History of the Salaryman: Episode 3
Love love love love. There wasn’t really a doubt in my mind, but this episode really sealed the deal.
When you give me an underdog hero being heroic just because his insides are made of heroic gold, I’m pretty much sold. Bang is an unlikely find in the ‘favorite heroes’ department, but maybe that’s why he shines so brightly. He’s not a chaebol, a tool, or a chaebol that’s also a tool. He’s just a normal guy who happens to be a genuinely good person. That’s a lot harder to find than it sounds.
EPISODE 3 RECAP
After both men pose potentially testicle-crushing math questions to each other, Bang draws his foot back to prepare for the kick… only Hang-woo is too smart for that, and answers the math question in the blink of an eye. Bang takes it in stride, and poses another equation as he gets ready… and Hang-woo solves it again before Bang can kick. Ha!
Hang-woo’s had it with this act, and tells Bang to stop with the tricks. Third time’s a charm, as Bang uses the time Hang-woo is chiding him to finally deliver that kick square into Hang-woo’s family jewels. Hang-woo goes down, inevitably, but before Bang can further defend Woo-hee’s honor he’s swiftly knocked unconscious by Shin with a taser (in the dining room!).
We find out through a flashback that the drug Hang-woo slipped into Woo-hee’s drink came from his brother, who painstakingly acquired it from the CIA. It’s truth serum in pill form, and he sets to interrogating her the moment they’re alone in a hotel room. She doesn’t end up delivering all the answers that he wants before she’s hit with a sudden wave of nausea – and he hilariously attempts to stop her from vomiting his only truth serum pill by covering her mouth with his hands. I love it – it’s such a fun way to subvert the truth serum trope. Either way, it looks like it’s going to be a losing battle.
Shin is there when Bang wakes from his electric-shock-induced slumber. Bang is a good guy at heart and wants to do the right thing immediately – which in this case would mean reporting Woo-hee as being kidnapped when his manager from Chun Ha calls. Shin claims that it was a national order (to kidnap Woo-hee), to which Bang replies, “How is the nation so idle, to sit there and give out that kind of order?” Aww, he’s not a total fool.
Unfortunately, using blackmail in regards to Bang’s job tends to work. When he answers his manager’s call, he claims that nothing went amiss and Woo-hee is fine.
Speaking of Woo-hee – she wakes up the next morning in the hotel room dressed only in a robe. When Hang-woo emerges from the shower she feigns sleep, but uses the time his back is turned to smash a flowerpot over his head. He doesn’t even flinch.
He wonders if she recognizes him from the drug trial (she does), but she’s no less horrified and scared. While she attempts to defend herself with only a TV remote, Hang-woo’s responses seem to stem from sheer curiosity at her behavior. He’s the victim here, as he tries to explain. If it hadn’t been for him last night, there’s no telling what could have happened to her. Oh, right – you mean after you drugged her?
Hang-woo finally notices something amiss… it’s blood, dripping down his face from the head wound she delivered. He seems upset that this is how she repaid his favor – and I can’t tell whether this is all part of the act, or whether he’s genuinely taken aback.
She checks his phone to make sure he didn’t take any photos or videos of a night that she can’t remember, and he does seem genuinely surprised that she’s so distrustful – has she never met a proper guy before? Regardless, he put his number into her phone, so if ‘King Kong’ is the name that comes up then it’s him calling. Haha, what? That’s what he named himself as?
Declaring that she never wants to meet him again, Woo-hee asks to split the hotel 50/50 and takes her leave.
It’s the start of a new work day, and Bang is all smiles and greetings as he shows up in a suit and backpack, looking like a kid going to school more than a grown man going to work. His smile fades when he sees the Vice President, Ho-hae, as part of Chairman Jin’s slow-motion entrance entourage. To the man who denied him a job, Bang proudly flashes his employee badge. How do you like them apples, Ho-hae?
Bum-jeung is just one of the many who has taken notice of Bang, and not on a good note. He knows that Bang couldn’t have entered the company on his own, but Bang’s manager is without the power to fire him. Their plan? To get him to quit, by appointing Bang as Yeo-chi’s new personal assistant. His new job will be to make sure she stays out of trouble. (To which I say: good freaking luck.)
As usual, Bang takes any job with all seriousness and dedication. He shows up at Yeo-chi’s door with his game face on, reporting that she has ten minutes to show up for work. If he fails, he’s fired – so this is life or death for him. When she starts to complain, he simply informs her that she’s taken up one minute out of ten. This pairing might just work, because Bang looks like he has no intention of taking any crap from her – he’s got too much at stake.
Cut to: Bang carrying a kicking and screaming Yeo-chi into the office, still in her strawberry hair rollers and pajamas. The ruckus is enough to gain everyone’s attention, and Yeo-chi is beyond furious (and cursing even more than usual). The moment he sets her down she slaps him hard, but it’s completely ineffectual on Bang. She then orders him to lower his eyes… which he does, but his gaze inevitably goes straight to her breasts. “You told me to lower my eyes,” he defends innocently when Yeo-chi is thoroughly scandalized.
Once she’s left alone at her desk, one thing becomes very clear: This means war.
Yeo-chi takes it upon herself to answer incoming phone calls, deliberately trying to sabotage every single one. One of the callers speaks English, and when he asks to speak to the man who’s phone she’s using she gleefully replies that she’s sorry, he died. When the caller asks if she’s kidding, she responds that she is and gets bleeped out by the censors before she hangs up. She’s amazing. She literally does everything she can to be a complete menace to society – including shredding important documents for her grandfather with smiles and laughter. Despite her outrageous behavior, however, no one is willing to fire her.
Chairman Jin gets the word that his granddaughter is causing madness and mayhem, but poor Bang is the one forced to pay the price. He’s just getting a warning today, but his job is in danger if he can’t keep Yeo-chi in line.
Bang gets called to the cafeteria, where Yeo-chi’s rampage continues – this time she’s hired a team of chefs to deliver her lunch, replete with a violinist nearby. With his standard-issue lunch tray, Bang plops into the seat across from her and attempts something she may not be used to… reason.
She knows that her behavior will cost him his job, and doesn’t care. Bang wants to reach a peaceful agreement since he’s in a precarious situation as well, as he’s of the mind that they don’t have to cause each other to bleed like this. Cue blood dripping from Yeo-chi’s mouth from her raw steak, which she happily notes as being the best part of the meat.
When Gabi comes to report that Chairman Jin has summoned her, Yeo-chi gives Bang a victorious look – only made creepier by the blood on her chin.
Now we get to the heart of why Yeo-chi feels such a need to rebel against her grandfather – and it’s because she holds him responsible for the death of her parents. Grandpa Jin defends himself by saying that her dad’s death was a suicide and her mom’s was a drunk driving accident, but Yeo-chi is quick to respond that it was he who told them to go out and die. So they did.
Apparently, he allowed his daughter to marry the man she chose because they claimed they couldn’t live without each other. But he considered his son-in-law as less than a dog because he lacked ‘competence’, which again he defends by saying that her dad just couldn’t endure and so he died. He has no regrets, because that’s how his company has survived. And that’s exactly why she hates his company.
Grandpa Jin even goads her to try and take revenge on him, if she dares – except he doesn’t think she could even if she tried, because she’s the child of that incompetent and feeble father of hers. Oooooouch. Good gracious, Chairman Jin, maybe try easing up a little on being a complete tool.
Yeo-chi promises to remember what he said.
Woo-hee is freaking out now that she’s discovered a vial of Eternal Youth missing from the super-secret storage unit. She wants to alert the higher-ups, but her chief talks her out of it – only the two of them know the code, so they’d be the first ones blamed. It so happens that right at this time Woo-hee receives a call from ‘King Kong’ – aka Hang-woo – and promptly declines.
On the other end, Hang-woo is mystified. A woman declining him is a first, so what’s the only reason he can think of? “Maybe she’s a woman who has some mental or physical issues.” Haha. I do feel sort of bad for him, though. He thinks she’s just playing a game to protect her pride, but it’s clear he’s trying to protect his a little more.
Hang-woo is called to be at the side of Chairman Oh, who’s decided to play a friendly high-stakes card game with Chairman Jin, who’s brought Gabi along. And what do supremely rich people gamble on when there just isn’t enough money to bet? Land deeds and golf memberships, of course. Must be nice.
They both go all in, with Chairman Jin ending up victorious. Even Gabi, normally stoic and all-business, gets so swept up in the game that she’s screaming and cheering for the win as much as Chairman Jin.
Once again Hang-woo’s brother has come to his aid with more spy gadgets – this time, with a jewel necklace outfitted with a hidden camera to give to Woo-hee. Once she receives it (addressed from King Kong), she gives him a call, wondering what she’s supposed to do with this knock-off. Doesn’t he know she’s not interested in him?
This makes Hang-woo visibly uncomfortable, as he’s clearly floored that she has the gall to refuse such a nice gift. These words clearly do not compute with him, and he almost loses his lunch when she accuses him of being a clingy stalker. Upset, he tells her to do what she wants with the necklace – throw it away, even – and hangs up, his little feelings hurt.
All hope is not lost, and there’s some pride still to be had – Hang-woo returns to the Love Goods van to find that Woo-hee has put on the necklace he gave her. Now they can see everything that she sees, and it’s not long before Hang-woo gets all the information he needs – including the passcode – to Eternal Youth’s storage room.
Yeo-chi runs out of the office the moment the work day has ended, and Bang finally gets a reprieve – what she does on her own time is not his job. Unfortunately he’s called by Shin to do more spy duties, and this time it’s to steal his manager’s entrance badge into the research facility. He’s the most obvious, most terrible spy ever, but he manages to steal it nonetheless.
He’s starting to get suspicious of Shin though, and is reluctant to trade the badge so easily. After all, he’ll have to live off a salary for the rest of his life – so if Shin is planning on stealing the drug from Chun Ha, he’ll end up going down with the ship. Bang is still under the belief that Shin works for the National Intelligence Service, so Shin only has to accuse Bang of being unpatriotic in order to get the badge.
Naturally, Shin delivers the badge to Hang-woo, who’s planning on infiltrating the drug facility himself. He knows the layout best from the clinical trial, and there’s that matter of revenge, too.
At the same time, Bang’s manager is upset to be running errands for the higher-ups of Chun Ha, who know that there is a spy amongst them. Thus, he and Bang are once again roped in to keep an eye on Woo-hee. Chun Ha isn’t using Bang because he’s the best for the job, but because he’s on his trial period and can be used and abused like an intern. His manager knows this and even feels a little bad for him.
Everything starts happening at once, with our characters on a collision course for each other. Hang-woo manages to successfully sneak into the Chun Ha Drug Research Facility, Woo-hee realizes that she left her necklace there and decides to return for it, and Bang has to follow her because he’s been assigned to tail her.
As Woo-hee is about to leave once she’s found her necklace, she sees something strange at the other, dark end of the lab – it’s Hang-woo breaking into her computer and stealing all her top secret files. It’s a series of near-misses as she keeps finding where he’s been only after he’s left, and this is especially the case when she makes it to the Eternal Youth storage room a moment too late, as Hang-woo has already stolen all the vials of the drug. He’s still in the room, and with his face half-covered in a mask he ties her up and throws her into a separate storage room with the promise that he’ll come back and untie her soon.
Hang-woo then walks through the lab with two spray cans, covering the nearby surfaces with a flammable agent as he goes. Once he’s on the second floor he pulls out a lighter, ready to set the place on fire and exact revenge on Chairman Jin for his dad’s suicide.
Only he’s stopped by Bang, who’s made it just in time. They get into a fight, and despite Bang’s efforts Hang-woo still manages to toss the lighter into the lab.
Their surroundings are set ablaze instantly in a fantastic sequence, and the two men continue their fight amongst the flames. In an effort to keep Hang-woo from running away, Bang rips the bag where Hang-woo has stashed all the Eternal Youth vials off, and it goes flying off into the first floor. Hang-woo tries to save the bag from falling until his arm catches fire and he’s forced to let go. All the vials of Eternal Youth burn up below.
Bang really put his Hero Pants on today, as he proves himself still unwilling to let Hang-woo escape. It’s only when the two men are in close quarters that Bang gets a look at his face – and even through the mask, he immediately exclaims, “You’re Number 22!” I love that they subverted the ‘Half Mask = Cloak of Invisibility’ trope, especially since Bang has pointed out things like this before.
When Hang-woo makes a run for it, Bang is left to save the damsel in distress. He does such a standup job, adorably administering CPR (not without informing her unconscious self that he’s doing it only for her safety) before carrying her out of the building as it explodes behind him. It’s like the best scene of an action movie, only funnier because it’s, well, Bang running in a suit, just being himself.
Our resident arsonist finds himself back in the Love Goods van, with only Shin to tend to his burn wound. He’s decently miffed that this is the second time Bang – a spy who’s supposed to be working for them – has ruined their plans. After all the recent seriousness, Hang-woo and Shin bring the comedy back with well-timed physical gags.
Chairman Oh is absolutely elated to hear that his mortal enemy’s lab has burned to the ground. He doesn’t even care that Hang-woo was unable to retrieve any vials of Eternal Youth – as long as Chun Ha no longer has it, they’re all set to take the top spot.
Chairman Jin, meanwhile, has collapsed at the news. He gets a second wind when he hears that one of the vials had been stolen before the fire even started – so as long as Chun Ha can locate that vial, they can save themselves from complete ruin.
Yeo-chi, who has come to visit her Grandpa, stops when she begins to overhear their conversation. She gets all the important points, such as the fact that they know there’s a traitor amongst them and that he/she might have that precious vial. If Jang Cho gets their hands on it, it’s all over. She doesn’t reveal herself after hearing this, and seems to be listening pretty intently. This might get interesting.
During a meeting with the higher-ups over the arsonist, Bang finds out that the infamous Number 22 is Jang Cho’s general manager, Hang-woo. This sends him straight to the Jang Cho building, where he fearlessly confronts Hang-woo while using his hand to cover parts of his face like the mask from last night. Bang exclaims, “You set the fire, right?”
Hang-woo looks like he’s going to deny it, and Bang grips his burnt arm – hard. Hang-woo doesn’t flinch, but it doesn’t matter. Bang knows he started the fire.
This is just like the face-off ending of the last episode, only there’s so much more going on now. How much do I love Bang’s heroism? Let me count the ways…
Early on in the episode I realized that I’d already come to like everyone – and that mostly stemmed from Woo-hee, who I think is a hoot. She’s more subdued than say, Yeo-chi – but from what we’ve seen so far she seems to be just this side of ditzy, despite her brainpower. What this show seems to handle incredibly well is establishing everyone’s separate personalities, and everyone feels so thought-out and real. Hang-woo, for instance, could have just fallen into the Cold Bad Guy character bin – but we see genuine pieces of just him shining through, regardless of the job he’s carrying out. Like when he starts to actually get mystified as to how Woo-hee could be turning him down – I like that he got a little prideful and emotionally invested in the job, simply because he couldn’t help it.
This show seems too good to have clear-cut, moustache-twirling villains, but it does seem like Hang-woo is being set up as the hero’s foil. Overall he has too many fun moments and is thus far way too likable – unless he really meant to leave Woo-hee to burn with the lab. I’m just going to think that he left her there because all his plans went to hell, especially since he was back to cracking jokes in the van afterward. You’d have to be really bad to crack jokes after potentially killing someone, right?
We’ve been seeing a lot of Bang (obviously), and while I first took him as just being relatively simple and funny he’s now shown so many more dimensions – a credit to the actor as much as the writing and direction. (The perfect drama trifecta strikes again!) This isn’t a case of him saving Woo-hee because he loved her or even liked her, but because that’s just who he is. He’s just one of those good guys, and the fact that I feel so strongly about him only goes to prove how happy I am with the whole production.