Myung-wol has been fired from her small role after her terrible takes yesterday, and tells Kang-woo that with satisfaction.
Myung-wol takes the setback hard, feeling that she’s failed again. Ryu gives her words of encouragement and reaches out to pat her on the arm, stopping just short of touching her. Aw. You can touch her! She won’t break!
After he leaves, Myung-wol spots his tablet computer bearing a familiar image that triggers her memory. It’s a photo of the ancient book, and she flashes back to the masked fight in Singapore when Kang-woo had been attacked. She’s been aware for a while that Ryu must be on a separate mission, but now she figures out that it must have something to do with the book Kang-woo bought at the auction.
Ryu returns to take the computer wordlessly from her, not confirming or denying anything. She pleads with him to allow her to help on his mission, but he tells her to keep her focus on her own.
Kang-woo preps for his new drama, right on the tails of Assassin. It’s a similar role, but President Kyung points out that fans don’t want to see Kang-woo transform; they want more of the same. The drama comes from the same PD and writer as Assassin, and also stars In-ah. So… basically we’re creating a new drama-in-drama that’s just like the old drama-in-drama?
I’d be rolling my eyes at this change-that-isn’t-really-a-change, if not for one key point that makes it worth it: The new drama has to recast when a cast member gets into a car accident. That means that until they can find a substitute, the PD will have to shoot with a stand-in, preferably one who can manage action scenes. Hmm, where do we have one of those lying around?
The PD’s not thrilled with having to use Myung-wol since he’s seen her acting, and tells her just to fake the action as best she can, since they’ll cut in the real footage later. But acting as a North Korean spy? That’s one thing Myung-wol CAN do, and she makes jaws drop as she shoots and stabs the dummies with deadly precision.
The PD forgets all about how much he thinks she sucks and realizes he’s sitting on a hot property. Myung-wol instantly goes from faceless stand-in to prominent supporting lead. Score! Ha, all we need now is for Ryu to magically be cast too, to make this a perfect meta-upon-meta drama-in-drama.
Myung-wol even gets prominent placement on the drama poster — which, by the way, is titled Shiri 2. HAHAHA.
The director explains Myung-wol’s drama role to her: She’s a North Korean spy (named Myung-hyun, heh) who slips into South Korea, creates a false identity, and approaches a South Korean agent. At first, she attempts to get close to him because of her orders, but as time passes, she falls for him. Myung-wol asks, afraid and hopeful, “How does it end?” He says that she ends up shooting the guy, then is shot herself.
Dae-kang fills in the Spy Parents on the drama after Myung-hyun’s departure: Kang-woo doesn’t actually die but wakes up in a strange place with amnesia. He’s tended to by In-ah in the hospital, falls in love with her, then finds out, “You’re…the woman I loved…’s…sister?”
And then (using a photo of children with their heads pasted on): “And…we’re half-siblings?”
On top of that, he contracts a fatal illness, and goes through with a tearful wedding with his forbidden love.
Hee-bok: “It’s got every makjang concept in the book.”
Dae-kang: “That’s how you get high ratings!”
At home, Kang-woo coolly congratulates Myung-wol on her role, then says sarcastically that he’s not sure if he’ll be able to act the part of falling in love with her. Here’s a hint, buddy: You don’t have to act.
Filming commences. The Myung-hyun loveline takes place in the early portion of the drama, so they kick off shooting with a montage of the two characters’ happy-in-love scenes. This starts out awkwardly as both Myung-wol and Kang-woo stand stiffly and look away from each other, until Kang-woo tells her not to think of it as acting. He instructs her to follow his lead, and they do the typical date scenes of browsing shops and stands and sharing ice cream.
The date montage ends with a dash through the rain, which leads to a kiss. That much is scripted, but the two of them have long since stopped acting and they lose track of the shoot, not even registering the PD yelling, “Cut!”
In-ah’s quick to claim Kang-woo after the shoot, leaving Myung-wol reeling from the kiss. She asks Dae-kang for advice on what to do to keep herself from thinking or feeling.
Cut to: Myung-wol stumbling along, drunk. Ryu supports her even as she insists she can walk straight. Her drunken mumbling ends with her sad question, “Would it be impossible to just quit this all? I guess it would.”
With that, she falls asleep against him. Ryu admits, “I’d like to quit, too.”
Kang-woo broods that night, and I have to say, as annoying and assy he’s being with his treatment of Myung-wol, I do get where he’s coming from. Hehates that he fell for her and then found out she was (supposedly) using him for mercenary reasons, which means that he has to fight his own feelings as well as fight her continued insistence on popping up in his life. Just the fact that he sits in the dark, looking at photos of her on his phone that he hasn’t been able to delete — aww, poor guy.
He thinks back to their kiss, telling himself it was just acting. He tries (again) to delete the photos, but can’t bring himself to do it.
Doorbell. Ryu carries in a passed-out Myung-wol, lays her down, and turns to leave. Kang-woo stops him to say, “If you like her, please stop her. Tell her to stop.” Ryu answers, “It’s not something I can tell her to quit.”
Shiri 2 premieres to hit ratings…and Myung-wol shoots to overnight fame. Everyone’s abuzz to know more about the new face. In-ah hates this, but she tells Myung-wol that even if she’s the flavor of the day, she’s dying in the drama soon. And when she makes her drama exit, In-ah wants her to move out of Kang-woo’s place.
In-ah waits restlessly for Kang-woo to come home, and finds DVDs marked “Singapore Showcase.” She turns on the footage of his concert, and catches a glimpse of Myung-wol’s face in the crowd. Uh-oh. Dare we suppose that In-ah’s limited brain capacity is enough to make something of this discovery?
Myung-wol reads through the script of her exit, picturing the scene as she goes. In it, she and Kang-woo’s character face off, guns pointed at each other, and he asks if everything was a lie. She says yes, that even their happy, loving moments were just an act.
She’s not completely robotic as she says this, but cool enough that we can see her spy persona in control as she shoots him, then is shot. Both fall to the ground, and as she dies, she admits, “Not being able to think of you as an enemy…I regret that.”
Kang-woo finds Myung-wol with her script and joins her on the bench. Tentatively, she asks how he would react if the script’s scenario were real life, and deflates when he tells her firmly that he wouldn’t forgive. In fact, he’d probably be the one to shoot first.
Therefore, he reminds Myung-wol of her lies and warns that he’ll never forgive her, so she’d better just give up.
And yet, once he’s home his cool composure slips away as he hears Myung-wol’s question again. This time he answers, “I keep forgiving, and that drives me crazy.”
When the time comes to film that pivotal scene, it’s just as Myung-wol imagined and they run through the same dialogue, with Kang-woo asking if everything was a lie. Only this time, when he asks about their happier, loving moments, Myung-wol fights real tears and says, “That was for real.”
She’s ignored the actual line, which tells Kang-woo that she’s talking about herself now, and both of them get lost in the emotion of the moment as she adds, “I was happy. Truly. The time I spent with you .”
Kang-woo absorbs this…then stuns everyone by going off-script, too: “Then live here with me. Whatever you want, I’ll do it for you.” Eee! I love how everyone’s completely confused except for the two people acting out the scene, who aren’t even acting anymore. The scriptwriter starts to protest at their ad-libbing, but the director is riveted by the unfolding drama and lets it go, wanting to see where it heads.
Tearfully, she shakes her head no to Kang-woo’s desperate proposal. He asks, “Why not?! I’m saying I’m forgiving you!” Losing his temper, he points his gun upward and shoots the blanks into the sky, then drops the weapon at his feet.
Myung-wol’s face twists into tears and she tells him, “Don’t forgive me.” She holds the gun up to her own temple…and shoots. She falls to the concrete, temple bloody from the force of the blank.
Kang-woo rushes to her side, completely lost in the reality of the moment as he gathers her to himself, sobbing.
Aw, yeah. Way to pull out a shocker at the end, huh? I’d been wondering if the drama was going to keep spinning its wheels in place till the end, because it had felt in this episode and the last that it was revisiting a lot of the same plot points. But with the last scene totally amping up the emotion and conflict, it’s like we’ve just shot miles ahead of where we were.
The ending totally gets me because there’s that moment when the acting goes from pretend to real, and I love seeing the two get lost in the moment. The drama-in-drama, Shiri 2, provides the mechanism for getting the two facing each other and confronting their feelings, and provides the excuse for them to say what they really feel in a way that they wouldn’t say in real life, just out of the blue. They need that push to get them opening up and honest with each other (heck, honest with themselves, too) — but once they’re there, it’s allllll laid out there, raw and bare.
There’s a thing about dramas-in-dramas where the acting in the fake drama is always one notch below the “real” acting. By which I mean, Kang-woo’s acting is one cut below — less realistic, less invested than — Eric acting as Kang-woo. (Also see: Dokko Jin acting in character, or Choi Siwon versus his Min-woo in Oh My Lady.) It may be subtle, but there’s a deliberate difference between actors acting in dramas, and actors acting as actors acting in dramas. So in a scene like this ending one, it helps us pinpoint the moment when Kang-woo and Myung-wol go from acting into just being. It ain’t no City Hunter, but I still love it.