History of the Salaryman: Episode 4
As funny as this show can be, it also isn’t afraid to take us to some dark places – and that’s what makes the experience all the more rich and entertaining. We can have our band of misfit corporate spies led by an heiress who’s literally unaware that people can’t just wish money into existence – but that doesn’t mean we can’t have a heinous cover-up operation for a murder either. Just because we have some great shenanigans doesn’t mean we have to sacrifice heart, and that balance is what I love the most.
EPISODE 4 RECAP
Bang’s confrontation with Hang-woo doesn’t last long, as both men have proved they’re evenly matched. Bang is fearless as he accuses Hang-woo of setting the fire – and Hang-woo brushes it off like it’s no big deal. Because Chun Ha has worked hard to keep the fire under wraps, there aren’t any official channels Bang can go through. For now, they’re at a standstill.
Hang-woo gets the pleasure of cursing Bang later as he babies his burnt arm. Shin may be worried that Bang will tell someone, but Hang-woo isn’t concerned about someone like Bang. “It’s the ones who have little that tremble, scared that they might lose the little they have.”
It’s back to business for Chairman Jin, who’s now become intent on finding the spy that must be within their midst. Woo-hee is at the top of the list, as only she and Chief Kim knew the passcode for the Eternal Youth storage room. What Chairman Jin hates the most, he explains, are traitors – and he vows to annihilate whoever that traitor turns out to be. In the meantime everyone has to keep their mouths shut about the fire, or everyone will be forced to resign. Ho-hae: “Then we can’t catch the criminal.” Ha.
Tensions are running high, so when the already-volatile niece meets her already-volatile uncle in the hallway, things were just bound to go sour. Ho-hae immediately accuses Yeo-chi of setting the fire, which sparks her temper. “Why? Want to kill me too, like you killed my dad?” Her uncle fires off the same lines as Grandpa Jin – that her dad was an incompetent good-for-nothing, and everyone knew it.
She blames him and Grandpa Jin as the reason her dad ended up committing suicide… and Good Uncle Ho-hae backhands her really hard. Enough to draw blood. “Do you know what Mom said to me while dying? ‘Don’t take revenge. Because he is still my little brother.’ But now, those dying words of mom… I’m thinking about forgetting them all,” Yeo-chi tells him, showing no weakness.
We get another great emotional moment delivered by her character, as she manages to hold in her tears until she can be alone in the company stairwell. Even then, she doesn’t let a single one out willingly – and it’s a testament to her beliefs that she tries to be strong even when she doesn’t have to prove herself to anyone.
Here’s an unlikely partnership – fresh from the slap, Yeo-chi is filled with resolve to find the Chun Ha Spy (and more so than that, the missing vial of Eternal Youth). Bang’s manager, BUN-KWAE, is unfortunately drawn into the fold as her co-conspirator. Adequately creeped out by Yeo-chi’s sudden change in demeanor, Bun-kwae admits that it’s doubtful that just the two of them can find the spy.
The spy, according to Yeo-chi’s sharp instincts, is Woo-hee. And because they’re short on people they can trust, she volunteers Bang to join their secret team. Oh, this is going to be fun.
Bang is back at the hospital where Woo-hee is being treated, and gets an update on her condition from the doctors. She’s awake but pretends not to be, and makes her escape the moment Bang leaves the room to take a call.
Unaware, our hero hears from Bun-kwae that a vial of Eternal Youth went missing before the fire. Woo-hee’s their top suspect, so Bang is to keep a close eye on her and report any movements to Bun-kwae. At the news of this suspicion, Bang thinks back to when Ho-hae ordered him to steal the drug from the clinical trials – and that someone had to be on the inside in order to leave the gum on the toilet. It makes sense that it could have been Woo-hee, but he realizes it too late. By the time he returns to her room, she’s already long gone.
There’s no doubt about it now – a phone call between Ho-hae and Woo-hee reveals that she is, in fact, the Chun Ha Spy. She’s the one who absconded with the vial of Eternal Youth, and now to presumably pass it over to Ho-hae’s hands she goes to retrieve it from safekeeping at a nearby pharmacy. She retrieves the label-free bottle filled with Eternal Youth, and curiously also asks for a bottle of vitamins of the same brand that Bang had seen Bun-kwae take before. Conveniently, the bottles are the same size, shape, and color.
I’m. So. Excited. Our new underdog team has finally been formed between Bang, Yeo-chi, and Bun-kwae. Yeo-chi is the one wearing the pants in this outfit, and is now 100% sure that Woo-hee is the spy – otherwise there would have been no reason for her to have run out of the hospital. Bang, in a moment of plain empathy, wonders aloud if Woo-hee committed a crime just because she didn’t want to be monitored. Yeo-chi jumps all over him for it, accusing him of defending Woo-hee needlessly.
She informs Bang that it will be his job to stick to Woo-hee for twenty-four hours in order to find out where the drug is. The normal threat is given – if he doesn’t do it, he’ll be fired.
When Bang asks a question we’re all wondering – why does she suddenly care? – she responds that she wants to find the drug so she can make a deal with Grandpa. She wants to leave forever and never come back. Hilariously, Bang and Bun-kwae respond by silently cheering behind her back. Oh my goodness. Can they remain together forever?
Woo-hee attends a secret meeting with the two co-conspirators of Chun Ha – Bum-jeung and Ho-hae. She’s upheld her end of the agreement by swiping the pills – except they openly shortchange her, which she notices swiftly when she gets the statement for $300,000 and notes that there’s a zero missing. They pretty much just shrug it off – that’s all she’s getting, and she can take it or leave it.
With tears brimming, she declines an amount she considers paltry to the work she did as well as the value of the vial. When she leaves, Bum-jeung conveys his concern that she might cause trouble and suggests to Ho-hae that they just give her the three million dollars they promised. Ho-hae doesn’t see her as a threat, so he couldn’t really care less now that he has such a useful bargaining chip in his hands.
The best/worst/funniest spy team ever have assembled themselves beneath a camouflage tent, one that allows them a perfect view of Woo-hee’s apartment. They try to use a long-range microphone along with their binoculars and keep blowing out their own eardrums. I really like this version of Yeo-chi, as she’s still a riot – but at least she’s a productive riot.
They’re able to listen in on a phone call Woo-hee receives from her dad, and it becomes clear that this is where all her money is disappearing to. Her eldest brother caused trouble again so her father asks for a bigger allowance, leaving Woo-hee to lament that she can only afford to eat ramen. Bang understands her sad situation the most, and finds her circumstances pitiable.
While Woo-hee heads off to transfer the money her father asked for, Bang and Yeo-chi keep watch nearby. Being the perpetually rich and sheltered brat that she is, Yeo-chi scoffs at Woo-hee’s plight. Who needs an advance over a mere five grand, anyway?
Bang takes offense, because his dying mother used money she needed for medicine to buy him a suit for his first day of work – and he couldn’t even afford to buy medicine for her in return. Yeo-chi seems genuinely mystified when she asks him why he lives that way… as if Bang could just choose not to and solve all his problems. When he tells her that it’s because he doesn’t have money, Yeo-chi again proves she has no knowledge of how poor people exist when she asks, “Why don’t you have any money? If you have no money, you can just sell a diamond or a gold bracelet.”
Bang explodes, “This is why everyone says your hapless and avoids you!” Can’t argue with him there.
Bang is honest with Woo-hee when it comes to admitting that he’s there to monitor her for twenty-four hours on company orders. This doesn’t come as a surprise since she’s known that the company has had her tailed, and she reluctantly lets Bang into her apartment while sequestering herself in her own room.
He’s surprised at how dirty her apartment is, and chides her even as she disappears to hide the bottle of Eternal Youth among her other vitamins. He rolls up his sleeves and sets to cleaning her apartment from top to bottom, even scrubbing the floor on his knees. Aww.
The fact that Woo-hee was too poor to eat anything but ramen was not lost on Bang, who bought groceries specifically to cook her a full-fledged meal. The happiness with which he goes about his work is endearing, even though Yeo-chi seems unenthused about the whole situation. Bun-kwae wants to go home since Bang is holding down the fort fine on his own, but Yeo-chi absolutely refuses to let them out of her sight. “Move in with her already, why don’t you!” she exclaims… Wait, is that a hint of jealousy?
Woo-hee has no intention of coming out to eat despite her hunger, and there’s a funny horror-movie-like scene when she presses herself up against the door behind him while he eats. Bang makes the biggest deal over the food in an effort to get her to join him, but it doesn’t look like she will.
The second the lights go out in the apartment Yeo-chi goes on red alert, using the long-range microphone to listen in on Bang and Woo-hee. While Bang uses a roll of toilet paper as a pillow in her living room, Woo-hee sneaks out in the middle of the night to eat the meal he made. Unfortunately for her he’s awake, and uses that time to question her.
He knows that she was the one who stuck the gum on the toilet in the testing lab, and that she had a recent meeting with Ho-hae. However, he blames her for nothing and understands her completely, stating that poverty is the crime and that people like them always end up doing what others say, because they’re salarymen/women. Even though he understands, he still asks her to hand the drug over to him – because he knows from first-hand experience that Ho-hae can’t be trusted. Woo-hee seems to waver a bit, but then replies that she can take care of herself.
Back in her room, we see in flashback what we knew to already be true – that Woo-hee switched the multivitamins for Eternal Youth, and that the pills she gave Ho-hae were fakes. She assures herself, “As long as I have this, I can do anything.” She’s going to try and change her fate, the very same fate that Bang just reiterated to her.
Bang and Woo-hee get a rude awakening the following morning. It’s Yeo-chi with a task force, and she’s come to tear Woo-hee’s place apart in order to find the Eternal Youth. With a little wiggle room before she had to emerge from her room, Woo-hee is able to first hide the pills in the modesty pillow she carries before she transfers them to Bang’s backpack – just as Yeo-chi catches on. Every bottle of anything is confiscated from Woo-hee’s apartment, and once she’s outside, Yeo-chi orders that someone else be assigned to watch Woo-hee. Hmm, I wonder why…
Woo-hee now faces a dilemma. The Eternal Youth pills are now in Bang’s backpack, now physically on his back, and she can’t retrieve them without suspicion. She turns on the charm with a smile that doesn’t reach her eyes as she asks him to stay. Bang, mystified at her sudden change in demeanor, steps closer to her before he asks, “You fell so deep so fast?” HAHA! Romantic music begins playing in the background, and I love that Bang treats Woo-hee’s ‘interest’ like it was just an inevitability – he just can’t help that he’s so irresistible.
He gives her his business card so she can call him, and she shows her frustration only once he’s gone.
After a rather strained meeting with some potential investors, Chairman Jin attends a business briefing hosted by Chairman Oh and Hang-woo. Once he’s alone with Chairman Jin, Hang-woo alludes to the lab fire that no one’s supposed to know about. Chairman Jin has been around long enough to know what game Hang-woo is playing, and assures him that the lab didn’t house the only prototypes of the drug. This gets Hang-woo thinking, and though their meeting ends on a sour note, he overhears Chairman Jin mentioning the missing vial to his secretary, Gabi. I wonder if he’s aware that she beat the tar out of two of his employees just because they broke one of her heels.
Hang-woo thought all the Eternal Youth to be had burned in the fire, so he immediately places a call to Shin. He has to fact-check this missing vial matter with Bang.
Bang hasn’t been answering Shin’s calls, and is plain with the reason why. He realizes that right after he gave Shin Bun-kwae’s badge a thief broke into the lab and caused the fire. Shin claims it’s coincidence, and asks about the missing vial of Eternal Youth. Who does Bang believe to be the perpetrator? Who might have it now?
Naming Hang-woo as his chief suspect, Bang causes Shin to become visibly uncomfortable. Shin decides that running away will solve the problem of Bang’s suspicion… only in his haste, he tumbles down the hill bicycle and all. It’s a purely physical gag, but it was terribly funny.
Throughout all of these bad spy movie encounters, at least Bang has begun to suspect that Shin might be working with Hang-woo. Hooray for Bang!
Ho-hae’s on the war path now that he believes Eternal Youth to be in his possession, and this time he’s set his sights on Hang-ryang. He more or less threatens Hang-ryang into handing over top secret Chun Ha financial documents, which Hang-ryang doesn’t seem intent on doing.
He’s interrupted by a call from his brother, Hang-woo, informing him that one vial of Eternal Youth still remains. He’s charged with finding out who stole it – but by the change in the Secret Financial Documents conversation afterward, I get the feeling Hang-ryang already has a good idea of who it is.
Hang-ryang tells Hang-woo everything he knows once they meet in person. He’s sure that Ho-hae has the drug, and that he plans to sell it abroad before using word of the lab fire to cause the Chun Ha stocks to drop. Then, he’ll be able to buy them all with the funding from selling Eternal Youth and effectively usurp Chairman Jin.
Hang-woo offers to infiltrate Ho-hae’s house to retrieve the drug, but Hang-ryang refuses. Through a bit of exposition we find out that they aren’t blood brothers, but have considered each other real siblings over the years. Hang-ryang, as the hyung, feels a debt to Hang-woo’s dad that he wants to repay by doing the dirty work on this one. He’ll find the drug.
At home in his tiny apartment, Bang discovers the bottle Woo-hee planted in his bag. He has no suspicions whatsoever about it, as Bun-kwae was using the same multivitamins the other day. Believing the bottle to be a gift of vitamins (as opposed to Eternal Youth) from his team leader, Bang decides to save it to give to his mother. Aww.
The next day, Bang marches straight into Ho-hae’s office the minute he hears Yeo-chi incriminate the vice-president as the drug thief. Ho-hae blusters and threatens Bang, who faces him fearlessly and asks that the drug be returned. In the face of Ho-hae’s wrath, Bang bravely declares, “If we die together, you have a lot more to lose.”
Ho-hae becomes genuinely surprised at Bang’s tenacity, and asks him what stake he could possibly have in all this. Bang plans to prove his merit to all those who doubted him and his ability to succeed.
It’s a dark and stormy night as Hang-ryang goes through with his plans to retrieve the Eternal Youth drug from Ho-hae. He pretends as though he’s brought the secret financial documents to seal the deal, but in reality he’s brought only his resignation letter hidden in the briefcase. The moment he gets his hands on the drug he attempts to simply walk away, as though Ho-hae would just let him resign from Chun Ha and steal the drug.
With Ho-hae’s temper, the two men engage in a knock-down, drag-out fight that’s far from the comedic scuffles we’ve seen before. Ho-hae has a physical advantage working for him, and grabs Hang-ryang in a chokehold that seems to be killing him. With survival instincts and adrenaline firing on all cylinders, Hang-ryang desperately grabs for the nearest blunt object…
…And clubs Ho-hae in the head with it. So this is how the opening sequence murder happened. To Hang-ryang’s credit, he seems genuinely shocked that Ho-hae died from the blow – I don’t think he meant to kill him so much as to stop himself from being killed – and calls Hang-woo, his whole body shaking. “I killed a person. Jin Ho-hae. I killed Jin Ho-hae.” He’s holding the drug bottle, completely unaware that what he’s holding isn’t the real Eternal Youth.
Awwwww. Woo-hee is completely playing on Bang’s trusting nature, as he believes himself to be on a genuine fancy date with her. She’s only interested in his backpack to retrieve the drug, of course, but he doesn’t know that and is extra adorable for it. There are such nice little details to this scene too, like how out-of-place Bang looks with his coat hanging on the back of his chair in such a nice place.
Knowing exactly what she’s doing, Woo-hee openly invites herself to his house for a beer. He’s pleasantly surprised by her forwardness. It’s not like he can decline a guest…
Unfortunately, their date is interrupted by a phone call. Hang-woo has gone to Shin to plan out damage control for Ho-hae’s murder, and so Shin tells Bang that he was right – it really was Hang-woo who stole the drug. (Oh dear.) In fact, he’ll be out for a business trip, so Bang is given his address to go retrieve the drug… uh oh.
When Bang has to suddenly leave, Woo-hee is completely taken aback that she went through all the trouble of taking him out on a date with nothing to show for it.
The address Bang believes to be Hang-woo’s turns out to be Ho-hae’s, and he’s been officially had. Yeo-chi, acting under her assumption that Ho-hae had the vial of Eternal Youth in his possession, had already broken in to try and find the drug so that she’s there by the time Bang enters. We see the opening scene from the first episode replay before our eyes, only now we know that it’s all a setup by Hang-woo to frame our hero.
I had almost forgotten that every moment since the first five minutes of episode one have essentially been one long flashback. It’s not super thrilling that we’ve ended up exactly where we started, but it works within the style of the show so far – like last episode’s cliffhanger (which was a redux of the cliffhanger before it), what we actually know now makes the scene appear far more different. The visuals only work to heighten that connection for us.
The team formation between Bang and Yeo-chi was a real delight coming straight on the heels of their bitter rivalry in the previous episode. Yeo-chi is really the onion of this cast – and all her layers are being revealed perfectly through a great mesh of writing and acting. I’ve never really felt strongly for the plight of the Horribly Spoiled Drama Brat, but I definitely got on board for Yeo-chi’s journey pretty early on. And that was even before she started acting like a human being with feelings, so now I love her even more. Her jealousy, and her inability to leave Bang alone in Woo-hee’s apartment, really imbibed those spy scenes with something extra that I really responded to.
I’ve said it before but it’s worth saying again – I just love everything about Bang. I can’t get over what a refreshing change of pace he is in dramas… because he’s the nice guy. He’s all of the best things we find in second leads wrapped in a sweet, thoughtful, and dependable First Lead package. And for someone who usually suffers from Second Lead Syndrome, this means that I can just sit back and enjoy.