History of the Salaryman: Episode 9
Any drama that uses “Welcome to the Jungle” effectively and convincingly wins serious brownie points – and it was in that moment that I remembered why I love this show so darn much. We’ve got more drunken shenanigans than you can shake a camera at, high stakes bets, and fancy parties that actually look super fancy (and not like, say, our high school prom). Bang takes a step up as he works to protect his job and the everyman, love lines are crossed, and it’s a general good time all around. Looks like it’s going to be another great week for History of the Salaryman.
Also, apologies for the lateness of the recaps this week. I was struck with a bad bout of food poisoning and – let me tell you – watching all the vomiting that went on during this episode was not easy. Even though it was really entertaining. Long live Yeo-chi, the drinking queen!
EPISODE 9 RECAP
Bang’s bout of heroics land him and Yeo-chi in hot water, as they’re both duct-taped and strapped into her Mercedes. Ha! It’s nice that the show is being realistic on this one, since we knew that Bang couldn’t possibly take down all those gangsters with a broom.
Both men realize that they know each other, and exchange strained greetings. The last time they saw each other, Bang was tied up in a similar way. Hilariously, when Yeo-chi asks how Bang knows the gangster/businessman Paeng-wol, he answers that it’s due to a man who died after a sudden sharp pain (leaving out the whole hemorrhoids part that had him in stitches back in the big house). They bicker like children as they get towed away with her car.
We pick up where we left off at Woo-hee’s story, with Hang-woo walking in as she’s getting sexually assaulted by her boss. He has a poker face firmly in place as he tells them that he doesn’t care what they do – they just need to control themselves on company property. Wait, What?
He leaves, and her boss goes running after Hang-woo while she’s left to crumple to the ground in shock – and who can blame her? What a horrible experience, and then to be treated so coldly afterwards is like hurt on top of hurt with a side of shame.
It’s unclear what Hang-woo thinks, since he’s loathe to even look at the report Woo-hee made once he’s in the car later. Even his driver asks if something unpleasant happened, to which Hang-woo offers a half-hearted denial.
Meanwhile, the Chun Ha rivalry has gone public, with Bum-jeung and Jang Ryang left to face the press alone. When the reporter asks which team they think will produce the company’s new vice president, Jang Ryang replies: “The vice-presidency isn’t what matters. What matters is the process where we respect each other.” Hahaha. They pretend to take loving photos together, all the while trading underhanded blows through fake smiles.
Bang’s job rises or falls on reviving the Incheon Factory, but his every effort is hindered by the factory chief, Oh Gwang. (We’ll just refer to him from here on out as Chief Oh.) His attempts to garner the attention of the factory workers are futile, as Chief Oh even speeds up the assembly line so that the sound of machinery will drown out Bang’s voice.
After Bang has yelled out a lung, Bun-kwae grimly informs him that no employee heard a thing. Bang: “Why not?” Bun-kwae: “I think it’s because of this conveyer.” Pfft.
Bang goes direct to Chief Oh to try and convince him that his plan to halve the factory workforce is the only way to save the factory. Chief Oh has seen too many of his colleagues fired and refuses to fire even one more, so they’re at an impasse.
Bang and Bun-kwae are sent back out with nary a well wish, and Chief Oh even orders that Shin (who has disguised himself as a Mongolian) speed up the conveyer belt and blast the music. The song of choice? “Welcome to the Jungle”. It’s so fitting for this scene it blows my mind, as we get a glorious slo-mo/fast-mo montage of Bang and Bun-kwae giving their all to rally the troops. I love you, Salaryman.
One look between Bang and Chief Oh lets us know that it is on. The argument gets taken to the lunch room, where Chief Oh tears up any and all forms that Bang tries to disseminate among the workers. Bang firmly believes he’s doing the factory a good service, but Chief Oh’s argument hinges on this question: what if cutting half the workforce doesn’t save the factory? Will he cut another half? “Cutting people blindly isn’t management,” Chief Oh says. Gauntlet, meet Thrown.
Hang-woo and Bum-jeung meet with Paeng-wol and his mob underlings in order to broker a deal for his support in an upcoming Chun Ha deal. Their party is crashed (or gets a kick start, depending on your thinking) when Yeo-chi arrives, ready to put the gangster in his place for tying her up and towing her away. How does she plan to settle the score between them? A drinking contest, using cold noodle bowls filled with soju. To approximate, that’s two bottles of soju per bowl.
The deal? Winner takes all, and the loser has to do whatever is asked of him. Hang-woo and Bum-jeung are clearly not keen on this bet, but Paeng-wol has a drinking reputation to uphold as well as his pride. “This is the most exciting drinking game ever since I lost my hair,” he says. Ha!
Bum-jeung goes down first, leaving Hang-woo, Yeo-chi and Paeng-wol still in the game. All of them are understandably trashed, though they’re at different levels of functionality (and haven’t we all been there). Yeo-chi and Hang-woo share a moment where she asks him if there’s anything he can’t do, and he says there is: he can’t lose. The moment Hang-woo looks like he’s about to blow chunks, Yeo-chi sidles in for a “proof shot”, and he hilariously poses for the camera.
Yeo-chi pretty much dominates, as she even tracks down Paeng-wol, who attempts to sneak outside in order to vomit. Faced with potentially losing to a woman (gasp), Paeng-wol swallows his vomit. Oy, I feel sick now too.
She gets her proof shot with a wasted Paeng-wol, and he finally does end up vomiting. She’s nice enough to pat his back for him, but fails to notice when he falls into the water. Emergency services later arrive to cart off both Paeng-wol and Bum-jeung.
Yeo-chi drunk-dials Bang to come get her because she’s cold, dizzy, in pain, and can’t breathe. He simply tells her to forget it, to which she replies: “But I only have you.” Awww. Break my heart, why don’t you?
This still isn’t enough to sway Bang, but even in her drunken state Yeo-chi proves she’s sharp as a tack. She lies that Woo-hee is with her and is also drunk as a skunk, which is a surefire method of getting his attention.
Next thing we know he’s looking expectantly into the windows of Yeo-chi’s car, expecting to see Woo-hee but disappointed that it’s only Yeo-chi inside. She flat-out asks him if he likes Woo-hee, but he deflects the question by being nervous and asking where it is she wants to be taken. Pouting slightly, Yeo-chi wonders aloud what it is that makes Woo-hee so pretty. What about her?
Bang starts to answer honestly, but sees that Yeo-chi has passed out (she’s faking it). “Talking about prettiness,” he says, “you’re second to none too. But you’re prettiest when you’re asleep. I wish you’d just sleep like this all the time with your mouth closed.” Haha. And aww.
Hang-woo’s chauffeur gets him a drink meant to help sober him up, and explains that he found out that Woo-hee and her boss have some bad blood between them after he paid a visit to the lab. When Hang-woo hears that Woo-hee reported her boss for sexual harassment, his entire demeanor changes into one of disbelief and anger. (Ah, so he didn’t know what was going on earlier.)
He tries calling her – seventeen times, in fact – but she declines each one.
Woo-hee is then surprised to hear a knock at her door – and she answers in the hopes that it’s Bang. Instead she gets a drunk-off-his-bum Hang-woo, who declares in a slur that she’ll work in the strategic resources department from now on. He does have a heart!
He leaves right after, and Woo-hee watches from her window as he wobbles down the street. He’s hilarious, and Woo-hee begins to wonder if maybe he likes her. But then she thinks it couldn’t be possible. But wait! It could be. Either way, she’s happy.
Woo-hee arrives in the strategic resources department the next day for work, and Bang thinks she’s there to see him. Yeo-chi manages to woo Hang-woo over into fully accepting her as a member of the group because she won the bet – and she has pictures to prove it.
Thus they all end up meeting awkwardly in the middle of the office. Hang-woo’s response to seeing Woo-hee is simply to walk away, while Yeo-chi pulls Bang aside to lecture him about separating work and personal matters. The strategic resources department is not the place for him to date. (Jealous much?)
The two men find each other in the bathroom. Hang-woo arrogantly informs Bang that his little plan to save the factory won’t work, to which Bang replies using informal speech. Hang-woo raises a fist to hit him, and Bang even dares him to do it so that he can spread the rumor that the general manager hit an employee.
But then, Bang uses the opportunity to hit him first – and is it now a running joke that Hang-woo must get one nosebleed per week? Either way, it’s a good moment for Bang…
…Until we see Hang-woo alive and well, and realize that it was all a dream. Aww. Bang goes back to being subservient and kind, while Hang-woo calls people like Bang a cancer to society.
At the factory, Bang speeds up the production line to the point where their products could suffer. Chief Oh comes in in an effort to stop the conveyor belt, but Bang uses the chief’s words against him about being unable to stop the conveyor belt once it’s started. He uses this time to make his point again – that if they can’t get workers to walk out, they can’t save the factory. Still, Chief Oh refuses.
Bang is forced to be just as stubborn, if not more so, than Chief Oh – because his job is on the line too. The bet has already been made that whichever team loses Chun Ha’s Innovation Contest will lose their jobs, so now we’re seeing Bang in crisis mode.
Unfortunately, even Bun-kwae has to bear the brunt of the workers’ anger as he finds his car defaced and his tires slashed.
Bum-jeung and Paeng-wol are still in the hospital from their alcohol binging, and Paeng-wol isn’t happy about it. Bum-jeung gets a jab in about how Paeng-wol lost in a drinking contest with a girl, and that same girl appears to collect on her bet. The loser does everything the winner says, remember?
I’m sure Paeng-wol wishes he couldn’t remember, but Hang-woo soon arrives to correct Yeo-chi on what she’s asking of Paeng-wol (currently, it’s the bidding rates for Chinese corporations). Hang-woo wants Paeng-wol to use his connections to introduce them to Chinese heads and cosigners, and that he’ll receive a commission for his work.
In an effort to win over Chinese distribution bids, Hang-woo holds a large meeting with possible Chinese distributors so that he can offer production rights to Chun Ha’s products. Yeo-chi looks upset and disgusted, throwing away the pamphlet that’s handed to everyone. Whether this is because she’s losing her personal bet with Hang-woo or because of differences of opinion, we have yet to know.
Hang-woo gives the businessmen three days to decide on whether they want to sign a distribution contract with Chun Ha or not.
Yeo-chi’s ire isn’t lost on Hang-woo, who makes it a point to find her after the meeting. He tells her that this is how business is conducted, and therefore it’s the reason why this same business has no room for an amateur like her. She informs him that he doesn’t have any contracts in his hand quite yet, to which he replies that they make a bet. Winner takes all, loser has to do whatever the winner wants.
Though they’re smiling about possibly besting each other, from a ways off it looks like they’re flirting. This is what Woo-hee sees with a crestfallen expression.
Hang-woo and Woo-hee end up having a fancy but awkward dinner later that evening. Her spirits are clearly down as she picks at her alarmingly-yellow soup, and she begins to belittle her aptitude for the position in front of him – clearly testing his reasons for hiring her. He keeps using the excuse that he’s her superior so he can do what he wants, which is sort of adorable for him since he gets flustered so easily around her.
When she gets a call from Bang she purposefully answers it all cute and cheerfully to get a rise out of Hang-woo, and it works. She still leaves him at the table for Bang, though.
At a much simpler table setup, Woo-hee tears into her food voraciously. When Bang asks her how she can still be hungry when she just came from dinner, she replies, “Actually, the person who makes your heart feel comfortable is the best.”
She even goes so far as to ask Bang to feed her, which he does with glee. What they don’t know is that Hang-woo is watching them through the window (like all proper second leads must do at least once.)
When Bang and Bun-kwae gave their progress report to Jang Ryang, they noted that the only oddity with Chief Oh is that he wouldn’t go home directly after work – he would go to a storage room instead. It’s that same storage room that Shin ends up breaking into, and the factory workers immediately blame Bang and Bun-kwae – who show up for a meeting without knowing that they’re in for a fight.
Luckily, Chief Oh shows up to stop the skirmish before things get too ugly – though it looks like Bang and Bun-kwae were ready to throw down. I love that these two have now become such a functional team. Chief Oh entreats them to return what was stolen from him – a blueprint. Of course, since they didn’t do the stealing, they have no earthly idea what he’s talking about.
Gabi has been working on her own for most of this episode, whether it be digging up dirt on Hang-woo or coming upon Chairman Jin giving himself a shot that looks to be insulin. It’s clear that she’s interested in the vice-presidential seat, but she’s gunning for Yeo-chi, probably because she thinks Yeo-chi is someone she can control. Good luck with that.
It’s been three days, and Hang-woo’s team is waiting anxiously to see if his bet on the Chinese distributors is going to pan out. Yeo-chi can only think of winning their private bet, because if Hang-woo loses she’ll fire him. Unfortunately for her, Paeng-wol has pulled some strings and there’s a line of Chinese distributors waiting to submit their contracts to Hang-woo.
In the storage room that Shin practically destroyed, Chief Oh explains the reason why he would come here every night. It’s been explained in this episode that Chief Oh is some sort of award-winning medical mastermind, and so he tells Bang and Bun-kwae that he was working on a groundbreaking medical product that had the ability to save the factory from Bang’s restructuring plan. It’s clear that the chief cares the most for those colleagues that have been unjustly fired, so his dream is to bring all of them back to work.
Bang promises that he’ll help, even though the blueprint has been stolen. That product is now their last hope to win against Hang-woo.
It’s time for another fancy dinner with Chairman Jin, with the only other attendee/wine server being Gabi. Chairman Jin seems fine with Hang-woo’s distribution contract with the Chinese production companies, which allows Hang-woo to ask if he can use this hall to entertain their Chinese guests. Chairman Jin obliges.
When the vice-presidential seat is brought up, inevitably, so does Yeo-chi’s name. When Chairman Jin asks what Hang-woo thinks about her, he simply replies: “She’s terrible.” Ha! Chairman Jin agrees. Although he tries to defend his granddaughter, Hang-woo isn’t having it. “I’m sorry. But I have not one ounce of interest in Baek Yeo-chi.”
Once outside, Gabi stalls Hang-woo from boarding the elevator by letting him know that she’s found out an interesting factoid: “Choi Ja-ryong. One who left the world twenty-six years ago. Your father. You’re not the only one who sees through me. You must have quite the grudge against the Chairman. Why do you insist on choosing Chun Ha Group?”
Effectively having been called out, Hang-woo calls her bluff. She can go ahead and tell Chairman Jin about his father, it changes nothing.
Hang-woo and Yeo-chi continue to prove just how much they don’t like each other, as they even trade barbs while they prepare for the party with the Chinese distributors. She continues to delay them by waffling on her outfit choices, and Hang-woo finally tells her that he wouldn’t care even if she were walking around naked, so she can wear anything and hurry the hell up. I just love the look she gives him in response.
Because he now has Chairman Jin’s approval, Hang-woo calls on Paeng-wol to dismantle the Incheon factory. I’m no factory-dismantling expert, but this seems like a bad idea.
The party is extra fancy, the dress is black tie, and Bum-jeung carefully informs Hang-woo that the host of the party is expected to start the dance – so he reluctantly offers his hand to an equally reluctant Yeo-chi. Meanwhile, Bum-jeung is happy to offer his hand to Gabi, looking equally stunning as Yeo-chi in a brave blue number.
I have to admit, Yeo-chi and Hang-woo cut a fine figure together. Though they’re going through the motions, their talk is all business, as Hang-woo reminds Yeo-chi about their bet. Yeo-chi asks him what it is that he wants, and he responds that he’s still thinking about it. Woo-hee, attending only as a waitress, once again looks on the two of them and thinks they’re having a more intimate moment than they are. Yeo-chi, at least, is having a bit of a moral crisis – since she asks if he has to destroy the Incheon factory. According to Hang-woo, yes. Yes he does.
To juxtapose the nicely lit and quiet party, we cut to the front of the factory. Paeng-wol has brought all his gangster minions against Bang and all the factory workers, and it looks like it’s going to be an epic fight. Paeng-wol declares that he’s taking over the factory, and gives them only ten seconds to disperse.
Bang stands his ground, and adamantly declares that he won’t move even if he dies and that Paeng-wol can do as he wishes. Paeng-wol, never one to back down from a challenge, sends his army of minions forward.
Bang readies for battle.
Whoo! I just can’t say enough how much I love how simple corporate battles get played out here like sageuk political scheming, with action to spare. I remember reading press material before Salaryman aired in which Jung Ryeo-won described this show as a “drama buffet”, where anyone can find their genre of choice to enjoy: comedy, action, suspense, and romance. This drama is all those things and so much more, and the way those genres are handled so deftly just has me floored and clamoring for more.
Each episode has an after-credits epilogue, and I feel like today’s is worth noting (though they’ve all been stellar): Yeo-chi returns to the pizza parlor that she was shooed away from when her and Bang were homeless, and she’s brought a band of homeless people to fill the restaurant. She wants it all charged to her card, and makes sure that the store owner recognizes her – because she’d told him, when he chased her away, that he’d regret it if he knew who she was.
I love that this epilogue served two purposes: one, to show how much Yeo-chi has grown as a character in her consideration toward others, and two, that the scriptwriters behind this show don’t write throwaway lines. The fact that this tidbit was brought back in such a satisfying way, even if it has no real bearing on the story, just warms my heart.