Thankfully a more coherent second episode, with some illuminating backstory as to why the hero/villain bromance went sideways (or perhaps was doomed from the get-go), as well as a present-day mystery that effectively brings all our main characters into one story space, and on a crash course with each other. It’s a good thing too, because I don’t want to have to wait forever for our hero to make a connection to someone, even if it’s to his mortal enemy.
SONG OF THE DAY
“Palace Musicians” by Jang Young-gyu – Jeon Woo-chi (the movie) [ Download ]
EPISODE 2 RECAP
Woo-chi reads about the suspicious supposed tiger attack, and races to find his old friend-turned-enemy Kang-rim. I do like that Jeon Woo-chi’s quick-change can be explained by magic.
Kang-rim waits on the treetops, and then turns with a smile, “You’re here. I’ve been waiting.” But it turns out to be someone else he senses, as two Taoist monks arrive down below, in search of their fallen brother.
They find their friend bone-dry, like he was instantly mummified. This was no tiger attack. They start a spell to see other spells, but there isn’t much need for it, because Kang-rim descends on them with a shower of arrows.
They do their best to fight back, but they’re no match for the supercharged Kang-rim, who practically licks his chops, “Let’s see what skills you possess.” You mean for you to have, don’t you? That’s awesome, in a totally creepy way of course.
Meanwhile, Woo-chi is back to being Lee Chi, and asks the local policemen to take him to the site of the tiger attack. There he finds the charred bodies of the two monks, still sizzling.
He recognizes the lightning magic instantly, and flies up to the treetops to find Kang-rim. There’s no trace of him, and the search is cut short by the return of the policemen, who mistakenly shoot at Lee Chi, thinking him the tiger.
Later that night the policeman confirms that the man who first came to them with news of the tiger matches Kang-rim’s mug shot. Lee Chi asks if there was a woman with him, but no dice; he was alone.
When he hears the time, he races out in a panic. Oops, the graveyard shift at the paper. Editor Oh Kyu arrives to find the office a mess, just the way Lee Chi left it.
He fumes and goes to roll call ready to fire Lee Chi on the spot, when he comes tearing in juuuust in time, a hair before the bell chimes on the hour.
Oh Kyu says it doesn’t matter anyway, because he ignored his duties and left yesterday’s news on the boards. Lee Chi: “I did everything you asked.”
The editor yells up a storm calling him a liar, and drags the entire group over to the boards… which are wiped clean. Hee. He gapes like he’s seen a ghost, while Lee Chi just smiles behind his back. I could watch these newspaper hijinks all day.
Hye-ryung’s father didn’t die from that mysterious bean, but it put him in some weird catatonic state. He doesn’t sleep, but just lies there with his eyes open, darting up to call out, “Young master!” every once in a while.
Hye-ryung asks why he’s looking for oraboni, (Oh interesting—so is Lee Chi not her blood kin then?) and shows the apothecary the weird seed he ate. The doc takes them with him to see if he can figure out what they are, to make an antidote.
As Dad calls out for young master, Hye-ryung has a tear-filled flashback to the last time she saw her oraboni—they were attacked, and Lee Chi (the real one) jumped on one of the men so that she could escape with her father.
The strange shipment of goods from the other night gets delivered, sans one bag of our mysterious bean. The man taking delivery flips out that his master will have their heads if something is missing, and sends henchmen out to find the girl who stole it.
The apothecary races back to his shop to start digging through his books, only to find Lee Chi snoozing under his desk. The doc brushes him aside, but Lee Chi’s eyes widen when he sees the beans in question.
He grabs a handful, “Where did you get these?!” He calls them majunja, and says they only grow on a very specific tree from a distant land, and demands to know where he got them.
The apothecary says a man ate one and is lying ill, and Lee Chi gapes, “He ate it?” Well that doesn’t sound good. Thankfully he knows an antidote, and gives the apothecary the instructions.
The baddies don’t have to search very hard to find Hye-ryung, what with her known association to the local bandit gang. The trio arrives just in time to get her and Dad out before the henchmen arrive, and they race through town with Dad on piggyback.
They run past Lee Chi just as he’s coming out of the apothecary’s place, but this time, Hye-ryung catches a glimpse of his face. She freezes, “Oraboni?” She shouts it again, and Lee Chi turns back.
But he doesn’t recognize her, and just keeps going on his way. She starts to run after him, but the baddies are rapidly gaining on them, so she’s forced to run with the others.
Hilariously, Lee Chi is on his way to her house, to meet the apothecary. They find the place ransacked, and the patient gone. Lee Chi’s only concerned about one thing of course, and shows the apothecary the mug shot of Kang-rim: “Was it him?”
The apothecary shakes his head, already familiar with Lee Chi’s obsession with this man he’s been searching for. He says no, it was a girl and her father.
Hye-ryung replays the moment over and over, and decides that she can’t hide out forever while oraboni disappears again. But thankfully one of the bandits recognized the guy as a friend of the apothecary, and suggests that they can grill him for info.
Whoo, baddie time! The Wizard with the Dragon Tattoo finally turns to face the camera: it’s MA SOOK (Kim Gab-soo), who oh-so-calmly reminds his minion that he was told to take the shipment quietly.
He lights up with anger, moving fire with his breath, as he screams at him to fix the matter quietly, and reclaim his missing item. What the hell is this majunja stuff, and why is everyone’s topknot in a twist over it?
Kang-rim appears (he literally just whooshes into existence all of a sudden), and bows contritely before Uncle Ma Sook, who blames this hiccup on Kang-rim’s absence from his post.
He says that bringing Kang-rim and Mu-yeon here, and acquiring the hard-to-find majunja, were all in preparation for the same thing: dethroning the king. He tells Kang-rim not to miss this opportunity.
Kang-rim doesn’t seem the posturing arch-villain at all when he’s not out in the field, and when he goes to check in on Mu-yeon, he’s downright puppy-dog-ish. He watches her struggle in her sleep with pained eyes.
Flashback to Yuldo. A confrontation between Woo-chi and Kang-rim—tensions are running high, and Woo-chi suggests Kang-rim turn himself in, while Kang-rim accuses his friend of ratting him out.
There’s blood on his hands, and he shakes as Woo-chi tells him that it was just an accident, but someone died. He swears he’s not the one who sold him out, but Kang-rim cries that Woo-chi was the only one who knew. “Was it because of Mu-yeon? So that with me gone, you could have her all to yourself?”
Woo-chi says that if they go to the palace and explain what happened, they’ll take away Kang-rim’s powers, but they won’t lock him up in jail for the rest of his life. Isn’t that better? But Kang-rim refuses.
Soon they’re surrounded by archers, and Kang-rim looks at Woo-chi bitterly, thinking that he set him up to be captured. Aw.
Kang-rim gets chained up in an underground cave, and that’s where Uncle Ma Sook approaches him. He chastises Kang-rim for refusing to join him, just to end up like this. He’s scheduled to be drained of his power tomorrow.
“So what do you say, will you come to Joseon with me? I’m the only one who can save you now. Bring Hong Mu-yeon and come to Joseon. There’s something that only she can do.” And then with a glimmer in his eye, “You like her, don’t you?”
Damn, so that’s how Kang-rim joins the dark side. He adds that he has a condition: he wants to kill the one who sold him out.
Ma Sook hands him a vial and tells him to start with Mu-yeon. So he steals into her chamber that night, and opens the bottle with a trembling hand.
He’s hit with a pang of guilt, but it doesn’t stop him, and he watches as black smoke swirls out of the bottle and crawls over her body, turning into a black bug that disappears into her throat.
She gasps for breath, and the spell is cast. Soon she’s standing at Kang-rim’s side, covering her own kingdom of Yuldo in darkness.
Back in the present, Kang-rim enters her room as she struggles and cries in her sleep. She’s dreaming of Woo-chi—attacking him, kissing him, back and forth, the good and the bad both tormenting her in her sleep.
Suddenly Ma Sook’s voice rings out, “Will you follow me?” and her dreams stop. She opens her eyes, back to being an emotionless puppet. She bows to greet him, and he smiles.
Bong-gu the stable hand gets chased down by the proprietor of the gambling den, for the last bit of money he owes after losing to Lee Chi. He’s told to steal if he doesn’t have the money, and they threaten him with the loss of his fingers. Is that more or less of a concern when he’s already missing one?
Kang-rim does some recon and watches the house that the last king is confined to, after being deposed. Ma Sook’s big plan involves “a secret of kings,” that gets passed down from king to king, only the new one was enthroned so quickly (and at such a young age) that he sort of got passed up in the secret chain.
Kang-rim waits till nightfall to make his move, putting down two guards to go for… the cook? He opens his hands and energy from the majunja in his palm rises up, putting her in a trance. He asks what she heard while she was in the house. Ah, interesting, so it’s some sort of controlling or truth-telling bean.
What he doesn’t know is that Bong-gu happens to be climbing a wall nearby to steal what he owes, and though he makes for a bumbling thief, he catches bits and pieces of the conversation, like “full moon” and “young king… secret,” before Kang-rim kills her.
But soon the majunja smell wafts over to Bong-gu, and he gets drunk on the pleasant smell and falls to the ground. Once he falls though, he sees something strange: it’s Kang-rim, but with the head of a bull.
Bong-gu sputters, “Is it… a monster?” The bull head flashes in and out, and Bong-gu screams in terror and runs away, catching Kang-rim’s attention. Oh crap.
He runs into a group of policemen, and pleads with them to go catch the bull-man. But the only things they find are the bodies Kang-rim left behind, and arrest Bong-gu for the crime. He gets carted away screaming, “No! It wasn’t me! The bull did it! The bull!”
It turns out to be a problem for Lee Chi and the gambling shark though, because he knows too much about their operation. If he talks, they’re all dead, so they send Lee Chi to go make sure he doesn’t open his trap.
Lee Chi heads to the crime scene, but his entry is blocked by a female officer (EUN-WOO) he’s never seen before. He tries to charm her, calling her pretty and declaring himself a reporter.
But she doesn’t budge and tells him to go interview the suspect if he wants, but he can’t enter the crime scene. He turns to go, muttering under his breath that on second glance, she’s not really that pretty after all.
Hye-ryung’s father wakes up, back to normal after drinking the tonic sent by the apothecary. It doesn’t change the fact that they’re still being hunted though, so they remain in hiding.
Meanwhile Chan-hwi interrogates Bong-gu, who continues to use the defense, “It was the bull!” I know that’s technically true and all, but I think it’s time to change your story, for your own sake.
Lee Chi runs up as the official reporter and sneaks Bong-gu a little wink, but Chan-hwi throws him out too. He finally manages to bribe another officer to get a moment alone with Bong-gu in his cell, and warns him not to say anything about the gambling den.
He turns to go, but Bong-gu pleads to be saved, and quickly adds that the real killer is the man Lee Chi has been looking for. He stops in his tracks and takes out the mug shot.
Bong-gu nods: “It was a little confusing because his face kept changing into a bull, but yup, it’s him.” Hahaha.
So armed with that discovery, Lee Chi makes his way back to the crime scene, where he finds the ashes of majunja, burned for a spell. He then casts a little BBQ pork distraction spell of his own, to sneak his way past the guard so he can check out the corpse.
He apologizes first to the dead body, and then wipes a liquid solution on her throat, hoping to see the marks that the killer left behind when he strangled her.
But Eun-woo and Chan-hwi burst in and charge him with handling the corpse and impeding the investigation. Ruh-roh.
Lee Chi pleads with them to look at the body first before they haul him away—he applied a solution to show the strangle marks, and if there are five fingers on the right hand, the killer can’t be Bong-gu because he’s only got four fingers.
Chan-hwi relents, so they take a peek, and there are five finger-marks on the right side. Lee Chi looks at him askance, saying aloud that he heard Chan-hwi was such an upright law-abiding officer that he even put away his own blood brother, “But maybe that’s just talk.” Hm.
Black smoke wafts into the prison, taking down the two guards posted. Damn, it’s Kang-rim. He breaks into the cell and Bong-gu pleads for his life. Kang-rim is happy to let him keep it, and takes out another three majunja to burn.
Once Bong-gu is under its spell (and seeing Kang-rim as a bull again), he grins like a loon and declares that he killed that woman.
Chan-hwi, Eun-woo, and Lee Chi head over to question Bong-gu about what he saw that night, and an officer leaves as they walk in. Eep, it’s Kang-rim!
He and Woo-chi walk right past each other without realizing it, since they’re both in disguise.
Inside, they find the guards down, and Bong-gu sitting in his cell cackling, “I killed her! I killed her!” Lee Chi recognizes the smell as majunja, and suddenly darts out of there, realizing that the officer they passed on the way in could be Kang-rim.
He runs out into the street, scanning the crowd.
Kang-rim takes off the uniform piece by piece as he makes his way through the crowd. He turns around, and in a flash, returns to his true form.
Woo-chi’s eyes widen. Did he see? Did he see him?
The funny thing about this drama is, I like having the hero sleuth around in his nerdy Clark Kent reporter persona, and I love, love Cha Tae-hyun as Lee Chi, so the end result is great… but the show has yet to explain how any of this came about. It presupposes that we know who Jeon Woo-chi is, what a wizard is, and why he’d be a mild-mannered reporter by day. Sure, it doesn’t take a genius to put the pieces together, especially since he’s a legendary character. But what I wouldn’t give to trade these first two episodes for an origin story that gives us a little time to connect with our hero and his cause.
I think the show relies on Cha Tae-hyun’s likeability and the fact of Jeon Woo-chi’s legend being so well-known, without doing the groundwork that it would’ve taken if Woo-chi weren’t a known superhero and if he were played by an unknown actor. Obviously you can drop Cha Tae-hyun in the middle of doing anything and the audience will be with him. But that doesn’t mean you should short-change your story because you can. I appreciate that the plot is moving quickly and that we didn’t need six episodes with child actors, sure. But a premiere week that took a more introductory approach—to the world of magic and wizards, Jeon Woo-chi, Hong Gil-dong, and the entire idea of a hero with a dual identity—would’ve been REALLY nice.
That said, I love all the characters and the world, and I’m really looking forward to the story to come. The flashback in this episode helped anchor the villain nicely, and I find that we’re actually more privy to Kang-rim’s inner thoughts and motivations than our hero, so far. I love that he’s a power-collecting villain, because there’s something very immediate and logical in that motivation—he always felt inferior, and now he goes around collecting other wizards’ powers to be more than himself. But what’s great is that he isn’t just evil; he’s morally conflicted, wounded by what he thinks is his best friend’s betrayal, starved for love, and manipulated by someone whose will is stronger than his own. Great, great stuff.
I actually don’t mind that Woo-chi spends most of his time as Lee Chi, because well, he’s hilarious. I just want some bearings, like where Lee Chi (the real person, Hye-ryung’s oppa) ends and where Woo-chi’s cover life begins. It makes sense that he needs to operate in daily life as someone else, and that he’d have a network of connections. I just wish they weren’t dropped in our laps without any explanation. Having him be a reporter is perfect (also why it’s the tried-and-true cover life of a superhero, of course)—he’s got his nose in everyone’s business, and it’s not suspicious for him to be investigating cases and snooping where he doesn’t belong. I found myself invested in the case when he was in sleuthing mode, so I can see that working really well as the backbone of both the hero’s secret identity and the plot.
Hye-ryung I just adore through and through, both for her spunk and her place in the story, and I can’t wait for her to find Lee Chi. I do think the show is handling Ma Sook’s slow reveal in a cool way, because he’s a character who’s larger than life and shrouded in mystery, and I’d rather be curious about him than know too much. And I like that Mu-yeon is introduced sparingly at this point in the story, because it makes me curious about her past with Woo-chi in a good way. It’s nice to have a trio of leading characters who all have a duality to play, built into the premise from the start. The show is clearly still finding its footing in many ways, but so far I’m having a good time despite the flaws. Cha Tae-hyun, wizards, comedy, and heroic world-in-peril stuff—what’s not to like?
- Jeon Woo-chi: Episode 1
- Character introductions and kisses for Jeon Woo-chi
- Jung Jin-young cameos as Jeon Woo-chi’s teacher
- Jeon Woo-chi’s wizard war
- Fusion action and laughs for Jeon Woo-chi
- Baek Jin-hee’s first shoot for Jeon Woo-chi
- UEE, the action star
- Filming begins on Jeon Woo-chi
- Jeon Woo-chi beefs up its comic lineup
- Jeon Woo-chi casts supporting ladies
- Jeon Woo-chi recruits its antagonists
- Cha Tae-hyun and UEE headline Jeon Woo-chi drama