Damn, I tried not to love this drama, but it just won’t let me. It’s friggin’ hilarious, and now it’s hooked me, good and proper. The last episode focused much more on our hero and the royal family, but this time we really get to know our heroine, and she’s pretty awesome. Plus, we get to the flirty a lot faster than I had anticipated, but hey, no one’s complainin’ here.
EPISODE 2 RECAP
Back on the floor of the women’s restroom, Hang-ah is on top of Jae-ha, which really isn’t as sexy as it sounds, ’cause she’s threatening his life with a smile. She asks if she should do as she was taught and kill him.
I love how very quickly he always shifts from blustering arse to meek kitten: “I’ll be good! Just tell me what you want and I’ll work hard…” She grins and un-mops him, saying that she’s kidding, of course.
She reaches out a hand to help him up, which makes him flinch in fear. Hee. When he doesn’t move, she stands him up by the collar and dusts him off, breezing that she wouldn’t kill him NOW—it’s the era of peace and reconciliation, no?
I seriously love her assassin doublespeak. Who talks about killing people like they’re trying to decide what to eat for breakfast? She feigns offense, “I’m not going to eat you!” and assures him that it was all in the name of getting along. Exactly—what’s a little death threat between friends?
Frankfurt. An old man lies in his sickbed, tended to by a team of doctors and his son. The son is our villain, KIM BONG-GU (Yoon Jae-moon), pen-stabber of yore.
The pen was actually a birthday gift from his father, who now apologizes for not being around. He then hands over his last will and testament, and tells Bong-gu that the club is now his.
He motions to the wall and Bong-gu turns on the stereo, as the camera pans out to reveal a humongous white room with nothing but a bed just hanging out in the center of it. Ha. This guy is insane. And I love how absurd this show is.
Secretary Kyu-tae reports to the king that the joint team for the WOC is on its way to getting approved. Jae-kang worries about Club M (which I’m assuming is a front for an international crime syndicate, otherwise people are strangely fascinated with a nightclub).
Anyway, he says that they’re the ones who have the most to lose with the WOC. Um… why? Because they thrive on international dissension and have their hands in everyone’s political cookie jars, in the form of lobbyists. Well thanks for the exposition, king, but I would’ve rather figured that out on my own.
*Thwack* I think I’ve hit my first logic hurdle, but this Club-M-WOC thing is just going to be our macguffin, so I’m just gonna go with it for now.
Bong-gu’s father asks for water as he hands over the will, so he goes over to the couch (about a mile away in the same room, ha) and calls for water… A woman who’s clearly dressed for assassin duty arrives with two associates and a cart to deliver the glass of water. Bong-gu sits with his back turned, clicking his pen.
And then she opens a case and takes out a syringe. She gives the lethal dose and dear ol’ dad starts to shake and gasp for air. Bong-gu starts rapid-clicking his pen as we get flashes of his past, and then shots of each of our main characters as adults—are they his point of view? Because then that’s extra creepy.
He doesn’t turn back once, though he tellingly click-click-click-clicks until Dad’s final breath leaves him. The last pen click rings with finality, and then suddenly he hops up from the couch, light on his feet, and suddenly SLIDES down to the main level like he’s celebrating.
Ha. Hahahaha. This guy is NUTS and a half.
Once he gets downstairs, he looks down at the ledger for M Society (which at least makes it sound more like a creepy Freemasons/Illuminati-type deal), and falls over in a fit of giggles. You sir, are a sociopath.
Jae-ha calls his hyung in a panic. Over video conference, he tells Jae-kang that they’re all out to kill him—the North Korean leader threatened him in the bathroom and Secretary Eun’s son held him at gunpoint. Uh… do you not see that Secretary Eun is standing right there, or is this a one-way video call?
The funny thing is, it’s all true, but Jae-kang just hangs up immediately and tells Secretary Eun to dismiss everything he said—they’re clearly lies. He refuses to take any more calls from Jae-ha, and has a mini hissy fit over his stupid kid brother.
Jae-ha walks down the hall of the dormitory with purpose, and looks at the new names on his door: Lee Jae-ha and Kim… Hang… ah? They’re ROOMIES now? I think I love this show.
He sighs and walks in to find Hang-ah packing away her underwear in a suitcase with a combination lock. He tells her he has no interest in looking at her underwear, but she locks it up just to be safe, saying that she heard South Korea’s got a lot of pervs.
He starts unpacking his skincare collection, and her jaw drops at the metrosexual explosion. She marvels at how there could even be that many different things to put on a face, and asks if she can use some.
He blocks her like a kid hoarding his toys, but then decides on second thought that he could get some petty revenge. He happily offers her a heaping handful of something. She puts it on and then asks why it feels so funny…
“Oops. I’m so sorry! That was shaving cream!” It’s not even that good as far as revenge plots go, but he gets a big kick out of it.
The team goes to their first strategy-training meeting, where the instructor tells them that teamwork is most important. And then out of nowhere, a shot rings out, taking out the lights above them. Hang-ah is first to react, turning towards the window.
A masked gunman crashes through the window, joined by two others. They shoot up the room as the team scrambles for cover, panicked. They shoot the instructor, and he falls to the ground in a pool of blood.
As Jae-ha freaks out and scrambles to try and escape, Hang-ah and her team give each other silent signals and attack. She gets one gunman cornered with his weapon, Shi-kyung does the same, and then Kang-seok finally overpowers the last.
He shoots… but the guy just stands there, unharmed. And then the not-so-dead instructor gets up, scaring the lights out of Jae-ha, who tried to crawl over his corpse to save himself.
It was their first test—to see how they’d react in that situation, which also leads into the second test, asking them to recall exactly how events unfolded during the attack. They’re given little toy soldiers to help with the reconstruction.
They start piecing together the events, with team leaders Hang-ah and Shi-kyung being precise and cool-headed. Suddenly Jae-ha gets up and says, “You’re forgetting the most important thing…”
He walks up the whiteboard, and in a very serious tone, starts drawing a venn diagram: two circles that don’t intersect, one labeled “Enemy” and the other “Us.” He then takes a red pen and draws a line dividing them.
“Stop them.” Pffft. “Without me.” Hahahaha. He leaves them in a round robin of sighs.
Hang-ah runs into Shi-kyung later, and asks what he’s going to do about Jae-ha: “He can’t even run a full lap.” But he gruffly tells her that he’ll do it his way, and cuts her off. She sighs as she sees him running extra laps that night, with full gear on.
Kang-seok joins her on the balcony and says that Shi-kyung’s the type to do everything the hard way—clearly he thinks that it’s his job to pick up the slack, and he thinks this’ll be enough.
Jae-ha joins them too, and Kang-seok asks if seeing his teammate picking up his slack doesn’t make him feel something. Jae-ha: “It does… I’m suddenly hit with the sense of what kind of person he really is… that guy’s crazy. He’s totally nuts!”
Kang-seok turns to Hang-ah, like what on earth are going to do with that guy? But she smiles and tells him not to worry—in a week they’ll be on their home turf.
Next thing we know, the team is on the bus, being escorted north of the DMZ. Jae-ha is a nervous wreck. Kang-seok takes the opportunity to boast about his country, with Young-bae joining in adorably.
But Jae-ha takes jabs at everything, making fun of the signs they pass on the road, like one that’s pro-reunification, using a slogan about the procession marching on despite the dog that barks, a metaphor I don’t quite understand, but neither does Jae-ha.
He quips: “What, is your leader a dog?” Fu-uuuuuck. He really has the most appalling foot-in-mouth syndrome. The whole bus goes silent, and Kang-seok throws down his hat.
Shi-kyung is quick to get up and puts a hand on Kang-seok’s arm. But he just glares back. Everyone holds their breath as Jae-ha stammers defensively, “What, are you going to hit me?” Yeeeaaah… I think he’s gonna.
But Hang-ah defuses the potential explosion and tells Kang-seok to return to his seat. I love that she doesn’t even turn around, like a schoolteacher telling her rowdy kids to behave. He whines but she reminds him that they ought to take care of their guests, and Jae-ha lets out a big puff of air in relief.
They arrive at their military base and Jae-ha checks out his room with skepticism, marveling at all the red (it really is just covered in Communist Red). He sighs at the dinky tv and then hears something outside.
He looks out to see the rest of the team around a campfire, as Hang-ah sings for them. Aw, she’s so cute, like a little fifth-grader at a talent show, with her hands folded. She sings her song and then they urge the southern soldiers to return with a song of their own.
They hedge, not sure what to sing, but their hosts insist on a song, citing bad manners. I guess some things are the same, no matter which Korea you’re in. The third member of the southern team (Yeom Dong-ha) urges Shi-kyung to play the guitar, and they start to sing.
Shi-kyung is timid at first, barely singing, but then he starts joining in, and before they know it, he’s belting out the song by himself, and everyone’s jaws drop. He really does have a swoony voice, as I’m sure all the What’s Up watchers can attest.
Hang-ah totally melts, and who could blame her? But from his window, Jae-ha watches with a pout. Suddenly the song comes to a screeching halt with a loud phone call. Everyone gets jerked back into reality, as Shi-kyung answers his phone.
It’s Jae-ha, of course, calling to be a killjoy. He whines that there’s nothing to eat, wanting to be fed like an overgrown baby. The rest of the team shares their sympathies that Shi-kyung’s got it rougher than they thought, having to deal with Princey. Hang-ah thinks of something and a devilish grin spreads across her face.
Jae-ha walks down the hall griping about the food, and stops in his tracks at the sight of two photos, lying on the ground. It’s two half-naked women, and he giggles like a schoolboy.
But then he hears voices coming from Kang-seok’s room – it’s the northern team, gathered inside and peering out of the peephole, script in hand. HA. Did you bait him with nekkid ladies? Pffft.
Jae-ha presses his ear to the door, as the trio awkwardly reads from the prepared script, which basically amounts to Kang-seok declaring that he will take care of the problem himself, and assassinate Jae-ha in his sleep using poison needles. No one will ever know.
Hang-ah opens the door and pretends to be shocked that Jae-ha overheard them, and tells him to forget what he heard. He tries to play it cool and suggests she get her team in line. I’m sorry… are those ruffles on your army tracksuit? I… can’t… even…
She nods in agreement, and then takes a teeny case out of her pocket, containing syringes and a whole mess of needles. She takes one out… “But the work of an assassin is something no one else knows. A person could just in one moment…”
And she makes a pop sound with the needle pointed at her forehead, shuddering afterward for effect. She can barely contain her smirk as she leaves him quaking in his boots.
He goes straight to Shi-kyung to tell him that he will participate in the special training after all. Shi-kyung looks SO HAPPY he might cry—it would be touching if it weren’t hilarious.
Jae-ha says that he’ll train with Hang-ah, who’s standing right behind them. Shi-kyung insists that he’ll do it, but Jae-ha mouths silently at him, with alarm. He doesn’t catch what he’s mouthing, so Jae-ha leans in close, and this time it’s accompanied by helpful chyrons: Atomic! Fuel! Poison! Needle!
Hang-ah peers curiously at them, and Jae-ha lets it go, telling Shi-kyung in no uncertain terms to scram. He does, but returns a few minutes later to give the prince a silent fist in the air in solidarity. His earnestness is killing me.
Jae-ha thus begins his training for the team. One point, Hang-ah.
Back at home, the queen mother confronts Jae-kang about an article in the paper—a speculative piece on whether the royal family’s going to marry into reunification, suggesting that Jae-ha will marry a North Korean.
He assures her that it’s an unfounded rumor and nothing more. Only he turns right around and discusses the very same matter with Hang-ah’s father, clearly planning to do exactly that. Jae-kang asks about the bride prospects, and suggests Hang-ah, but Dad quickly vetoes that idea.
Jae-ha whines and whines about his achy muscles, which I don’t doubt, but he’s already starting to use it as a way to get her attention. He gets annoyed when she answers a call from an old friend, and notes with curiosity as she squeals and laughs cutely.
Later that night she preens in the mirror, putting on makeup for her date, and he asks if she’s meeting a boyfriend or something. She just says it’s an old friend, and tells him not to skip training just because she’s out.
She heads down into the subway station, checking herself in her little compact. Someone knocks into her and she drops it, and when another person stoops to pick it up, she looks up at a flashback of the moment her friend first gave it to her. Oh, nicely done, Show.
Her best friend had given her the compact and casually mentioned that if they get old and they’re still single, they should just marry each other. She had agreed, but warned that there would be a line of guys waiting to marry her. Aw. She watches the memory pass in front of her like a movie, with a big smile on her face.
She arrives to meet the same friend now, and enters the bar. She finds it pitch-black, and suddenly the lights go on and a whole group of people starts to sing to her, with her friend in the center, nervously holding flowers behind his back. Eeee!
He gets down on one knee, and sticks the flowers up in her face. She lights up with anticipation… and he asks to make things official. She reaches out to take the flowers…
And then he recoils them out of reach, and everyone tells him yes, yes, do it exactly like that—if that proposal made the stiff Hang-ah blush, then it’ll totally be a homerun with THE GIRL HE ACTUALLY PLANS TO PROPOSE TO.
Nooooo! Oh, that’s horrible. Omg, I want to dig her a hole to crawl into. Poor thing.
They usher her into the crowd and hand her a confetti popper, for when it happens for real. I hope she pops it in his eye. She stands there frozen, and then her friend comes back with the flowers to practice AGAIN, which is what makes her start to cry.
She can’t hold back the tears any longer, and runs out, leaving him totally confused. She stumbles away, dropping the confetti in the street.
Back at the base, she heads to the gym for a workout, where she finds Jae-ha mid-bite into a giant jelly doughnut. His eyes dart back and forth, “I… was totally about to work out, right after this.” Hee. I dunno why, but the running doughnut thing just makes me laugh.
She just heads silently to the treadmill and starts to run. She doesn’t get very far before her legs give out and she falls, and he hurries to her side to make sure she’s okay. He checks her ankle and says it’s fine, but it’s the thing that breaks the dam and she starts to cry.
Startled, he wonders if it hurts that much, and she snipes that of course it does. But he can tell right away that it’s not the ankle she’s crying over. Suddenly he turns into a supportive oppa: “Who was it? Who made our leader cry?”
He listens to the whole story like a real friend, asking if that idiot never went to the army, calling her out of training and then using her like that. She’s like, how’d you know? They’re like a pair of girlfriends—it’s so cute.
He sighs that some things are just the same in the North and the South, and tells her that she’s only thirty—she’s still young. But she sighs that things are different up here, and to make things harder, she’s a soldier… she wonders if she’ll just grow old alone.
“Forget marriage—does it make sense that I’ve never even dated?” He’s like no, that’s terrible. She starts talking about what kind of man she’s looking for, and just when you think Jae-ha is being such a good friend, something clicks in his brain and he gets an idea…
Back in their room, Hang-ah is still chattering away about her taste in men, and by now Jae-ha is only barely listening, or pretending to. He asks why she joined the WOC team then, if being a soldier is such a detriment to her marry-able quotient.
She tells him about the deal with her general that he’d find her a man. By now they’re sitting on their beds looking at each other, and she turns to him and asks, “Why are men like that? I’m a woman too. It’s just that my job is a solider. If you look hard enough, it’s not like I don’t have pretty traits. Men always tell me that I’m trustworthy, dependable, that they want a little brother like me.”
She adds, “I’ve even been told that they want a son like me.” LOL. That’s terrible. It’s also what they say about Seung-gi all the time. He asks if she really wants to know the answer, smoothly moving over to the floor by her bed. He motions for her to sit next to him. Trouble with a capital T, this boy.
Jae-ha: “Those men need to have their eyes checked. In my eyes, you’re a woman. You’re charming. And lovable.” He runs his finger along her hand. She fidgets nervously. He takes her hand in his and then starts to lean in…
But she breaks the moment awkwardly, getting up and jabbering about how he should shower and stuff “if we want to sleep together.” Whoops. That slip’s not even veiled enough to be Freudian.
He laughs and goes to wash up, leaving her mortified.
The M Society meets to announce Bong-gu’s ascension to the presidency. He appears before them with pomp and grandeur… and no pants? Is he a pants-optional guy?
It’s his first magic trick of the evening to poof his pants back into existence, which I’d argue isn’t the best way to build credibility, but I think he’s going for arch-villain showmanship more than, say, sane guy.
He does another long trick that goes on forever, involving a floating coffin filled with knives. The upshot is, he makes a man disappear. He reappears in front of Bong-gu’s hired killer, who goes to town with the torture.
Hang-ah tosses restlessly in bed, and catches a glimpse of frosted-window Jae-ha in the shower. He comes out and she buries herself under the covers. She peeks out to see his feet shuffle into the room, and then drop his towel.
She jumps up, “What are you doing?!” which cracks me up—are you hiding or are you peeping? But he’s fully clothed, and just wiping his feet. She sighs in relief.
He perches next to her on her bed, and she gets nervous again, but he asks if she’s scared he’s going to try and jump her, a special forces agent. He reminds her that he’s too much of a scaredy to do that anyway.
He offers to pat her back until she falls asleep. What girl could fall asleep to that?
She tries to knock his hand away, but he grabs her wrist. He says the reason she doesn’t have a boyfriend is because she’s too strong. He doesn’t mean physically—he explains that sometimes she should learn to accept gestures too. And then he moves from her wrist to her hand…
Gah, there he goes with the hand-caressing again. I’m totally swooning.
She turns back on her side to go to sleep, and he pats her on the back like a little kid. It’s really sweet. Once she closes her eyes, he stops and reaches out to tuck her hair behind her ear.
Taken with her, he holds her hand again, and leans in… and kisses her neck. Omgawwwwwwd.
She jumps up with a start, screaming, “No this is too…!” only night turns to day and it was a dream. Aw man, dirty rotten trick, Show! Though I guess technically, we have no idea how far along into the sequence she fell asleep and dreamt it.
Jae-ha comes into the room, another jelly doughnut in his face, asking if she isn’t going to eat. She asks hesitantly, “Last night… how far…”
But he says to her relief that she fell asleep right away. She asks to make sure—just the back-patting sleepy time, yes? He says yeah… what else was there? She scrambles away, and he smiles. That is no I-lulled-you-to-sleep-and-that-is-all smile.
At breakfast, every single person she encounters gives her advice about marriage and tells her to buck up, and she tears back into the room. She asks if Jae-ha spread those rumors about her.
He laughs, saying of course he did—they were way too juicy to know on his own. Oh you ASS. But the real secret—that she joined WOC to find a husband—is the real bomb, and if she doesn’t want him to tell everyone, then she’d better listen to him.
Ha, so blackmail was your endgame? So much more childish than I assumed—I thought he was seducing her to make life easy for himself.
She grabs her case and rifles though it, and he takes her box of poison needles out of his pocket, “Are you looking for this?” Flashback to last night, when he lulled her to sleep, leaned in close to make sure she was out, and then searched the room for the needles. Ha.
Laughing, he asks what she meant earlier—did they go a little farther in her dreams? She freezes in embarrassment, and he teases, “What, did I kiss you in your dreams?” But he can read it on her face that it’s true, and laughs even more, saying that she must really be in dire straits.
She fumes and turns around, but he’s having way too much fun with this, and stops her, asking how he did it in her dream—was there tongue? Was it R-rated?
I dunno how she’s not punching him right now. He lays it on even thicker, saying that he didn’t know she thought of him that way, and tells her he feels nothing for her. Her eyes start to fill with angry tears.
He grabs her hand again, this time mockingly, with no emotion, and tells her a car’s steering wheel would give him more sensation, and that it’s just a hand. Oof, the look in her eyes…
He deals the final blow: “What does that mean? It means you are not a woman.”
He drops her hand as a tear falls from her eye.
Aaaauuuugh, I cannot WAIT till she serves him those words one bitter mouthful at a time. Goddamn, I expected him to do something assy, but to rip her to shreds like that, knowing every little weakness after she poured her heart out? GAH. That was a low blow.
Dramatically, I’m good with it, because I thought the execution was smart—it surprised me because his intention took a sideways turn that I didn’t expect, since I assumed he’d just do the lazy playboy thing. But character-wise, I’m pissed, because what kind of a bastard pretends to be her friend and comforts her after that horrible not-a-proposal, only to do worse to her the next morning? Raaaaaaaaaaahhh. Revenge better be sweet, I swear.
On a different note, I like the throughline of prejudice that Jae-ha’s character embodies. It’s often times horrendously offensive, but also honest, in that most contemporary North and South Koreans grow up with a huge wall of prejudice between them. Though the fictional setup isn’t something that could happen in real life, the feelings that are explored are real, and interesting. Though he’s the extreme, it means more when Jae-ha notes how some things really are the same, whether North or South. I look forward to his character arc in that realm, among other things.
I really do love Hang-ah’s character, because she’s got such a nice duality. She’s a badass soldier and a smart, capable team leader, but she’s also really feminine and earnest. Right now her confidence lies in one and not the other, but I can’t wait to see her change and grow, and for her to school Jae-ha on what it REALLY means to be a woman, not one defined by men. That he’ll someday be a fool in love with her will just be a bonus.
- The King 2 Hearts: Episode 1
- The King 2 Hearts’s poster and trailer
- Stills from the set of King 2 Hearts
- The King gets name change, begins script reads
- Ha Ji-won and Lee Seung-gi confirm The King
- Lee Seung-gi to play Ha Ji-won’s King?