We’re filling in for Running Man this week, which girlfriday and I take on, Roulette-style. But fear not, your trusty Running Man crack dealer (aka gummimochi) will be back next week, keeping you in recaps!
EPISODE 80. Broadcast on February 5, 2012.
javabeans: Okay. Before we start, you’re going to have to explain to me the concept of Running Man, which I swear is not immediately evident just by watching. I know this because I tried to watch an episode once, totally cold, but quit halfway through because I didn’t get it. I know there’s a mission and guest stars and running, and that’s about it.
girlfriday: There’s a whole lot of running, and some new version or twist on the same game every week: they chase each other and rip off nametags till last one standing. There might be a whole series of little mini missions on the way, but they hardly count, and usually, the endgame is a version of this basic setup.
javabeans: Nametags? So it’s like flag football meets capture the flag?
girlfriday: Yeah basically. They wear velcro nametags on their backs, and if someone rips off your name, you end up in jail. The twists come in various forms: sometimes there’s a spy, or guests show up unannounced and suddenly start hunting you, or you suddenly have superpowers, or some combination thereof. The thing is, the game doesn’t really matter. It’s sometimes funny, and sometimes just run-run-run. The cast interactions are where it’s at.
javabeans: I swear that’s basically the crux of all Korean variety.
girlfriday: Yup. Pretty much. There you have it.
javabeans: So this episode starts out with limos pulling up to some fancy-looking cathedral-like building. Is that the tinkly music from Hana Yori Dango playing in the background? How random. I swear, sometimes it’s convenient having the music memory of an elephant (ironically, I have to ask — those are the good-memory animals, right?), and sometimes it’s just distracting. Because if it sounds familiar, I have to figure out why, and I can’t proceed until I do.
girlfriday: I’m pretty sure it’s elephant: good, goldfish: bad.
javabeans: Sadly, my facts-memory is goldfish level. And that’s the useful one.
girlfriday: Mine’s goldfish on normal days and amoeba when I’m drinking.
javabeans: I love that we have proof of that on DB, to show that no, we are not exaggerating. Okay so out of one car steps Go Ara, and I know enough about this show to know she must be our guest.
girlfriday: She’s given a Charlie’s Angels-type opening credit, so clearly that’s our theme for today.
javabeans: But why do they have to say her name all embarrassingly, with Westernish accent and all? Is it that weird Korean thing of co-opting something cringeworthy from the West and assuming that makes it witty?
girlfriday: That’s some strange trend, of using the gyopo accent in songs and stuff. It’s like postmodernist slang.
javabeans: But being contrary for the sake of contrary doesn’t automatically equal cool. Hipster rule does not apply for all things!
girlfriday: Because if everything is ironic, nothing is sincere! Okay, now WE’RE going off the rails…
javabeans: You mean sixty seconds into an episode is too early to be off on such a tangent?
girlfriday: …is what I’d say if I could remember why I’m here.
javabeans: I’m already sort of getting that Running Man is a showcase for big stars, which is sort of unusual in the talk/variety world where the regulars are… I don’t mean B-list in a derogatory way, but… less than A-list.
girlfriday: It’s actually become a big platform for movie/drama promotions, because all it requires of stars is to play the game. It’s probably less pressure than a straight-up talk show, because what if you’re horribly unfunny? Here they can just edit the hell out of you.
javabeans: Right away I can tell that Go Ara must have a movie out, which I guess even before recalling that yes, there’s the recent Pace Maker and Papa. It’s sort of like the Letterman/Tonight Show/Daily Show circuit here, in the way that you gear up for the press cycle, prepare some funny things to say, and then whoosh, you’re done until the next project.
girlfriday: It’s a strange hybrid show that way, because sometimes I much prefer the episodes with no guests, but then you occasionally get a gem like crazy Choi Min-soo or whatever.
javabeans: Second to make her entrance is Im Soo-hyang, whom I immediately recognize as that annoying New Gisaeng Story actress from our Strong Heart Roulette. Is SHE following us around now? And how are these actresses going to run around in stilettos?
girlfriday: What is it with Variety Roulette and the faces that haunt us?
javabeans: It’s a small world after all?
girlfriday: Great. Thanks for sticking that song in my head.
javabeans: And the creepy dolls. Can’t forget those. Third “angel” is T-ara’s Hyo-min, who brings up the age issue, wondering if Ara is her unni. Turns out she’s the oldest (though not by much — they’re all ‘89 or ‘90), so Ara makes a point to tease her, pointedly calling her unni.
girlfriday: They get their mission for today — the three guests are the spies, which means they’ll play the entire game pretending to be members of other teams, but in the end they’re the real team that needs to survive till the end.
javabeans: Do the team members know that there are spies in the mix, so they might suspect anyone of being one?
girlfriday: There isn’t always a spy, but yeah, they basically always suspect everyone. Because it changes from week to week, and so does the number of them.
javabeans: The three guests are also given the hint that Charlie (who has communicated to them via distorted voice) is one of the regular members. He knows who they are, but can’t tell them. So they have to find Charlie, while obstructing the team from their mission.
girlfriday: There’s a hilarious cut to blank faces, like they can’t process all this information.
javabeans: Maybe they’re too young to know who Charlie is? That’s sad. For me, I mean, not for them.
javabeans: The members arrive to find an empty table supplied with milk and morning pastries. I love how excited Jong-gook gets, wondering if they’re going to have a “meeting” (group blind date). And then Haha comes and totally geeks out at the sight.
girlfriday: Hee, they must’ve told them to dress old-school, ‘cause Jae-suk shows up in this awesome getup that screams ‘80s.
javabeans: Haha, they look like something out of an ‘80s production of Guys and Dolls or something. It’s retro upon retro. Was this some elaborate way to produce the awkward scenario of dressing like the year your guest was born?
girlfriday: Pffft. Kwang-soo, why are you always such a nut? He’s the maknae but he looks forty.
javabeans: The guys erupt into cheers upon hearing that the concept IS, in fact, a meeting, and that the guests are “stars to watch in 2012.” Ha, but Ji-hyo brings them down to earth by pointing out that there are only four milks on the ladies’ side. Two boys are gonna get left out of the fun.
girlfriday: She predicts the obvious conclusion: that Kwang-soo and Suk-jin will end up a couple. Heh.
javabeans: Is it weird that the moment Guest #1 steps through the door, the first thing that gets shouted at her isn’t “Hi” or “Welcome” but “She’s prettyyyyyy!”
girlfriday: Oh that’s pretty much a given here: if you’re a pretty girl, the boys will just scream and fight over you all day.
javabeans: Lol at all these old-school kpop songs from the nineties. Kang Suji, remember her? Makes me feel ancient. Hyo-min is second to join them. I presume the cockblocking is also a regular occurrence: Kwang-soo freaks out when last guest Ara arrives (well, everyone does), and Haha has to point out that Kwang-soo likes Lee Yeon-hee. (Whom you could call the Christina to Ara’s Britney.) Lol.
girlfriday: Suddenly it’s celebrity-crush-outings everywhere.
javabeans: Aw, Jae-suk’s comment about Jong-gook liking Yoon Eun-hye totally takes me back to X-Man days. Man, that pairing was epic.
girlfriday: He actually blushes and gets mad! Hee.
javabeans: First instruction of the meeting: The ladies will put one personal item onto a tray, and then the guys (who aren’t allowed to peek) pick one. Wait, did someone actually put in a hair extension?! Wtf?
girlfriday: Ew. So because the numbers aren’t even, two of the items belong to staff, and the guys who pick those items get paired together.
javabeans: Now, the pairings: Hyo-min cops to the hair extension, but I’m going to be slightly relieved that her hair’s in pigtails, meaning at least she didn’t take it directly off her head. Ha. She’s matched with Gary. Suk-jin, who chose lip balm, is the first to hit a dud. Aw.
girlfriday: Pwahaha, he whines at the PD (whose lip balm it was) that it’s a girl’s item, and the PD just answers, “Because my lips are precious,” like a line out of a commercial.
javabeans: Adding insult to injury, Ara says she uses the same lip balm herself. So close, but so far. Jong-gook is next with the ponytail holder, and Jae-suk quips, “Is Eun-hye here?” You KNOW your variety coupling was powerful when people are still joking about it six years later.
girlfriday: His reaction makes it so fun to make fun of him — he’s all shouty and defensive.
javabeans: I find it interesting that if you compare the reactions, it seems like common belief that Ara is the most desired. She’s probably the highest-profile, but it’s still kind of weird to me.
girlfriday: Yes, that’s totally the read I’m getting from the guys.
javabeans: I mean, she’s my favorite too (in that I know her the best, since I’ve been seeing her longest) but you’d think they’d be savvy about how that reads with the other two ladies. Like, they might not want to be so obvious about it.
girlfriday: I think you’re overestimating their maturity levels.
girlfriday: Jong-gook gets paired with Ara, and the rest of the guys drown in misery. Haha especially looks like he could use a drink.
javabeans: And then he picks Ji-hyo as his partner and deflates. Hey, it could be worse. You could be with Suk-jin.
girlfriday: Woot! I love it when Ji-hyo and Haha get paired together. They’re like the anti-couple of this show. So awesome.
javabeans: The bickering is super cute already. Her item was a health tonic packet, so he nags, “If you’re feeling bad, go home!” Jae-suk gets paired with Soo-hyang, leaving Kwang-soo with his manbro Suk-jin.
girlfriday: Ha, Ji-hyo was right after all!
javabeans: Does this happen a lot?
girlfriday: Let’s just say that if it were ladies’ choice (which it sometimes is), you’d get the same result.
javabeans: The first destination is given and everyone races toward the man holding the sign, and it’s madness as they turn round in circles trying to figure out the fastest way there. The boy duo gets there first and receives a clue. They’re to go barefoot in search of quiz questions, and must answer correctly before moving on.
girlfriday: There’s snow on the ground and they’re running around barefoot?
javabeans: Ha, a producer says that IF they want to be all chivalrous and piggypack a partner, they’ll allow it. Well, that just makes you a dick if you don’t, now doesn’t it?
girlfriday: Which explains the laser-eyes that Jae-suk shoots the PD. Haha forgoes chivalry, ‘cause it’s just Ji-hyo, while the rest of the guys struggle to piggyback their partners.
javabeans: I love how Gary picks Hyo-min up and immediately exclaims, “Oof, heavy!” on impulse and quickly corrects, “Sorry! I mean, oh how light!” Wait, so does this mean that the guest spies should be trying to impede their partners?
girlfriday: They should be, but I don’t see much mission-thwarting going on right now. Unless asking for a piggyback counts. Everyone searches for quiz questions, and Kwang-soo and Suk-jin are the first to find one. Too bad they get it wrong. Back they go.
javabeans: Gary and Hyo-min find their clue next and head to Quiz Central.
girlfriday: They actually get an easy question: name the mascot of the ‘88 Seoul Olympics. Gary gets it right away — Hodori — and assures her it’s an easy one. Hyo-min: “Podori?” Sigh. They really ARE young.
javabeans: Cue montage of them, and subsequent couples, getting questions wrong. Jae-suk and Soo-hyang are among the last to start the quiz, but they get their answer right on the first try and move on to the phone booth to receive their next clue. Soo-hyang answers, and gets Charlie on the line to instruct her to play spoiler with the hint. After she gets the hint from the PD, naturally Jae-suk asks about it. She fumbles at giving a vague answer, but at least he doesn’t question it.
girlfriday: Ara must’ve forgotten her spy job, ‘cause she just tells Jong-gook everything. But once they’re in the car, he says that these games are never what they appear to be. “Ara, you aren’t a spy, are you?”
javabeans: She does a pretty good job covering, saying confusedly, “But… they’d tell me that, wouldn’t they?”
girlfriday: Oh nice. She plays the innocent card so well that the ever-suspicious Jong-gook just lets it slide at that. Or he just thinks she’s super pretty.
javabeans: You believe what you wanna believe, huh? Hee.
girlfriday: They move to the next location, where Jae-suk and Soo-hyang arrive first. A PD comes up and measures their temperatures as soon as they walk in. Huh?
javabeans: Damn, that’s a hard mission. You have to dance enough to raise your temperature a whole degree (Celsius). Is that healthy?
girlfriday: That does NOT seem healthy. Or likely. I think it’s one degree between the two of them as a pair, so at least there’s that? Still…
javabeans: Soo-hyang raises hers by 0.2 degrees… which is the exact amount Jae-suk drops his temperature. Whuh?
girlfriday: Who drops temperature doing cardio?
javabeans: The funny thing is, you know there were a bunch of producers testing out this mission beforehand. Now that’s what I wanna see.
girlfriday: I wonder if this game really WAS tried out. It seems like it’s a twist on the better version, when they hook up an opponent to a pulse monitor and the other person has to make ‘em angry or hot and bothered to win. This one just seems impossible.
javabeans: Haha actually puts his body close to the lights hoping for some heat transfer. It transfers… exactly zero degrees. Next to arrive are Jong-gook and Ara, and she dances all out, arms wayyy out. I’m liking her a lot based on this appearance, actually — she’s so game to try stuff.
girlfriday: Yeah she’s spunkier than I thought she’d be.
javabeans: It’s always a nice surprise when they’re not super self-conscious and just go for it. Let’s see if it paid off. Her temperature raises… 0.1 degrees, and Jong-gook’s not at all. Okay, this game is rigged to fail, right? Or is this an easy way to fill broadcast hours?
girlfriday: I think we’re past that, and into badly-planned-game territory.
javabeans: Is Hyo-min adorably dim or what? First there was Podori, and now her temperature is taken and deemed (a normal) 36.1, but she exclaims all worriedly, “I have a fever?!” Then again, she’s the first one to point out, “If I raise my temperature 1 degree I have to go to the hospital,” so maybe she’s also the smartest.
girlfriday: I love that Gary just gets fed up and calls her whiny, to her face, in front of everyone. Ha.
javabeans: They’re hilarious-cute together, though. They get the song “Roly Poly,” and I love that even though it’s her song, she’s dancing like a five-year-old at a party, not like sexy idol singer. It’s funny, all the ladies have raised their temps, and the men have all stayed the same. Soo-hyang actually raises hers by 0.5 degrees at the next reading, and the others quip that it’s out of embarrassment — she’d done a “sexy dance” that was so unsexy they’d all ribbed her for it.
girlfriday: I’m certainly embarrassed for her.
javabeans: Kwang-soo and Suk-jin dance, and I swear, Kwang-soo looks like a man who has lost control of his limbs. Or, perhaps more accurately, a robot that has fried its motor-skills chip. It must work, though, because they’re the first team to pass, upping 0.6 degrees each.
girlfriday: It cracks me up that everyone’s been at this for what seems like hours, and Kwang-soo and Suk-jin show up last, do one half-assed comedy-dance, and win the game.
javabeans: At least now we know it’s possible, and this spurs everyone else to go crazy in a massive group dance session. Haha cries, “This is the first time I’ve forced myself to play around!”
girlfriday: Jae-suk and Jong-gook are so hilarious when they dance. They COMMIT.
javabeans: Kwang-soo and Suk-jin get their hint about the last couple standing being the winner (which I thought was something everyone would already know, no?). They head over to the next destination, and are confronted with 100 models at the pool. Er…? They try to figure out what the point is, but are happy enough to drool over models in a pool. So now, we set up the two conflicting missions: The members believe that in order to win, you have to be the last couple with the nametags intact. The spies have their secondary mission, which is to rip nametags from everyone but the three of them and Charlie.
girlfriday: You see how no matter what other games they play, it doesn’t matter, and it’s all about ripping nametags off at the end of the day? It’s strange to me why they bother with the other stuff.
javabeans: The interesting thing is the conflict of interest — pretending to go after your fellow angel, but really waiting to turn on your cast-partner. But if you leave the nametag-ripping to somebody else, you skirt that problem. I wanna see conflict!
girlfriday: The wrench in this game is Charlie. The spies don’t want to take Charlie out of the game, but they don’t know who it is.
javabeans: Are the models purely here to distract? It seems so… transparent. Though I guess Haha is plenty distracted.
girlfriday: Yeah they often times fill a place with extras just to make the nametag game that much harder. I love that Ji-hyo calls him out on it, while he swears he was totally staking out a good place to protect her from. Hahaha. I could watch these two bicker forever.
javabeans: Hyo-min and Gary crack me up. They look like a normal young couple, but then they start talking, and she’s a five-year-old with strange questions and he’s the harried grandpa telling her to hush up. “Where does the water come from? What causes the fog? Is it cold? I’m cold! What if I can’t see?” “STOP WHINING!” “But there are so many things I want to know.”
girlfriday: She totally means it too.
javabeans: The other couples have converged and are warily circling, watching their backs. Ara’s scoping out the group for a potential Charlie, while Soo-hyang seems to have ruled out her partner Jae-suk. It looks like Soo-hyang and Ara give each other the look — “He’s not Charlie, go!” — so Ara lurches forward and pulls his nametag. Since it’s blank on the flipside, they know he’s not Charlie and they’ve deduced correctly. Soo-hyang puts on this whole innocent shocked face, like, “OH! NO! My partner is down!”
girlfriday: Ara plays up the innocent act with Jong-gook as well, all “Was I not supposed to do that?”
javabeans: I love how all the boys are kind of shocked at her ferociousness, and she’s like, “I just pulled the one I could reach! Tee-hee!” Jae-suk is sent to “jail,” stunned speechless at the swiftness of his exit.
girlfriday: Haha and Ji-hyo ask how it went down, and Ara starts to explain, but she overdoes it. Ji-hyo starts to get that suspicious glint in her eye, and then suddenly Haha blurts, “It’s Charlie’s Angels!”
javabeans: Note that in Korean, that title is not “Charlie’s Angels” but literally “Trio of Beauties.” I’m assuming Charlie can’t actually say the words “Charlie’s Angels,” because that’s breaking the rule, no?
girlfriday: Ara tries to keep a straight face as she shoots down the idea. Hm, is he giving her a hint that he’s Charlie? Or is he just being Haha, and shooting an action movie in his mind as usual? He totally suspects her, but crumbles under the cute, and turns to Ji-hyo: “Why don’t you do that?” *evil death glare* Haha immediately salutes in allegiance to her. Heh.
javabeans: Hyo-min and Gary have been hiding in the pool, and she spots Jong-gook approaching. He must look scary because she immediately starts whimpering and pleads, “Save me.” Haha. Ara and Jong-gook find Gary cowering in the sauna, and they grab for him. He tries to dart past them, and in that split second you see Ara mentally weighing whether he could be Charlie. She decides no, grabs the tag, and phew! Not Charlie.
girlfriday: Ha, the girls are terrible at acting like they’re sad about their partners being killed off.
javabeans: I’m starting to wonder if Jong-gook really is Charlie, because Ara is busily trying to cover her bloodthirsty tracks by acting innocent (“I’m just playing the game!”) and he’s encouraging her to keep playing fiercely.
girlfriday: I dunno, ‘cause either way, he thinks he’s winning the straight-up version of the game. So far, anyway. Also, I think Haha’s comment can’t go ignored. (Meanwhile he hides while trying to persuade Ji-hyo to go out and get all the nametags: “God gave you strength, so you should use it!” Ji-hyo: “What were you given?” Haha: “Shortness!” Ha.)
javabeans: True. Hyo-min and Soo-hyang, who are both partnerless now, put their heads together to try to figure out who’s Charlie. They decide to test Jong-gook by mentioning a dog named Charlie, and just then he appears around the corner and eyes them. Ara’s just behind her partner, but she must have decided he isn’t Charlie because she gives his nametag this hilariously greedy look. (Jong-gook had encouraged her to pull the girls’ nametags, saying men are weak against women. Not something Charlie would say…) Ara goes in for the kill (I love how quick and decisive she is) but Jong-gook feels the pull at the last minute and whirls on her, shocked. So now the girls run after him, like a murderer trying to finish the job: “GET HIM!” HAHAHA. He runs off, gasping, “She’s scary!” She kind of is.
girlfriday: Jong-gook goes on the run, and passes by a closed snack stand on the other side of the pool. It happens to be where Haha and Ji-hyo are hiding out. They spot him, and prepare with weapons (bendy straws, to do what, I don’t know). But then as they bend down to peer out, Ji-hyo eyes Haha’s nametag. Sneaky! She is SO Charlie!
javabeans: Hee! So Hyo-min was right when she said that Ji-hyo would be the least suspected, since they’d automatically think Charlie was male.
girlfriday: So true! Just as Haha calls out Jong-gook’s name, she rips his nametag off with an evil grin. Silenced. She ain’t the Ace for no reason. I love that she orders them to kill the lights, just to be extra creepy.
javabeans: Jong-gook has guessed that the three ladies may be spies, despite their attempts to scatter immediately so that Ara is the only one suspected. Jong-gook has heard Haha calling to him and suspects something’s happened, but Ji-hyo’s inside the stand, muffling his mouth so he can’t give her away. The three ladies see that Haha has been caught, so that solidifies their suspicions that Ji-hyo is their contact. But they’re not sure yet until they approach Jong-gook and mention “a dog at home named Charlie.” It’s Ji-hyo who replies with “a cat at home named Charlie,” and the alliance is soildified. The ladies corner Jong-gook and pull his tag, and do a victory dance-hug. Okay, I love that Jong-gook was schooling Ara about how men are weak to the ladies, and he’s the one who fell victim.
girlfriday: It’s always his weakness. He can overpower anyone, but girls are his blindside.
javabeans: Now Kwang-soo and Suk-jin are left wondering what happened to everyone. They see Ara approaching, and I crack up at how she keeps up the innocent facade (“Oppa, it’s not me!”) while chasing after them for the kill. It’s hysterical. The ladies manage to split them up, and the three spies corner Suk-jin while Ara grabs the tag. I know it’s a game, but there really is a scary element to being surrounded and eliminated like that.
girlfriday: It’s totally that primal Lord of the Flies thing.
javabeans: Meanwhile, Ji-hyo chases Kwang-soo but plays it smart, acting like she thinks he’s the spy to deflect his suspicions. That lets her within arm’s reach, and she tells him all calmly, “You’re dead” and grabs for his tag… just as he reaches for hers and they fall to the ground, and that’s the end of the episode? No, just a weird commercial break I guess, because then Hyo-min and Soo-hyang join in to circle Kwang-soo.
girlfriday: Ji-hyo gets in the last kill of the night, and Charlie and her angels win the game.
javabeans: It was over the moment they walked in the door. These boys were no match for pretty girls with killer instincts.