The stakes go up a notch, as the real world starts to collide with the safe little bubble that is Spy School. But what emerges is one of my favorite relationships so far on this show: jaded spy mentor and hothead rookie agent. It helps that Ahn Nae-sang and Joo-won can swing the pendulum wide from ridiculous comedy to sympathetic angst, making their bond and their contention something fun but also worth following.
EPISODE 4 RECAP
It’s Casino Royale with everyone’s paychecks on the line, and Gil-ro goes all in against their teacher Won-seok. Gil-ro has seen his tell (for a good hand): an ear twitch. Though unless it’s opposite day, shouldn’t he not bet against a good hand?
Won-seok can’t believe the size of his balls, and offers to let him take the chips back. Isn’t he scared he’s making a mistake? But Gil-ro doesn’t back down, saying that a mistake is better than regret.
Won-seok lectures that agents shouldn’t make mistakes they’ll regret, and goes all in. Gil-ro opens his hand: a pair of aces. A PAIR OF ACES? Are you insane? Won-seok peeks at his own hand: four kings. Crap.
The whole room grumbles a collective ohmygod you did not just bet my paycheck on a pair of aces, and Won-seok gapes even more. “Are you brave or just reckless?” Gil-ro says it shouldn’t matter which, if it’s for his comrades.
Teach asks if he’d do anything for his comrades, even something bad. Gil-ro says yes, but his comrades wouldn’t do bad things. Won-seok wonders how he can be sure. Gil-ro: “Because they are comrades. Whether live or die, we go together.”
The whole room tenses up, and Won-seok peels back one king, to show a pair. And then as he looks at the other two in his hand, he flashes back to his own friend, saying the same thing—that they should go together, live or die.
It’s only then that he sees Gil-ro gulp, far more nervous than he’s letting on. He slams his hand over his cards, face-down, and declares that Gil-ro won. Aw. Way to choose the right lesson, Teach.
He and Seo-won breathe this massive breath of relief at the same time, and as the room erupts into cheers, they look at each other for a passing moment. Both the teachers smile.
Won-seok says to return everyone’s paychecks, and as for the two agents who didn’t give Gil-ro their chips—Sun-mi and Do-ha—he gives them demerits for not knowing their comrades’ pain. HA.
Gil-ro catches up to Seo-won, who says that she’ll repay him for the car, but not to think that this makes them friends or something, and not to expect a thank you. He says he didn’t do it to hear that, but so she’d stop crying over money.
She says he might not know it, but most people in the world cry over money, and it’s not pathetic. But he tells her not to cry over money, “or anything else.” D’aw.
He figures that at some point, they’ll have to clear up their misconceptions about each other, and she stops him short, saying that she didn’t have any. He means himself, about her, and starts to say that all the other women he met on those blind dates left, but she…
And then Won-seok interrupts him with a slap upside the head, chuckling that a twitchy ear isn’t always a bluff. Er, then why did they show the twitch on a non-bluffing good hand? Whatever. Anyway, it sparks a suspicion in Gil-ro’s head, and he goes running back into the room. He turns over the hidden pair of kings and his jaw drops.
The director comes by to brief Won-seok about Gil-ro and his father, and orders him to fire Gil-ro on the spot. Won-seok starts to argue, but it’s not in defense of Gil-ro. He worries that there could be complications if they just fire him without just cause, so he’ll find a way to make training so difficult that firing him isn’t a question.
Gil-ro chooses that moment to burst into Won-seok’s office to demand an explanation for the four kings—is he messing with him? Won-seok tells him that it was a lesson, and he twitched his ear on purpose. “Any information obtained that easily will always be a trap.”
This man could make lessons out of anything. Gil-ro bows in admiration, thanking him for the lessons, and vows to become the best agent someday, just like Won-seok. The director laughs, “Are you the best agent?”
Over in the women’s dorm, Sun-mi picks a fight with Seo-won over losing even more points because of her, and calls her out to fight. Damn. Seo-won gulps and grabs the nearest newspaper to wield as a weapon, and follows her into the showers.
She backs away as Sun-mi looks her in the eye and starts to approach… Seo-won screws up her nerve and raises the rolled-up newspaper above her head…
And suddenly Sun-mi stops right in front of her and bows at the waist, “I’m sorry!” Errrrrr! Seo-won literally comes to a screeching halt.
Sun-mi suddenly goes from scary gangster to toothless kitty, as she says that all throughout school the other kids teased her, and she didn’t think it’d be the same here but she’s already an outcast and was just following her brother’s advice to appear tough so people wouldn’t bug her, but now it’s happening all over again. Hahahaha.
Seo-won sits her down for a nice chat to encourage her, and they become friends. Sun-mi starts calling her unni and apologizes for her snide comments about her seducing the boys, and then asks cutely which of them she’s dating. Seo-won insists it’s neither.
Up in his room, Gil-ro takes apart his phone line with a huge grin. Are you putting in extra credit wiretapping practice? The reason becomes clear when Seo-won gets spooked by the sudden appearance of a dangling paper cup on her balcony.
Omg, did you make a paper cup telephone that actually works? That’s so cute. He tests it out and tells her she doesn’t have to pay him back for the car anymore. She huffs that she doesn’t want his pity, but he finishes the thing he was trying to tell her earlier.
He says that all of the other women left the blind dates, which was expected since he acted like an ass. But he told himself that if anyone stayed, she’d be his fated match. And then when he discovered that it was all fake, it’s why he hated her—because she killed that illusion and proved that there was no such thing as fate.
She says he shouldn’t care what kind of woman she is, whether she’s a con artist golddigger or not. He agrees, saying that he likes a totally different kind of woman—one who works three jobs to take care of herself and doesn’t give a rich heir the time of day. “I like that kind of woman.”
He says that he doesn’t like his father, but he still uses daddy’s credit card—”someone who isn’t pathetic like me.” He waits for a response, “Answer me, Seo-won-ah…” But she’s already gone.
Won-seok gives his buddy agent Sung-joon a call, but he hangs up since he’s busy tailing Gil-ro’s father. But it turns out that our baddies are tailing him, in a three-way game of cat and mouse.
As Woo-hyuk follows, he flashes back to when he was a child, running up in tears to a group of ajusshis. He pleaded with them to save his father, and one by one they ignored him. Among them: the NIS director, and the man he’s following right now.
Woo-hyuk catches up to him and it turns into a fistfight. Woo-hyuk pulls out a gun, and they wrestle back and forth, until a shot rings out. Surprisingly it’s Woo-hyuk who staggers back, shot in the gut.
Sung-joon asks who he is, and Woo-hyuk says he wouldn’t remember, since they’ve killed so many people. With his last remaining strength, he grabs a wrench, ready to bash Sung-joon’s head in.
And then another shot rings out. But this time it’s Mi-rae, who shoots Sung-joon down. Woo-hyuk takes her gun and shoots him over and over again.
She drags Woo-hyuk away, but he starts to falter as well. His other minion runs up, and then we see in the flashback that he was with a little girl and a younger boy when he ran up to plead for his father’s life.
They cry out to him now, “Oppa!” “Hyung!” With his last breath he whispers, “Kill them,” and falls dead. Bye bye, Uhmforce. Thanks for the cameo.
Back at NIS, Young-soon runs in with tears streaming down her face and tells Won-seok the news. He doesn’t believe her, demanding to know why Sung-joon would die. Once the truth finally sinks in, he goes running for the exit, but the guards stop him.
Young-soon reminds him that he can’t leave, and Won-seok says he doesn’t want this job, desperate to go to his friend. But no one is allowed in or out of the training facility, and even the president abides by that rule.
She finally gets through to him when she cries that she doesn’t want to be here either, and he calms down. Maybe it’s his mood or serendipity, but today’s spy class is How to Hold Your Liquor 101, and Won-seok leads the class in a toast, “For the comrades we love!”
They all get plastered, and Won-seok nags them in his contradictory way that he told them not to get drunk. He starts asking why each of them came here, why they chose this job of all jobs, and Seo-won blurts that she’s still going to take the broadcasting exam.
Gil-ro gets asked the same and he just coos to Won-seok: “I really like and respect you! I love you~!” Hee. He makes a big heart over his head, and the whole class follows suit.
Won-seok leaves them to drink and sits alone in a bathroom stall, crying for his friend and pounding his fist into the wall.
Seo-won pleads with Young-soon (calling her unni, ha) to let her out to take the PD exam, and just gets told to quit the spy biz if she wants to go that badly.
Gil-ro sidles up to her and she slurs, “Hey Han Gil-ro,” which comes out the same as ya-han (sexy/risqué) Gil-ro, and they both laugh this really dorky drunk, “Pffffft” that cracks me up.
She starts beating him over the head with a squid to get him to go away, and then tries her luck with Won-seok, calling him hyung and asking to get a day off. He orders her to sing a song instead, and the whole room joins in on the party.
It turns out there are things Gil-ro is bad at, like stuffing a parachute back into a sack, and gets told to skip dinner as punishment. Seo-won gives him a tip, pretending that it’s just because she’s annoyed having to wait for him, and he beams. He gets a glint in his eye and asks one of the guards for some paint.
Next up: skydiving class. Whee! Gil-ro and Seo-won are the last to jump out, and he fiddles with her radio before she jumps. Once they’re both flying in the air, Seo-won realizes there’s no one on the other end of her radio, until Gil-ro answers and says they’re on their own private channel.
He wishes her a happy birthday and says he couldn’t get her a present because they’re in training, and she argues that this isn’t her real birthday. He knows it isn’t real, but it’s the only birthday of hers he knows.
So he starts singing happy birthday to her as they sail around in the sky, and then she looks down at his parachute, where he’s painted “Happy Birthday!” on the top. How cute. She can’t help but smile.
They both land in the snow, and start to walk towards each other like some romantic drama… only to have another agent land right between them. Heh. They stand there and smile, and it finally feels like they’ve become friends.
He picks up both their parachutes and they join the group, and Do-ha notices the chummy pair with a glum face.
Gil-ro finds Seo-won a little later, and she tells him that she might quit to go take the broadcasting exam. He tells her to do it, encouraging her to pursue her dream no matter what it is.
She makes sure to tell him that she wasn’t asking his opinion, and she hasn’t decided yet what to do with her life. “And I don’t have time for a boyfriend, so stop being good to me.” He smiles, “Even if I want to be good to you, I don’t know anything. All I know is your fake name, your fake parents, your fake birthday…”
He turns to her and asks when her real birthday is, and then says, “I’m Han Pil-hoon. Who are you?” Aw, he told her his real name. She doesn’t answer, and he wonders if he’ll ever learn her real name. She says, almost with a hopeful smile, that perhaps if she quits, he might.
The director comes by to tell Won-seok that they buried his friend properly, and Won-seok demands to know what they’re doing to catch the bad guy. The director tells him that Gil-ro’s father drew him into a trap knowing he’d die.
He twists the knife, saying that basically, Gil-ro’s father killed his best friend. He says that he’s been a trainer before, and knows that each recruit feels like his own child. He growls threateningly for Won-seok to keep Gil-ro by his side and take the whole country down with them. Eek.
Seo-won finds Gil-ro practicing for their ballroom dancing test all by himself, and agrees to practice with him, just this once. They dance together without even fighting this time.
Suddenly the music stops and Won-seok walks up and hands Gil-ro a pen and orders him to sign a non-disclosure agreement. He does, not knowing why, and then Won-seok tells him he’s cut from the program, listing all his failures, according to regulation.
He takes it as a joke at first, but Won-seok tells him to pack his bag and leave immediately, and adds a punch to the gut for good measure. Augh, the guy is getting his only dream in life crushed.
Poor Gil-ro gets thrown out into the street in the pouring rain.
Seo-won asks for an explanation, and Won-seok just bites back that they do as they’re told, and leaves the door open for anyone who disagrees to follow him out. She takes a step forward, but Do-ha holds her back.
Gil-ro takes one last look back at his comrades, and then steps out into the rain. As he walks away, we get his interview speech again, this time showing how much he really meant what he said, no matter how canned it sounded the first time—that he really wanted to live grandly, and believed in dying for his comrades.
Seo-won breaks from the crowd to run out to him in the rain, and says goodbye. He says through his rainy tears, “I don’t even know who you are. I don’t know your name.”
Seo-won: “I know your name.”
Young-soon confronts Won-seok, not understanding why he’d kick Gil-ro out. She says that if Sung-joon had been the trainer, he would’ve held onto Gil-ro till the end, because that’s what a teacher does. He tells her bitterly to quit now, before she dies in the field.
Gil-ro goes on a bender, but we see that someone is watching him and reporting his whereabouts.
He wakes up in a strange hotel room, not knowing how he got there. Uh-oh. He hears someone in the shower, and sneaks up carefully…
The person comes out and he throws him to the ground… It’s Won-seok? Ha. He starts lecturing Gil-ro right away about his behavior, and he whines that he shouldn’t care—he’s not his student anymore.
Won-seok: “Who says?” Awww yeah. He hands Gil-ro a black file, a secure phone, and the rest of his lessons at spy academy for him to study on his own.
Gil-ro gapes in this way-too-excited little boy squeal, “Am I not fired? Is this like a secret mission?” Hee. He’s even got a file with his travel itinerary and receipts for the past few months, for him to memorize. Ah, to cover the time he was in training?
He opens the file as Won-seok explains that this is the person he has to watch and protect—it’s his father. Won-seok doesn’t give him the whole truth, only saying that his father is in danger because spies are clamoring for his research secrets, and his life is at risk.
He figured that the best agent to stick by his side would be his son. Won-seok: “Even if the country doesn’t trust you, I trust in you.” Gil-ro asks for confirmation—is he an agent?
Curiously, Won-seok evades a direct response: “You are my student. And an agent I trust.”
Gil-ro adorably asks for an ID card then, and gets a thwack on the head. “You have to HIDE your identity and you want an ID card?” HA. Well when you put it like that…
He orders Gil-ro to go home, so he does, to the loving arms of his parents.
He goes straight to work at Dad’s company, getting an upper-level management position from the start, to the ire of all the other employees. (And he’s back to being called Pil-hoon, of course.)
He’s greeted right away by his immediate boss… Mi-rae. Oh this’ll be interesting. She thinks he’s nothing but a lazy heir and slams down a pile of research and dares him to prove her wrong.
Once alone, he quickly puts them aside to study his spy manual. And then a year passes that way.
One day he joins Mi-rae to interview new employees for the company, and they argue over the selection process as the first candidate is dismissed.
The next interviewee is called… and in walks Seo-won. They both freeze as they look up at each other.
Nice. I like this twist in the story, because I thought they were just going to throw the movie premise by the wayside (the he-doesn’t-know/she-doesn’t-know spy undercover hijinks). Now there’s a basis for the double undercover missions, where presumably they’re both going to be secret agents pretending not to be secret agents.
Though admittedly, I’m sad that spy academy is over, since the classes on How to Be Bond were silly but cute, and provided a nice backdrop for our main characters. I would’ve liked to stay in that world a little longer with slower character development, especially given how quickly Gil-ro and Seo-won seemed to warm to each other. Still not on that romance train, but more time at spy school might’ve helped.
I also feel like we only scratched the surface with characters like Do-ha and Sun-mi, and I thought the school environment was a great place to let them each have their moments to shine. I loved her shower confession in this episode, because we had been building towards some kind of outburst; I just didn’t expect it to be that. I’m looking forward to seeing more of them.
Mostly though, I’m wary of Won-seok acting on his own, because I can’t imagine the director signed off on him assigning Gil-ro to a black ops mission and just handing him the spy manual like that would cover it. But that’s also the interesting risk in Gil-ro’s path. Is he a spy or isn’t he? Is Won-seok protecting him or using him? Once he fulfills his mission, will he find that he was never an agent to begin with? And if things go south, will his country burn him?
- Level 7 Civil Servant: Episode 3
- Level 7 Civil Servant: Episode 2
- Level 7 Civil Servant: Episode 1
- Joo-won: 007 Civil Servant
- Level 7 Civil Servant’s ballroom flirting and agent training
- Uhm Tae-woong’s Level 7 Civil Servant guest appearance
- Winks, finger guns, and blind dates for Level 7 Civil Servant
- The bickering begins on Level 7 Civil Servant
- Joo-won shoots (hur hur) for Level 7 Civil Servant