History of the Salaryman: Episode 2
What do you need to know about History of the Salaryman? Grown men cry real tears over a chicken dressed in hanbok. Math is used to crush testicles (more than one pair, too). Our lead female wears Kill Bill tracksuits. It’s all simply too absurd for me to have ever dreamed of passing up, because it looks like we’re in for one hell of a ride. Bring on the funny!
SONG OF THE DAY
Leeteuk & Key – “Bravo” from the Salaryman OST. [ Download ]
EPISODE 2 RECAP
Chun Ha Group, headed by Chairman Jin, is preparing to host an event introducing their new drug, Eternal Youth. Resident chicken-in-a-hanbok Geum-ok is set to be the main event, as its life has been extended to the human equivalent of 112 years. The only thing missing from Chairman Jin’s fancy party is his fancy granddaughter, who loyal secretary Gabi explains as being absent due to an unfortunate event.
The same event of her disappearing hemline and subsequent dunk into a fountain has gone viral on the internet, and we find Yeo-chi stomping through a hotel lobby soaked and pissed. Poor Bang is paying for the mishap by cooling his heels in a jail cell. So much for the girl of his dreams.
Chairman Oh of Jang Cho Pharmaceuticals has been invited to the event, and he brings along his right-hand man, Hang-woo. Hang-woo didn’t come to the party without a plan (presumably one that involves ruining Eternal Youth’s reputation), at least, but neither he or his boss are spared from some wheedling from Chairman Jin, along with some insults veiled beneath polite conversation. Unfortunately this isn’t the golf course, and the two chairmen can’t fight it out like we know they want to. If only. That golf course fight was epic.
Left alone with Secretary Gabi, Yeo-chi is forced to explain whose suit jacket she borrowed indefinitely on her walk of shame from the fountain. We flash back to reveal that the jacket belongs to Hang-woo, who escorted her to a car. Yeo-chi, trying very hard to be polite, is rebuffed in her attempts to get Hang-woo’s information to return the jacket. He is not interested, and says she can just keep it.
Back in the present, Yeo-chi is preparing for the party under Gabi’s watchful eye. Eventually, she’s able to send Gabi away to the party ahead of her so that she can be alone with her revenge – after all, Grandpa Jin had always taught her to take an eye for an eye. I’m guessing this is about the idol boyfriend that left her due to Grandpa’s money.
I have to give her props for her creativity – she knows how to get straight to Chairman Jin’s heart, and that’s through his prized chicken. While Chairman Jin gives a presentation to the huge and fancy gathering about the reasons behind Eternal Youth, Yeo-chi absconds with Geum-ok and takes it to the kitchen. She’s ordering a ‘special dish’. Nooo! Not the chicken in a hanbok!
With the whole crowd applauding after Chairman Jin’s rousing presentation, Yeo-chi crashes the party with a drink in her hand and an, “I guess everyone’s happy to live long, yes?” She’s terrible, but I sort of love her for her metaphorical gonads of steel – she even goes onto the stage and begins to sing and dance to a song all on her own. She’s delightfully insane.
If it’s not one thing, it’s another – and the moment Yeo-chi gets forcibly escorted offstage by her uncle, Hang-woo steps up to pop Chairman Jin’s drug bubble. He explains that he was a member of the clinical trials, and that there are side effects to the drug. Video of Bang’s severe laughing side effect are broadcasted on the projection screens as proof.
Chairman Oh is immensely happy, thinking he’s finally got his nemesis on the ropes – but Chairman Jin is unfazed, and begins to laugh maniacally. Well, they may balk at the side effects, but not when he shows them his special hen that’s over one-hundred human years old. Bring out the chicken!
And it is brought out for everyone to see… only cooked and on a plate. The funniest thing? The cooked version of the chicken is wearing its signature necklace. While Chairman Jin reels in absolute horror at seeing his chicken this way, loyal Bum-jeung tries to salvage the situation by telling everyone that Geum-ok had to go to the OB/GYN because she had to lay an egg. Ha!
All of the Chun Ha Group goes along with the lie despite their sorrow and horror. Chairman Oh isn’t buying the excuse, and asks directly if the cooked chicken is the one that was supposed to be presented. Chairman Jin responds by wondering just who would be crazy enough to eat a two-million dollar chicken… and to prove it, Bum-jeung tears off a leg and hands it over to Chairman Jin, who’s then forced to eat his favorite chicken. “This is so delicious that tears are coming out,” he explains to the crowd. Hahahahaha. Oh my goodness, I’m dying.
Hang-woo decides that he needs a man inside Chun Ha, and has the perfect spy in mind for the job. Turns out to be none other than Bang, his old drug-facility-cellmate. HAN SHIN, Hang-woo’s associate under Jang Cho, brings the unwitting Bang in on their scheme by claiming he’s an NIS agent and that Bang will get to work for his country and get the job he’s always wanted. It’s a win/win, right?
Aww, poor Bang totally falls for it. Especially when part of the agreement includes the questions and answers for the upcoming Chun Ha exam that Bang fails every year – now he can just memorize the answers and pass the test.
We find out how important getting this job is to Bang through a flashback that takes us to his dad’s funeral. Apparently his father died while trying to raise money for Bang’s college tuition, which he had desperately wanted for his son. His mother gives him a gift from Dad that he had been saving for when his son went to college – it’s a pair of dress shoes, because his father wanted him to work for the biggest company in Korea and only wear dress shoes every day with a suit. “I did wrong. I did wrong, Father!” he cries as he clutches Dad’s picture. Aww. Sad.
Yeo-chi tries to flee the country unsuccessfully (Grandpa/Chairman Jin cut off all her financial support), so she returns to entreat him with pouting and whining. She just wants to go to the U.S. for two years and then she’ll be back – so he’ll lift the financial sanctions, right? Right?
Wrong. Chairman Jin has finally had enough of her attitude, and is going to do whatever it takes to get her to grow up and support herself. From now on, she’ll only be able to use money from the salary she makes in the company. And to get in, she’ll have to take the entrance exam just like everyone else. The icing on the cake? She tries to order Gabi to get her another drink, but Gabi no longer has to answer to her anymore and refuses. Poor Princess, life is so hard.
Before the test, Hang-woo’s brother, Hang-ryang, sneaks around on a Chun Ha computer. He seems to be interested in Bang, which in turn makes it seem more and more like Hang-ryang might be a spy for Jang Cho after all.
It’s the day of the Chun Ha entrance test, whose test-takers include both Bang and Yeo-chi. When it’s time for the personal interview in front of a panel of Chun Ha executives, Yeo-chi slouches in her seat and idly pops her gum, full of attitude and haughtiness. It’s almost as if she doesn’t want anything to do with this job…
When she’s asked what her strengths are, she replies that she’s had idols living off her allowance, she drinks like a fish, and can curse in three languages. Ha. But Hang-ryang asks about her life’s creed, you know, what she really subscribes to as a belief system. Yeo-chi: “Even if I starve to death, I shall not be a salaried worker.” Not the best thing to say to a panel of salaried workers, but it is funny how uncomfortable they all get.
It’s Bang’s turn for an interview, but he’s not alone. Operating from the Love Goods van is Hang-woo and Shin, who outfit Bang with the same camera glasses and earpiece that Hang-woo used during the drug testing. This way, they can see what Bang sees, hear what he hears, and send covert messages. And though he’s recognized immediately as a drug trial participant, he doesn’t deny it. He even gives pitch-perfect answers to all of the questions posed, and there’s no doubt that he rehearsed each of these so that they become like a knee-jerk reaction.
He’s thrown for a loop when he’s asked a question in English. Luckily Hang-woo is fluent, and he transmits the answer into Bang’s ear, with Bang effectively parroting everything he hears. The same happens when he’s asked a question in Chinese, giving such answers as: “In my opinion, I don’t think a salaryman is merely a person who receives a monthly check. The real salaryman is not one who dreams of self, but who shares the company’s vision, right? I believe Chun Ha Group will very likely become the partner of my life.” Pfffft.
The panel is impressed, especially when he’s asked to answer a question in yet another language. This one is posed by Gabi in Japanese, and once again Hang-woo transmits the answers to Bang through the earpiece and Bang parrots. At this rate, they probably think Bang is a prodigy – though it becomes clear to us that Hang-woo is probably some sort of prodigy himself, for being fluent and eloquent all on the fly.
Even Hang-woo is impressed with Bang’s parroting skills. He thinks aloud, “Well, not shabby at all for such a shabby-looking guy.”
…Only the problem is, Bang parrots that same line to the panel. Ha! Luckily Bang gets a chance to shine all on his own, as he smoothly saves the situation by saying that he was sure that’s what all the judges were thinking. Good one.
There’s a really nice moment when we cut to Bang’s mom, coughing from an unknown illness as she cooks outside in the cold. We only see his dress shoes when he first arrives – the pair his father gave him – and then we pan up to Bang’s face. He’s come home in a suit bearing tangerines in order to tell his mom that he’s finally made it into Chun Ha. He can now get her medicine with an employee discount so she won’t have to worry so much. She’s so proud of him that she cries, and it’s one of the great emotional moments of the episode.
Before his first day of work, Bang meets with Shin in the Love Goods van for a debriefing. His top priority is to get into the strategy division of the company, which sits directly below the executive office. Of all the teams that work within the division, the special affairs team is their goal. What do they do? Exactly what the name says – special work. Oo, this sounds fun.
All new employees are put on a sort of trial period, so Bang’s first goal is to make it through alive. He’s already got some tensions with his manager, who is sure that Bang had some connections to get him into Chun Ha – there’s no way he could have done it on his own. “I’m sorry that all I have is a really high IQ,” Bang replies solemnly, but it’s said with such seriousness it makes me laugh.
Everything seems to be going as usual for an executive office, but Bang isn’t the only one who got accepted to the company. A loud ruckus distracts everyone from their work as white-gloved deliverymen bring in Yeo-chi’s custom desk, custom chair, and various other accoutrements she demanded to be set in the middle of the office. She’s soon to follow, hating everything (as usual). And the walls? Paint them pink, she says. Bang’s shiny new shoes become her victim as she stomps out of the office. Aww, and on his first day of work.
Yeo-chi doesn’t miss any opportunity to torture her peers, and takes over the physical training room as her own personal play room. She wants all the new recruits to call her the head director, and when they show the slightest hesitation she tips them over like a stack of dominos.
She’s just on the other side of the room when Bang and his manager enter, talking busily to a friend. Bang only sees a piece of cloth sticking out of the wall, and innocently uses it to clean off the scuff mark she left on his shoe. Only she doesn’t know her dress is otherwise occupied, and when she takes a step forward…
Ahaha! Again? Really? I love it. Just like the fountain mishap, Bang once again becomes responsible for tearing her skirt off. Landing on the floor, she looks more surprised than upset as she screams, “Did I do something really bad in my previous life to deserve this? Why do you keep doing this to me?!” I really hope this stays as a running joke.
Cut to: Yeo-chi in a Kill Bill tracksuit. Pahaha. She’s going to get her revenge on Bang, but not by her own hand – she orders his manager to spar with him. After all, only sixth degree black belts get hired, so Bang needs to be tested. His manager doesn’t seem to keen on the idea until she threatens to fire him, and then he’s all business.
When asked if he practices judo or taekwondo, Bang replies that he doesn’t really specialize in any particular martial art. “More like practical fighting,” he says. Which really just means fighting dirty. He starts to go into what seems like a severely long story about his past, telling of how he once fought seventeen people at once, and then he asks his manager, “If each of those seventeen people hit you three times, how many times are you hit?”
His manager thinks on that problem for a hot second, and Bang uses the distraction to kick him square in the balls.
Haha. Okay, Bang may not be the sharpest guy around, but he’s not without his own tricks. Even Yeo-chi has to acknowledge that Bang won the fight, but then she starts to go into her own story. She may not have fought seventeen men like Bang, but she’s fought three at once. She asks him how many times you get hit if three people each hit you six times…oh dear, we know where this is going.
And Bang gets a taste of his own medicine, or Yeo-chi’s foot straight to the crotch. She’s emerged from the fight as the winner, and is more than happy to finally get revenge for the two times she’s been publicly stripped. I love that these jokes aren’t one-offs, and that they get pulled through the story and used by different characters. So. Fun.
Time for a completely necessary broody shower scene with Hang-woo, as we find out why he’s so intent on bringing Chairman Jin down. It turns out his father committed suicide, and the reason had something to do with Chairman Jin. Hang-woo swears revenge for his father, promising that the man responsible for his death will pay dearly.
Meanwhile, a shadowy figure goes into the secret drug room, enters in the password that changes once daily, and steals a vial of Eternal Youth.
Bang has been assigned by his manager to keep tabs on Woo-hee, the head researcher from the Eternal Youth drug trial. Chun Ha is pretty sure that they have a spy within their midst, although the chances that it could be Woo-hee seem to be slim. Bang decides to enjoy himself at the bar she’s currently trying to get drunk in, much to the chagrin of his manager.
Hang-woo has been keeping close tabs on the situation for Jang Cho’s side too, and the moment that Bang leaves the bar (after reporting to Shin, who Bang still thinks is an NIS agent) he swoops in to play smooth operator.
Woo-hee is completely trashed, and Hang-woo drinks tequila like a champion in the adjacent seat. He asks her if she recognizes him from the clinical drug trial. At first it seems like she does, but then she blurts, “Did you really like that girl?” Aww, she’s confusing him with whatever man broke her heart (and presumably is the reason she’s drinking herself silly). Hang-woo tries to make her feel better by telling her that she’s pretty when she wonders aloud if she’s ugly, but she responds by breaking down into sobs.
He’s not there just to lend a stranger’s shoulder to cry on, and uses the time while she’s distracted to drop a drug into her drink. She promptly passes out.
Though it seems like Bang left Woo-hee at the bar under Shin’s orders, his conscience gets the better of him and he decides to head back. He can’t leave a girl that drunk on her own because he thinks it’s too dangerous for her to walk home. Aww, that’s somehow cute.
Hang-woo is already on the job though, and Bang’s eagle eyes spot him carrying the unconscious Woo-hee away from the bar. He immediately recognizes Hang-woo from the trial, while Hang-woo tries to claim that he’s taking her home because he’s her boyfriend. Bang calls shenanigans, and declares that Hang-woo can’t take her until they set the record straight.
Setting her down on a nearby bench, Hang-woo poses a question to Bang. “Do you know how many bones there are in the human body?” he asks. “No, I don’t know,” Bang replies. “But have you ever fought alone against seventeen people?”
Haha! Bang is a lot quicker than I first gave him credit for – I think it’s brilliant that he immediately recognized the fighting tactic Hang-woo planned to use and responded in kind. Hang-woo may be some sort of genius, but at least on this level, the two are evenly matched. This is going to be fun.
I’m really starting to like Bang, and I think it’s mostly because of his earnestness and genuine moral core. While this episode wasn’t quite as quirky and outlandish as the first, it worked well to ground the characters a little more in order for us to see what really makes them tick. We still got the funny, but it’s nice to see an emotional undercurrent emerging – like Bang’s past with his father, explaining to us why it’s so important for him to become a salaryman. The best thing is that he’s a salaryman with a twist (because how would it be as fun otherwise?), now working as a corporate spy. Of course, he believes he’s spying for the good of his country and not for a rival company, but it’s entertaining either way.
Even Yeo-chi, who’s a spoiled brat beyond all comprehension, still manages to seem like a real person. The writing team takes these characters close to the caricature cliff but never throws them over, and it’s something I really admire. We’re not supposed to like Yeo-chi, but I can’t hate her either – even when she cooked one of my favorite characters. I’m really interested to see how she learns and grows because she’s Just. So. Terrible. Truly, props go to Jung Ryeo-won, who’s playing Yeo-chi with such aplomb that it looks like it’s fun to be an actress. Because seriously, I would not want to piss her off.