Another tag-team recap! With the uproar regarding this drama dominating headlines for the past several days, girlfriday and I thought to both weigh in on all the insanity. Only, this episode actually isn’t that insane, considering the circumstances. It’s chock-full of meta commentary, though, with references to killer shooting schedules, overworked stars, and diva attitudes. Some of it’s surely intentional, but even more of it (seemingly) the result of crazy coincidence.
SONG OF THE DAY
The Black Skirts – “외아들” (Only son) [ Download ]
EPISODE 11 RECAP
So Myung-wol and Kang-woo go off-script, ending in teary goodbye. Only, it turns out that the blank didn’t injure her after all; it was just that she and Kang-woo were so caught up in their real emotions that they ad-libbed in the death scene that way. Um, okay. That’s a letdown. I like our idea better.
In-ah gives Myung-wol crap for ad-libbing, saying that rookies like her ought to stick to the script. But just as soon as she says that, the director declares that he and the writer have decided to keep the scene as is, finding it more emotional and real, and commends Myung-wol on her ad-lib.
Myung-wol has been in listless spirits since the shoot ended, and winds up at the Han River, where Ryu finds her, because even in North Korea you know that that’s the best place to brood. Must’ve been a detail she picked up in all her Hallyu contraband crackdowns.
She’s so tired she rests her head on his shoulder and asks him to allow it for a moment. Aw, poor emotionally repressed Ryu and his sad consolation hug.
Spy Mom and Dad are giddy to hear about the fantastic reception to Myung-wol’s exit scene, until Dae-kang tells them that the ad-lib means her character chose love over duty. Gulp. The spies are not blind to the meta of this scene, and Hee-bok asks what happened to the other North Korean spies. Dae-kang cheerily mimes a massacre, saying they died up front, of course.
After sending Myung-wol along, Ryu broods at the river and receives a text from her asking if she must continue the mission. He texts back that she ought to rest and adds, “Reality is different from acting. For us, there is no beautiful ending. The only choices we can make are to succeed in our mission, or die with honor.”
He concludes by saying that he will let her actions slide today, but not in the future — then, it will be betrayal.
Kang-woo drives off, apparently having gotten a haircut in the time between leaving set and getting in his car. He’s upset at his own emotional reaction during the shoot, and although he hasn’t completely accepted that he’s in love with Myung-wol, he knows things can’t continue thusly.
He calls In-ah to break up with her, pointing out that they both know his heart isn’t in it. He asks her to beat him till she’s satisfied, but to end things between them.
In-ah answers that she doesn’t care, that it doesn’t matter if he likes her or not: “Just use me.” She won’t accept his decision, but he tells her he’s going to go public. He’ll take all the heat, so she won’t be harmed.
Surely there’s a meta wink built into this conversation:
Hee-bok: “Will it really be okay? Surely she won’t give up her mission.”
Ok-soon: “No way. She came all the way to the South Korean entertainment industry for the mission. Would she give up so easily?”
Ok-soon: “Let’s not worry needlessly, and focus on our duty.”
With that, they bust out their laptops and get ready to plaster the Shiri 2 message boards. Ha, I love that somebody’s mission involves killing and/or marrying a famous public figure, while somebody else’s mission is to write internet comments.
Chairman Joo finds In-ah crying at home, and she sobs that she can’t break up with Kang-woo. So he calls Kang-woo for a talking-to, and throws his liquor in his face when Kang-woo tells him that he broke up with In-ah because he doesn’t love her.
Despite Joo’s threatening tone, Kang-woo is unwavering, so the chairman takes a different tack and threatens to mess with Myung-wol’s career. If Kang-woo wants what’s best for her, he’ll keep that in mind.
At home, Myung-wol apologizes for her ad-lib. Kang-woo starts to speak up, but remembers the chairman’s threat against her and stops himself.
Myung-wol’s death scene receives such overall interest from the public that viewers demand that she be brought back. Even the writer admits that she felt it was a waste to lose her after that moving scene.
The producers put their heads together to try to find a way to make it happen, rejecting the initial suggestion that Kang-woo wakes up with Myung-wol safe and sound because it was just a dream. Or that In-ah jealously reinvents herself to look like Myung-wol. HA. You totally know these were the cast-offs from the producers’ scrambled emergency meetings.
President Kyung is pleased with the massive interest, as Myung-wol is poised for stardom. Of course, now that means In-ah’s camp might kick up a fuss, since they won’t be pleased that her planned storyline will be pushed aside by the newcomer. (Ha, shades of East of Eden…)
In-ah’s alarmed to hear what the writers have come up with: Myung-wol barely survives, but has amnesia and forgets all about her love, and sets out to kill Kang-woo. She’s so upset that she fires her stylist/assistant (who was, admittedly, dumb enough to say she joined Myung-wol’s fan club after the episode aired).
In-ah storms off muttering, “This is ridiculous! Is television a joke? How can you change the plot midway through?!” Har har. Is this episode a big ol’ therapy session for the writers?
Peevishly, she calls her grandfather to whine, but Kang-woo intercepts her and concedes: He’ll do things In-ah’s way, if she leaves Myung-wol alone.
In-ah can’t believe he’s still acting in Myung-wol’s interest, and points out that things don’t add up about her. She mentions the lookalike in his Singapore Showcase footage and starts to go off on a tirade, but Kang-woo throws In-ah’s own words back at her, reminding her that she’d said none of that other stuff mattered as long as he was with her.
Fine. She concedes. But he has to cut ties with Myung-wol entirely, and he answers that he was planning just that.
Myung-wol is thrilled to hear that she’s staying on for the drama, and President Kyung says that they’ll have to draw up contracts right away. She’ll provide a car for her use, at which point Kang-woo appears to chime in — with In-ah on his arm — to request that Myung-wol get a new home, too.
President Kyung agrees, since there’s an empty apartment that’s ready for immediate use. Myung-wol agrees to move out by the end of the day, and Kang-woo tells himself that this is all for the best.
Ryu follows up on the old article mentioning the ancient books, which includes a report about an accident. He tracks down an eyewitness, who remembers the day clearly and describes seeing a man being chased, who was then hit by a black car. He’d told this to the police, but they’d cleared away the accident site and ruled it a simple hit and run.
It’s not a whole lot to go on, but Ryu gets to work scouring databases for original police reports, and finds the crucial clue: In the victim’s pocket was a note bearing the word “Goblin.”
Kang-woo and In-ah go on a date to a cafe, obliging the fans who watch them from outside the window. In-ah’s in her element, loving the attention and telling him to work in a little fanservice. Kang-woo offers up a sickly smile, going along uneasily.
When he arrives home that night, he finds memories of Myung-wol all around, like the game she played and the milk she drank. Frustrated, he tells himself to stop thinking of her but loses that battle by heading to the company-furnished apartment, stopping short of ringing the doorbell.
New promos are shot, replacing In-ah with Myung-wol as the primary actress, and Myung-wol is crowned the newest “CF Queen.” In-ah stews in her jealousy.
At Spy Central, Hee-bok asks Ryu what the higher-ups think of Myung-wol’s new entertainment gig, and he replies, “They’re plenty confused…but right now there’s no other way, so they’re going to wait and see.” Haha, I do love the way this episode is sneaking in all sorts of meta. He adds, “But there are suspicions that she may have other intentions.” Such as defecting to the South.
[...and the baton is passed! Girlfriday, taking over...]
In-ah hazes Myung-wol any way she can, throwing around her sunbae weight to make her life on set as uncomfortable as she can. When Kang-woo tries to intervene with a simple, “Can’t you think of what it was like for you as a newbie?” she flips out and demands that the PD kick the rookie out of the stars’ dressing room.
The PD tries to talk her down, so she asks Kang-woo pointedly whether he agrees with her. Kang-woo sighs, looking over at Myung-wol. He tamps down his real feelings and coldly says that In-ah is right. After all, stars have their levels, and someone like Myung-wol who rose to fame overnight with no effort might get a big head and think she’s more than she is. Ouch.
It has the desired effect and Myung-wol apologizes and gets up to leave, spilling her makeup box in the process. It clearly pains Kang-woo more than anyone, and he has to turn away from her to keep his distance.
Myung-wol goes outside to put her makeup on in the hallway, and shrinks in embarrassment at the passersby, gaping at her. Aw, she looks so lonely sitting out there.
But then Ryu shows up, folding screen in hand, and puts it up around her to give her some privacy. Aw, so sweet. He says in his matter-of-fact way that he hasn’t been able to find a door yet (ha) so then he stands guard with his back to her, to fill in as the human door. Gah, you’re killing me.
Myung-wol looks up at her human door and smiles. Kang-woo comes out to check on her and sees everything, as he and Ryu have a silent stare-off.
Ryu reports to Chairman Joo about his investigation, having come to the conclusion that it was no accidental hit-and-run, but a murder. He asks if he recognizes the name Goblin, and clocks Chairman Joo’s nervous reaction, spilling his coffee.
He says that there’s only one clue that remains from the scene of the crime: the victim had a piece of paper with “Goblin” written on it. So it’s looking more and more like the hit-and-run victim is Kang-woo’s father, and explains why he’s been searching for the Goblin his whole life.
It’s seeming likely that the Goblin might be Chairman Joo after all, though he doesn’t give away anything other than nerves at hearing the name.
Myung-wol and Kang-woo do a photo shoot and the photographer tells them to look longingly at each other like lovers who can’t be together. Ha. They wrap and In-ah shows up to be the buzzing fly that she is and claim Kang-woo for a date.
Myung-wol is so exhausted from her tight schedule that she starts to get woozy on her way off the set, and accidentally spills something on In-ah’s dress. The princess freaks out and raises her hand for a slap, and Myung-wol blocks it.
She finally stands up for herself, saying that she’ll replace the clothes if necessary, but she isn’t someone to be treated this way. That just ignites In-ah’s fury all the more, and Kang-woo steps in to squelch the impending disaster.
He grabs Myung-wol’s hand away and gives her a lecture about professionalism, saying that she’s not the only one who’s tired and working late nights. Oof. It’s a little too meta, really, in light of what’s going on in the real drama outside the drama. Is it life imitating art, imitating life, imitating art?
He gets carried away (like going too far to try and cover up his bleeding heart) and demands that she get down on her knees and apologize to In-ah. Even In-ah thinks that’s too much, and that’s saying something.
She drags Kang-woo away, leaving Myung-wol reeling from his harsh words.
At the same time, Ryu stops by her apartment with a bag full of food, and in true Daddy Long Legs fashion, just leaves it hanging on the door. He thinks to himself, “Please, Comrade Myung-wol, become strong. And don’t show any more tears.” He leaves his handkerchief behind. Aw.
But just as he turns to leave, he sees her collapse at the end of the hallway.
Kang-woo ends up wracked with guilt over his blow-up, and ditches In-ah. He rushes over to Myung-wol, running like a madman. See, this is what happens when you overreact.
He runs up to her door, but finds Ryu walking out. He demands to know what he’s doing there, and Ryu tells him that she’s sick. He blocks Kang-woo from going in. “Don’t bother her anymore. Don’t you know why she’s like this?”
Kang-woo still refuses to back down, thinking that it’s all the more reason for him to go in there, if he’s the source of her pain. But Ryu counters it’s the reason he can’t let him pass.
Ryu tells him that the best thing for Myung-wol right now is to stay away, and tells him to go in if he likes. Well that pretty much seals it. Kang-woo just crouches outside her door, berating himself but unable to go any closer.
He apologizes over and over, and says that he can’t stand to watch any more of her suffering.
In-ah arrives outside Myung-wol’s building, having guessed this is where he fled to, and Dae-kang gives chase. They run up and find him crouched like that in front of Myung-wol’s door, and he essentially gets caught red-handed in his true feelings.
He tries to stop In-ah, but she glares at him angrily, “I won’t ever forgive the two of you.” It’s not really news to her, since she knew all of this from the get-go and claimed not to care, but it’s probably another thing to be confronted with it so head-on.
The next morning Kang-woo finds that Myung-wol has been effectively wiped out from showbiz, having been cut from the drama and all her CFs in one blow. His agent confirms that it was Chairman Joo’s doing, and she wonders what Myung-wol must’ve done to get on his bad side.
He storms over to confront Chairman Joo about his petty maneuver, and demands he put everything back. Chairman Joo simply threatens to bring Kang-woo down with her unless he backs down, asking if he wants his true backstory revealed.
Kang-woo tells him to do as he likes, since it can’t stay hidden forever. Chairman Joo can’t believe he’s willing to go down in flames along with Myung-wol, and dangles the final piece of bait he has: a cushy Hollywood movie-album combo deal. He tells Kang-woo to choose wisely.
Myung-wol hears about Kang-woo’s career hanging in the balance because of her, and her agent asks her to talk Kang-woo out of making a career-ending mistake. In-ah tells her to just disappear, since Kang-woo isn’t likely to back down, and her grandfather will crush him otherwise.
Kang-woo holes away and drinks, and his agency worries that he might not show for his showcase the next day, where the Hollywood agent is set to appear.
Meanwhile Myung-wol ponders her decision as she watches her spy parents from a distance. Stick around for her mission and her comrades, or disappear to protect Kang-woo? She takes out Ryu’s handkerchief and holds on for dear life, trying not to show tears.
Kang-woo stumbles home drunk, and Ryu is waiting for him outside. Aw, did you wait all night so you could see him? He asks Kang-woo how long he’s going to be like this, because he’s just making things harder on Myung-wol.
Kang-woo takes issue with Ryu defending her, even saying her name, and takes a big swing with his fist. He’s totally drunk so it has no chance of landing, of course, and Ryu blocks it with his hand, like Hulk-to-Smurf. It’s pretty funny, if not for Kang-woo’s bleeding heart.
He lands on the ground and Ryu tells him to start being honest with himself about what he really wants. Kang-woo: “What about you? Are you honest? You want Han Myung-wol too!”
Ryu answers, “Everyone’s method of love is different.” Kang-woo asks why he’s even saying any of this to him. Ryu: “Because there’s nothing I can do for her. But you can.”
He ponders the major decision in front of him, and the next day, preparations for the showcase begin on faith that he’ll show up.
Meanwhile Ryu tasks Hee-bok with a side mission, to find someone called the Goblin. Hee-bok immediately perks up at the name, and tells him that Kang-woo came looking for the Goblin too. The dots, they are a-connectin’.
Ok-soon interrupts them with news of her own: Myung-wol left her a text saying “Sorry,” and now she can’t find her anywhere. Ryu runs over to her apartment and finds a note addressed to him, apologizing for betraying country and comrades, and promising to accept her due punishment.
Everyone bites their nails as they wait, and finally Kang-woo appears for his concert. The press goes in for a live interview on his way into the venue, as scheduled. He doesn’t give the usual response though, and says he wants to share something precious to him.
He takes out his baseball and shows it on camera, saying that it was a gift from his father. He confesses that his dad isn’t a doctor, and he’s not the perfect boy next door, as his image would have them believe.
He tells them that he’s an orphan, and that everything about his past has been fabricated, along with his current relationship with In-ah. He says he longer wants to hide behind lies.
Shaking, he takes off his sunglasses and looks straight into the camera.
Kang-woo: And moreover, I don’t want to lie to my heart anymore. Han Myung-wol-sshi, are you watching? Han Myung-wol-sshi … Han Myung-wol-sshi … Han Myung-wol-sshi … Han Myung-wol-sshi! I love you.
Aw, a love confession! And in an all-or-nothing way too, just outing everything about his past, the fake relationship with In-ah, AND his feelings for Myung-wol all in one blow. No need for three separate press conferences when the reason for them all is one and the same.
It’s surprisingly a much more coherent episode than I expected. They made great use of Kang-woo’s angst and his attempts to stay away from Myung-wol as a way to cover up for the fact that she wasn’t there for a lot of the scenes. So her absence becomes his futile attempt to keep his distance, all the while obsessing over her even more. Gotta say, it’s a nice recovery without jumping any sharks.
This drama’s always been meta-on-meta, and I like that they don’t shy away from pointing out the real scandal surrounding its production. Rather than try to cover it up, they call attention to it in the fictional world. Interestingly, some of those plot points were even shot before the production crisis, but they’ve chosen to heighten the conflict rather than hide it. I think it’s a clever way to not let the scandal steal the show, and a good source for some much-needed laughter too.
Who would’ve thought this episode would be as…normal as it was? In fact, I wonder if viewers watching this episode down the line, out of context of the current news cycle, will even notice a difference. The tone, the acting, and the general feel of the episode was pretty consistent with prior ones. (Eric’s haircut aside.)
Then again, they had shot a good amount of scenes with Han Ye-seul, so they were able to complete the story that they’d intended without too many changes to the original idea. (I’d read the written preview for Episode 11 when it was released last week, and it pretty much described what we saw.) Now, I bet Episode 12 would have been crazy if it had to air this week, but with Han back in Korea, it’s looking likelier that she’ll rejoin the production and we’ll get the story we would have gotten had she not left.
I think this episode almost becomes an entirely different beast when you watch it through the lens of the current context, because it’s then that certain lines of dialogue and statements pop out. Such as when Kang-woo berates Myung-wol for not acting like a professional, or when she’s overworked and the photographer comments that these schedules are so killer that it’s almost a problem to be too successful in this industry.
I bet there’s a whole separate argument in there somewhere, about the value of an artistic form when removed from its context, and whether it’s more complete when standing on its own or if the context is as much a part of the story as the artwork itself. I totally don’t have an answer to that, but it’s something worth pondering.
- KBS speaks about Myung-wol the Spy’s future at press conference
- The Script Doctor is in: Myung-wol the Spy
- Myung-wol the Spy unable to complete shoot, to air special
- Myung-wol the Spy gets an extension, sort of
- Myung-wol the Spy: Episode 10
- Myung-wol the Spy: Episode 9
- Myung-wol the Spy: Episode 8
- Myung-wol the Spy: Episode 7
- Myung-wol the Spy: Episode 6
- Myung-wol the Spy: Episode 5
- Myung-wol the Spy: Episode 4
- Myung-wol the Spy: Episode 3
- Myung-wol the Spy: Episode 2
- Myung-wol the Spy: Episode 1