Nice Guy: Episode 3
There’s plenty of win to go around, but possibly more so than that is the subtly awesome subtext undercutting each scene (almost more present than the actual text). We’re stuck in this whirlwind of wondering whether to trust what we’re seeing, and whether characters are being sincere or manipulative. I love that what we’re seeing isn’t necessarily what we’re getting, and that in a format we all may think we know, surprises are still possible, still exciting, and still just nerve-racking.
Ratings are on the rise, with Nice Guy neck and neck with Arang and the Magistrate at 13.8%.
SONG OF THE DAY
Scott McKenzie – “San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair)” [ Download ]
EPISODE 3 RECAP
We jump back a bit as Eun-ki tries to have a dialogue with a group of workers demanding her resignation, only to get egged for her trouble.
As she washes her hair we hear Maru’s voice listing off Eun-ki’s traits as though reading from a file: She’s first in line as heir to Taesan Group, and currently operates as the group’s Executive Director.
“Rude, arrogant, fastidious, cold,” Maru’s voice goes on to explain. “She has no friends, no hobbies. Shopping centers, theaters, museums, golf courses… they are her entire social life. Her only hobby is motorbiking.”
Strangely, she pulls out a Barbie doll and smiles fondly at it while she invites the doll on her ride. That’s… kind of terrible that Barbie is her only friend.
As Maru motorbikes, we see the end of the police station meeting with Jae-hee, where Maru finally spoke up and asked: “Can I ask you a question? What kind of world is that? The world that Madam lives in… just what kind of world is that? To frame an innocent man, to crush him. To let them lose their rationality. To let them give up on their life.”
He uses the term ‘Madam’ since that’s what both her lawyer and the police officer called her, but it almost seems sarcastic coming from him. Jae-hee turns on him and asks him if he would understand even if she explained how amazing and luxurious her world is. “Would you even be able to imagine it? A person like you?” Really? Really, Jae-hee? Really?
So now we’re back to the motorbiking scene from the last episode, and Maru successfully pulls Eun-ki to safety… only to have her try to scramble back down the cliff for her bike.
He thinks she’s nuts to try to save something that’s replaceable, but she’s in tears when she cries out that the doll is over there. Maru’s ready to drag her away forcibly until she cries, “Mom! Mom!” like a frightened child. This is definitely a side of Eun-ki we’ve never seen.
Maru puts the pieces together and volunteers to go get the doll, using a rope to rappel down to the bike, where he retrieves the doll. As he holds it up for her to see, the rope snaps, sending him falling backward…
Cut to: The opening credits. Man, with Gaksital and now Nice Guy, I’m kind of loving the new cold open trend.
Eun-ki seems pretty spacey as she waits in the hospital hallway, where a doctor informs her that sans a broken rib and a hurt leg, Maru will be all right. When asked about their relationship, Eun-ki replies that she doesn’t know him.
Maru wakes up to find her glaring at him, and the first words to come out of her mouth are about him having ulterior motives in helping her, perhaps looking for a lawsuit. Reading her like a book, Maru asks straightforwardly if her parents taught her to become more temperamental and stubborn if she had something she was grateful or sorry for.
Maru: “If you are grateful, you say ‘thank you’. If you are sorry, you say ‘sorry’. My parents were illiterate, uneducated people, but still, they at least taught me this well.” This does seem to catch Eun-ki by surprise, or at least get under her skin, and he cuts off any retort she could have by telling her that he did what he did out of his own volition. “So from now on, let’s pretend not to know each other.”
He shoos her out so she can rest, and as she limps away she flashes back to the accident and the loss of her doll, seeming to wonder whether Maru’s words were true. She can’t seem to understand why he would put himself in harm’s way for her and her doll, either still out of suspicion, or a low amount of self-worth.
While Maru struggles with his pain, Jae-hee flashes back to the angry fight Eun-ki had with her dad, which she overheard by eavesdropping. She smiled at the bit about Dad replacing Eun-ki with herself or her son, and holds her son in the present, beaming with pride as she tells him that they’re considered heirs now.
“You have to grab hold of it all,” she stresses to him. “The world that I can’t imagine, the world that I can’t even dream to imagine… Don’t be ostracized. Don’t let anyone take it. You have to take everything.”
Watching Jae-hee is the other family lawyer, Ahn Min-young. He knows that Joon-ha has been using another family asset, Secretary Jo, to dig up Jae-hee and Maru’s past. Since Lawyer Ahn is on Team Jae-hee, he tests Secretary Jo’s loyalty by asking for everything he knows.
Secretary Jo caves in and reveals Jae-hee and Maru’s intimate past, which is a truth that he’d purposefully kept from Joon-ha. (He’d lied and said there wasn’t a relation between them.) At least Joon-ha still seemed dubious that Maru was merely an extortionist.
Meanwhile, Maru gets a prettily sunlit scene to silently scheme. Try saying that seven times in a row.
At another family dinner peppered with lawyers, Eun-ki can’t seem to get Maru off her mind and absentmindedly writes his name over and over as she saw it on his medical chart.
The air grows even tenser as Lawyer Ahn gets a call from a doctor giving Eun-ki the go-ahead for a transplant as a donor, with her ailing father as the recipient. Dad hadn’t heard about any of this and reacts poorly, chastising Eun-ki for bothering with his health when she can’t even control the protests against her.
Jae-hee sees Eun-ki’s act of supposed selflessness as a way to ingratiate herself to Daddy Dearest, and so she takes Dad’s side and tells Eun-ki to listen to her father, in a weird motherly tone (considering their age difference).
So she turns the situation around, claiming that Eun-ki is the only one to take her father’s place when he dies of illness, and that she should guard her health. It’s all false sincerity, made to make her look better to Dad.
To make things worse, Jae-hee is all, Oh, I also went for transplant testing and I’m the best donor candidate since Eun-ki is far too precious to lose and I’m lowly and worthless anyway, which is So. Manipulative. But well played, Jae-hee. Well played.
And then she butters Dad up by cutting his steak for him. Eun-ki fumes silently. (It’s weird to keep calling him Dad when it’s Jae-hee, so I’ll just refer to him as Chairman Seo.)
Jae-hee’s machinations totally work, since Chairman Seo tries to put her name on one of the upcoming shopping centers, which she demurely refuses on the grounds that she’s only doing what a wife would do for her husband and needs no payment for love.
There’s a chance that she’s being sincere, but I’m not quite buying it, even though Chairman Seo is eating out of the palm of her hand by the end of her “I’m so selfless” song and dance. In fact, he wants to make the whole world aware that she’s his family, the mother of his child, and his wife.
So Eun-ki gets the word that Dad has announced that he’ll have a public wedding ceremony with Jae-hee. She finds her doll, and remembers when her mother gave it to her right as she was leaving the house for good.
Dad once purged Eun-ki of all her dolls, but Mom had held onto this one and gave it to her daughter as she wished her well. But she’d broken and asked Eun-ki to leave with her, which she flatly refused, “I will endure until I win. And after I’ve become victorious, I will crush everything underneath my feet. I will definitely never live like you, Mom. Running away and escaping just like a defeated loser… I, Seo Eun-ki, will never live like that!”
There’s a lot more going on than meets the eye, but it’s safe to say that Eun-ki staying and succeeding where her mom couldn’t is her way of getting back at the world, and her father.
But as for the doll, a secretary tells her that Maru gave it to her, which means he’d held on to it even as he fell. Also, he rejected a gift from Eun-ki.
Eun-ki decides to head to the hospital herself to deliver it, only to find that Maru has been discharged already.
Speaking of, Maru gets a weird goodbye text message from Choco, who tells him that she’s gone to the mother who gave birth to her. Her number is disconnected when he tries to call back.
Jae-hee follows him home, but Lawyer Ahn stops her from going inside, where Maru finds Jae-gil and his new girlfriend enjoying some spa time. When she notes how handsome Maru is, Jae-gil chalks it all up to plastic surgery. Hah.
Instead of Jae-hee outside, Maru finds Eun-ki, who launches into this spiel about how she’s never been in this kind of neighborhood and asks if the houses were built from leftover construction parts. Ha.
She asks him if she’s made him feel bad and says she didn’t mean anything by it, which I totally believe when it comes to her. But Maru is blunt where she isn’t: “Are you interested in me?”
Eun-ki’s caught off guard, but once again, Maru has read her like a book and knows that she’s compensating for her feelings by going overboard with her words.
He says it like her being interested is a bad thing, even though she claims that it’s because she doesn’t like to be indebted to anyone. Maru tells her that he’ll write off her debt and leans in close to illustrate his point before heading into his surprisingly nice car.
Choco’s goodbye didn’t last long, since she calls Maru with a bruised face, talking about how terrible her mother is while she gets chased by another ajusshi. Eun-ki lets herself in his car before he can drive off, and tears into him about his rude behavior.
Any attempts to get her out are useless, since him being prickly has no effect on her. She volunteers to go along for the ride just so she can keep admonishing him, and Maru veers off for some aggressive driving, which doesn’t scare Eun-ki one bit. (I also love that she calls him Ajusshi.)
They bicker back and forth in the car, even though Maru deadpans things like how they’ll be out of Seoul until tomorrow and how he’s not stopping at any rest stops just for her. Eun-ki just takes this all as a challenge, and tries to re-gift him her gift, which he declines, again.
Eun-ki: “Could it be that you want more?” She pesters him out of his silence, and finally he asks whether she’d give him something one-hundred times more valuable than her gift if he were to ask.
I love her retort that he should get his head checked, and he admits that since his accident, he looks at women differently. “When I saw you back there, I was a little captivated. A style like yours, before my accident, I was never attracted to.”
Now that it just got real Eun-ki wants off, but Maru has no plans on stopping until they get there. She stares holes into his head as he easily replies that his ideal type has changed since the accident, and now he likes women with bad tempers who are picky, and are like spinsters. Cue Eun-ki.
It’s interesting to see her so rattled, and it’s probably because she has a major crush. Well, who can blame her.
She does seem to stare at him for the whole drive, as though she’s studying him. Maru keeps his poker face, even when they finally stop in the countryside, where he nonchalantly bids her farewell after telling her to take a bus back to Seoul.
I like that his words are all, “I can’t help how beautiful I am” but always said in a dry, uncaring tone. It gets to Eun-ki, and it’s enough to have her following him around, even when he stops at a cafe where his mother(?) is getting harassed by a man looking for Choco.
Eek, and a tighter shot reveals that her face is battered and bruised too. The man is on a rage since Choco reported him to the police for domestic violence, which only makes the man more violent as he starts beating her because he feels so wronged. Can we send this guy the way of Eun-ki’s motorbike?
Luckily, Maru steps in, but the man’s actions end up putting him on the receiving end of Maru’s punches, which has him crying like a baby. To make matters worse, Mom(?) defends Mr. McBeaterson by hitting Maru, which doesn’t do well for his broken rib.
Eun-ki looks about ready to step in and help him, until Choco finally comes to hold Mom back.
Eun-ki finds Maru brooding later and offers her own brand of comfort by telling him that he looked pretty cool back there. It’s not much, but he takes it.
Mom falls under that class of battered women in denial, as she tells Choco that getting a beating isn’t so bad – after all, bruises just come and go. It’s not long before she drags Choco to Maru in order to lighten her own load, claiming that if it’s between her own daughter and the man who beats her, she chooses him.
So we find out that Maru and Choco are only half-siblings with the same father, but different mothers. Honestly, hearing Mom talk about how much she doesn’t care for Choco seems harder on me than it is on her, but at least Maru seems to be barely holding himself back when Mom spouts gems like “I don’t have that much affection for you anyway” and how she’d all but forgotten about the daughter she gave birth to twenty years ago.
After Choco goes off to get her bags, Mom tells Maru to call her when Choco gets married. Maru is trembling with barely-contained rage: “I’m not going to. I’m never… going to call you.”
Mom acts like she’s unaffected, but cries once her back is turned. Like before, Eun-ki watches everything in silence.
Maru and Choco have a wordless exchange, but Choco’s quick to ask who Eun-ki is once they’re all in the car. Eun-ki doesn’t know how to answer, so Maru steps in for her and just calls her a person he knows. When Choco asks if she’s his girlfriend, Maru denies it.
He’s all about car safety as he leans in close to put Eun-ki’s seatbelt on for her and checks his rearview mirror like a model citizen. Everything hits home for Choco and she starts sobbing in the backseat, and Maru expressionlessly hands her some tissues before turning up the radio to drown out her sobs.
You can tell Eun-ki is a little uncomfortable with the situation, as though she thinks Maru should be doing more.
We find Jae-hee cruising along, and get an out-of-place but not unwelcome series of closeup shots of Lawyer Ahn working out. I thought that there was something weird going on between them, since lo and behold, Jae-hee shows up to his place with a bottle of wine.
There doesn’t seem to be an affair going on, since Jae-hee seems to have come to confide in him: Her mother was a prostitute, she never knew her father, and her mother and brother repeatedly tried to sell her to a brothel.
She’s explaining her presence in Maru’s neighborhood earlier, since it used to be hers for twenty-five years. She talks about Maru fondly, as the man she loved like her own life, and how to her he’s like a house that always has the lights on and a warm fire burning.
Lawyer Ahn pours her another glass as she admits that she betrayed Maru when she killed someone and let him take the blame. And she betrayed him again in order to survive. She seems torn about it, at least, as she downs half the bottle in one go and admits that reaching the top of the food chain after coming from a life like hers still seems like a dream.
Jae-hee: “I want to stay in this place for a long time. If I am just dreaming, I don’t want to wake up till I die. Please help me.” And Lawyer Ahn starts wringing his hands. What exactly is she asking for?
Chairman Seo wakes up in the middle of the night to find himself alone, and starts seizing from whatever he’s sick with.
Maru drives Eun-ki home just as Lawyer Ahn is helping her out of his car, since she’s had a lot to drink. He sees everything, as Lawyer Ahn asks Jae-hee why she’d trust him when he’s served Chairman Seo for over twenty-five years, and could ruin her if he told his benefactor what she told him.
Jae-hee: “I know you won’t do it.” He asks why, and she knowingly replies that it’s because he loves her. Just when you think she’s being sincere, she pulls out these little hints of manipulation.
Then, she kisses him. Eep. Maru sees everything from the car, and if only Eun-ki weren’t asleep in the passenger seat, she would’ve seen too.
Jae-hee turns around as Maru gets out of the car, and he has no qualms about meeting her gaze. As Jae-hee looks terrified that she might have been caught, Maru helps Eun-ki out of the car by leaning close to her to unfasten her seatbelt.
That’s an extra shock for Jae-hee, but at least Eun-ki has learned from Maru’s earlier lesson and says ‘Thank You’ when she’s supposed to. She knows very well that Jae-hee is watching as she tells Maru: “Let’s meet again. You and I. Also tomorrow, and the day after tomorrow, too.”
Maru smiles knowingly as Eun-ki smirks.
It’s like a plan within a plan wrapped in another plan inside a MASTER plan, and I’m totally loving it.
This show does a great job of toying with our perceptions, and this ending scene was no exclusion. Take Eun-ki and her feelings – I’d be surprised if we later found out that everything with Maru was a lie, because there does seem to be a vulnerable part of her that comes out whenever she’s around him. Also, the fact that he can psychoanalyze her in the drop of a hat must seem new to her, since she’s used to putting a wall between herself and others at all times.
That’s why it’s a little unnerving that Maru rattled off Eun-ki’s traits like he was reading a grocery list, since we know from the premise that something is going on with him, but not how deep it goes. We know he looked up her favorite hobby so that he could conveniently be motorbiking on the same mountain as her, but how deep does it go? Did he plan the whole thing? Did he cut the brake line?
So I find it simultaneously cruel yet helpful that Maru talked out of Eun-ki the same thing I’m feeling now, which is her tendency to jump to negative conclusions first and always be suspicious. That’s why, if Maru is just playing her and Eun-ki is really falling for it (without a separate plan of her own), it’s about the worst thing that can happen to her in terms of ever trusting anyone again, EVER, since she’s been burned enough times to know better.
There’s a certain amount of the plot built into the premise, which is kind of sad when we’re just waiting for events that we’ve been told are going to happen to happen. It doesn’t leave me wanting, but it’s like the premise was a lot more straightforward than the writing is turning out to be, since we know from the premise that something’s up with Maru… but if we didn’t know that beforehand, we might not be able to tell. I mean, just look at that face.
Even now, I’m still having a hard time reading Maru, and that’s a nice surprise. He does seem like he’s being straightforward, but if it’s all part of some greater plan, then Maru might turn out to be the worst schemer of the bunch. Likewise with Jae-hee, it’s hard to tell when she’s got her manipulator mode on or off because she mixes her machinations with truths, which make me feel almost bad for her in one minute, only to be totally repulsed the next. That kind of girl is scary.
But so is Maru, if that innocent face is just a cover for the monster underneath. My nerves, they’re a wreck already.