Ah, finally some emotional movement here, with solid connections and conflicts coming to the fore.
I’m liking our plot advancement into real agent missions a lot more than the Spy School training, because I don’t think the show capitalized on the potential for fun at the academy. It opted for comic bits that ran juvenile, though there were a few nice moments of character growth for Gil-ro. Granted, the entire tone of this show skews more Disney than Bond—or if that’s unfair, then more of the older campy Bond than the newer, hard-edged version—so we’re not losing that surreal comical vibe even now that we’re into the full-fledged missions. But the show has grown everyone up just a little, which I welcome.
In any case, this gives us a richer setup for how the two spies became spies, and how they’re both pushing their cover identity while (presumably) falling for each other, which was a bit thin in the movie. (It was easy enough to accept the heroine being a spy, but we didn’t get much explanation for the hero’s transformation from average Joe to secret agent.) I can’t say I love the drama’s execution better (the movie was so zippy and fun), but the setup is better realized.
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EPISODE 5 RECAP
After a year of living under the cover identity of his real identity (heh), Gil-ro/Pil-hoon sits in on job interviews and gets a shock when Seo-won walks in—under yet a different name, of course.
As Gil-ro watches through suspicious eyes, Mi-rae conducts the interview in her typically hardball way. Seo-won acquits herself well, though, and earns a bit of praise from Mi-rae before being dismissed.
Gil-ro stops her and pointedly asks for her real name. Today her alias is Kim Jung-won, and Seo-won is prepared to rattle off the details of her cover identity. No lies here, she says. Scoffing, Gil-ro asks how her father went from diplomacy to farming, and whether he’s really supposed to believe her resumé is truthful. He fires questions at her, asking her birthday and zodiac sign and (to everyone’s surprise) if she has a boyfriend.
Seo-won bristles and calls that personal info, but ends up saying that yes she does, and they’re in love. That wipes the smile from his face.
Mi-rae smirks after the interview, telling Gil-ro that it sounds like he’s whining to the girl who rejected him. He says smoothly that he’s never been dumped, but she hits a nerve by saying there are guys who don’t realize they’ve been dumped.
A brief flashback shows us how Seo-won was brought into this mission, as she’s debriefed at the NIS. The team includes Do-ha and Sun-mi, and she’s the newest addition, brought specifically onboard because she was friendly with Gil-ro. Thus it’s her mission to get close to him and find a way to break into the safe at his house to procure documents.
Seo-won protests—he was once their colleague, they can’t use him like this. It just feels wrong. But ex-trainer-now-superior-agent Young-soon barks that Gil-ro (er, Pil-hoon) is now their target, and her mission is to inveigle herself into his confidence.
After her interview, she reports to Won-seok at the NIS office and informs him that things went well. He emphasizes the need for her to get hired if it means begging on her knees, and tells her to skip coming into the office in case Gil-ro gets suspicious.
Then there’s a minor tangent when Won-seok ribs Young-soon for going on yet another mat-seon date that’s sure to fail. She protests that she’s plenty desirable and still in her thirties (barely), and something tells me this’ll be a recurring joke. I almost wish Won-seok weren’t married so they could work that bickering chemistry some more.
Gil-ro calls Won-seok citing an emergency, asking if the agency sent Seo-won to him. Won-seok plays innocent, saying that she must’ve failed her PD exam after all—she quit the trainee program the week after Gil-ro left.
That fits what he knows about her, but just to be sure he asks Won-seok to double-check the information on her resumé. Which, naturally, he confirms as correct.
Gil-ro leans in to wonder whether Seo-won could have purposely come to him, for some hidden motive. Whack! Won-seok chides him for his dramatic imagination to deflect that suspicion, then tells him not to invent worries. Just focus on his mission to protect his father and hire the girl who wants to make a living.
Do-ha visits Seo-won’s apartment with beer. I don’t get dating vibes from them but they do seem to be close, enough that she’s put out that he kept the details of this mission from her. As the newest member of the team, there are crucial details being withheld from her, and she’s nagged by the awful feeling of being a gold-digger out to ensnare a rich dupe.
Do-ha sighs, agreeing to fill her in on the full story, taking us to a flashback. It all started last month when the Han family went on vacation, giving the agents the perfect opportunity to break into the small, well-hidden safe.
Do-ha slips inside the house, frankly bumbling his way along (misplacing objects, spilling water) in his hunt. C’mon, elite recruit! Did you learn to be a spy from Zoolander?
He pulls out a high-techy scanner to aid the search, but his intel turns out to be flawed because Gil-ro comes home mid-operation. Do-ha scrambles for cover as Gil-ro walks in and starts noticing the little oddities, wondering why things have been misplaced… just as he comes face to face with a very suspicious-looking Do-ha, trying to creep his way out. HA.
The boys start grappling, and Do-ha manages to keep his mask on. Gil-ro’s undoing is a familiar one: a foot to the groin sends him to his knees with eyes crossed.
Gil-ro pursues him out into the yard, but Do-ha leaps the wall and speeds away in his getaway car. Gil-ro gets the plate number, but it’s not much of a lead since the plates aren’t in the system.
Because that mission failed, Seo-won was brought in. She doesn’t have any confidence that she’ll get hired at IT&TI, but Do-ha assures her that she’ll make it. After all, Gil-rol liked her in the past. The reminder rattles her a little, bringing up now-painful memories, and she has to tell herself that he’s her target now, not a comrade.
As she’s urging Do-ha to go home already and he’s trying to wheedle some extra time (so not dating, although it’s not for his lack of interest), she gets a call from Gil-ro asking her to dinner. She turns him down (er… huh? I thought her orders were to get close to him) and invents excuses to get out of meeting.
Only, he’s right outside her door. She scrambles to check the video intercom, and sure enough there he is, looming at her doorstep.
Seo-won tries fobbing him off with excuses and rainchecks, but Gil-ro figures that she’s not cooperating because she lied about her address, too. She insists that she told the truth, to which he retorts that she always said that—but it was never the truth.
So reluctantly, Seo-won cracks open her door the tiniest bit to confirm that she’s here, and refuses to offer Gil-ro any tea or water or entrance. He barges his way in anyway, which sends Do-ha scuttling for cover.
Gil-ro launches into this whole sincere speech about how this is the first time they’ve seen each other in ages, and that he might’ve been able to forget her if he’d known her real name, but not knowing plagued him all this time. Aw, it’s actually sad how he’s pouring out his heart, but Seo-won is so distracted sending Do-ha furtive signals that she’s barely listening.
Do-ha squeeeeezes himself into her armoire… and sends her laundry rack tumbling. Ha. Seriously, spy training. Do better.
On the upside, the laundry rack sends her lingerie spilling everywhere, which gets Gil-ro to turn away as she freaks out. It’s a pretty effective distraction, albeit accidental, since her embarrassment covers the whole suspicious question of how the inanimate object fell over in the first place.
They end up in a cafe instead, and he asks what happened after she left NIS training and who her boyfriend is. She gives vague answers about needing a job and interviewing at a variety of companies. He suggests that her easiest course is to just ask him to hire her, rather than starting over at a new company, but she resists—she doesn’t want to ask that of him. Hm… as a woman with pride, her reasoning makes sense. As a spy on a mission, isn’t this a major fail?
Seo-won says caustically that she’d thought briefly that he was a decent guy for wanting to make something of himself without his father’s backing. But look at him now, wanting her to beg him for a favor. She stomps off with the excuse that she has to go buy water, refusing his offer of help.
Seo-won calls Won-seok to ask for a reassignment asap, assuring him that she did everything to try to win Gil-ro over. Gil-ro then contradicts all that in his report to Won-seok, scoffing that she’s determined NOT to take the job. Aw, and then he delivers water to her door.
There’s a recurring story thread that I personally can’t muster any level of enthusiasm for, but it keeps popping up so let’s keep it to a nutshell: Seo-won’s cranky father seems to be developing an interest in local politics and wants to be his town’s mayor, and every now and again he’ll slip his daughter’s name into the conversation. Hm. Wonder where this is going, if it’s going at all.
Seo-won notices the water delivery the next day and steadfastly ignores it… until she runs out and then takes one bottle. And then another. And another. Hm, so is she slowly chipping away at her pride?
She also logs in to write up daily reports about how she’s keeping up the line of communication with Gil-ro. Which rubs me the wrong way, frankly. Either try or admit you’re not trying! I just… thought you’d take your job more seriously.
Still, she ends up scoring the IT&TI job, and thankfully she has colleagues with much better senses of fashion than her own. In that they have any. She dresses up in a frumpy number that Young-soon clucks at, and gets ordered to upgrade her style.
At the company, Mi-rae presses President Han to contact his scientist friend, continuing the path of her dead oppa’s revenge. President Han is still dragging his feet, but she keeps at it.
His wife stops by and shoots Mi-rae a suspicious look, confronting her husband about his ulterior motives keeping her around. Apparently gossip is swirling that he intends to marry her off to Gil-ro, but Mom’s steadfastly in the hunt for that tiger-zodiac match. Oh, Mom.
The bumbling department chief welcomes the new hires, which includes Seo-won, and he must be the source of the gossip. He tells them that there are three “lines” (of power) at the company: Gil-ro, Mi-rae, and himself. Pffft. Well if that isn’t wishful thinking. Since Gil-ro is known not to have a head for business, he speculates that Mi-rae has been scouted to marry him and become the de facto heir, and this is all our department chief’s convoluted way of puffing himself up to put himself on their level.
But the speculation does seem founded with the way Mi-rae talks to Gil-ro, both threatening and flirtatious at once, stopping to fix his tie pin and being all touchy-feely. Seo-won sees the exchange, and Gil-ro cutely feels the need to tell her that it’s not how their relationship really is.
When he mentions her boyfriend again, she admits she doesn’t have one, and he pauses to wonder whether he ought to be happy to hear it or angry at yet another lie. She says it was just because she didn’t want to use that to sway him to hire her, but he states that every time she lies, she’s shameless and bold about it—so how is he supposed to believe anything she says?
That sends her into a flashback, when Young-soon explained what a natural-born liar she was. She hates lying, but it’s true that she’s good at it, and the thought brings her down.
After she leaves, Gil-ro pulls out various documents from each of her past false identities—her resumés, her contract signed as Kim Ji-won—and tapes them up to his bedroom wall at home. Oh, honey.
Gil-ro even checks into her apartment lease, which is taken out under her current alias, Kim Jung-won. At least that shakes out. He keeps an eye on her in the coming days, staking out her apartment to watch her coming home, which is vaguely creepy even as it’s sad.
At work, Gil-ro sneaks by while the office is empty to slip a tracking chip in the lining of her bag.
The two remaining avengers meet at the office, and it seems that they’ve been at odds since Woo-hyuk died. Mi-rae warns JJ not to act rashly since she’s working on getting President Han onboard. JJ, on the other hand, is impatient to get this show on the road and says that the revenge won’t happen just by grieving hyung. He carries a pouch of Woo-hyuk’s ashes (ew) and says that even if there were a spot in Korean ground worthy of burying those ashes, he wouldn’t part with them.
He tells her she ought to push President Han harder, even if that means killing the son. He’ll take over the “persuasion” process.
Seo-won briefly gets a glimpse of JJ as she passes, and then it’s Gil-ro’s turn for a run-in. Neither recognizes him as one of the NIS’s wanted list.
Seo-won gets an order from Young-soon to hack into the president’s computer and download some files. She’s given an hour to do it, though she protests that she doesn’t have the necessary access. Good lord, are you a spy or not? I’m just saying, Sydney Bristow wasn’t half as whiny.
Keeping a nervous eye on Gil-ro’s desk, Seo-won begins the process, prompted by Do-ha, who’s manning the tech van parked outside. She runs a program and he cracks the password, which gives her access to the president’s computer. Seo-won starts downloading the needed files, and then looks over at Gil-ro’s desk. Now empty.
He’s peering right over her shoulder, and she jumps a mile. She has the forethought to click to a new window so he doesn’t see the hacking, and she says she was doing some work-related research. He accepts that answer and she breathes a sigh of relief… only to see that she accidentally clicked onto a website selling push-up bras. Haha.
Gil-ro keeps his eye on her as she grabs a taxi after work, following in his own car. He waits at the curb as she dashes into a convenience store… and doesn’t come out. Suddenly suspicious, he darts inside too, and sees that there’s a back door.
Ah, this commercial building must be the front for the NIS office. Seo-won delivers the flash drive of President Han’s files, and Young-soon reminds her to keep working the Gil-ro angle. After all, her objective is to win him over. She urges her to use some wiles, ask him to buy her dinner, and have him twisted around her finger in no time. Do-ha protests that men aren’t that simple, and Young-soon says that yes they are. Heh. She adds that if Seo-won just opens her heart a little, Gil-ro will come searching.
She’s got that right, in a literal sense: Gil-ro uses his tracker to follow the signal, which takes him right to their front door. He pops up on the team’s surveillance cameras, sending everyone into a panic. Won-seok orders the team to hurry and clear up their files, and the agents scramble to clean up. Wait, you can’t just lock the door?
Gil-ro makes his way to the front door, which bears the sign of their cover business, Namu Cosmetic. He rings the bell impatiently, gets no answer, and decides to put his spy skills to good use. Out come the lockpicks.
Gil-ro jimmies the lock open and swings it open just as Seo-won dashes by with an armful of files, looking mighty guilty. At least this room is dressed to look like an ordinary office for a cosmetics company, with boxes of products stacked everywhere and an ordinary-looking manager at the desk.
After a round of “Why are you following me?” and “I’m not following you, I just happened to be in the neighborhood” they come to the point at hand: Is she working an extra job? Gil-ro says she has an exclusivity contract with IT&TI, and this is grounds for firing, ordering her to think carefully about her choice.
Seo-won thinks fast, and leaps into damage control mode, all apologies and pleading eyes. She says she was working a part-time gig here until she landed a full-time job, and her sales fell short her last month so she was just trying to make up enough to collect her pay. HAHA, there’s even an employee chart that indicates that yup, “Jung-won” has miserable sales this month.
He jabs a little at her being so terrible at sales, then states that his team member must focus all her energies on her job. So he’ll buy up her quota. Awwwwww. You sweet, misguided dolt. He tells the stunned ajusshi “manager” to ring up everything in the room.
Watching from inside the headquarters, everyone gasps in surprise. Sun-mi and Young-soon are grinning widely, thinking him cool (“Daebak!”), while Do-ha and Won-seok think he’s crazy.
The manager warns that it’ll be pricey, and Gil-ro confidently hands over his credit card. Then he hears the price—twenty grand—and his hand starts to shake. Seo-won shoots him this look, but snatches the card and shoves it in his pocket. Inside headquarters, now it’s the ladies’ turn to be unimpressed while the men smirk, feeling rather gratified. HA. So petty.
Gil-ro grumps at the outrageous prices of cosmetics, and Seo-won jumps into this sales spiel and gets him to buy his mother a set. Heh, I wonder if she made that up on the spot.
She breathes a sigh of relief and ushers him outside quickly. He pouts at the unceremonious dismissal, but stomps off huffily nontheless. Seo-won gets a panicky call from Young-soon, demanding that she go after him. She has to go to dinner, a movie, or something—go forth and date!
So Seo-won ends up chasing him down to ask him for a drink or dinner, all of which he declines. They end up at a 3-D movie, during which Gil-ro spends more time looking at Seo-won than the screen.
He ditches the 3-D glasses and then grabs her hand, holding tight as he apologizes for having followed her: “You’re always working hard to earn a living, and I was always distrusting you. I’m sorry for that.”
Well, if that doesn’t make her feel like mud. He turns back to enjoy the movie, and now it’s her turn to stare at him, feeling sorry.
Okay, I really like where this emotional line is heading. For the majority of the episode I found myself annoyed with Seo-won, and that bummed me out because I really want to like the heroine. Especially when she’s supposed to be a strong, independent character who gets by on her sharp wits. Yet I was finding her difficult to sympathize with, maybe because she comes across as rather dour in personality. Mostly I find it irritating when dramaland heroines shut down their suitors coldly, and the suitors keep hanging after them hopefully; it makes me think less of both of them.
The turning point comes, thankfully, when we start to see more and more that she’s acting this way because she’s burdened by her guilt. It’s a welcome revelation to hear her pleading with her bosses that she can’t do this job, that Gil-ro is a fellow agent, that he’ll be crushed when he finds out how he’s been used by them. It explains why she’s blowing off the assignment and pretending that he’s the one who won’t accept her friendly overtures. Her direct orders are to befriend him, but her morals are at odds with the job, giving us a prime example of the conflict Won-seok warned them they’d encounter: Could you do bad things for your country? How about for your comrades? And now she’s dealing with the struggle of what to do when those two things are at odds, because to her Gil-ro is still her comrade.
This is also a nice way to unfold the issue of her growing attraction to Gil-ro, which I find much more believable than his. Hers stems from a gradual understanding of his character, and starts from a place of mutual respect and friendship. His was more perplexing, mostly because it seemed so sudden and based in less grounded reason. Like how she stuck around when he ignored her like an ass on the dates, for instance. I would have actually preferred for him to not warm to her till they started training together, and he got to see flashes of her honorable character (which is the way she started to like him).
This is also a nice way to tie in the drama to the movie, where trust was the driving issue behind the couple’s problems. Sure, there were lots of spy/disguise/terrorist shenanigans going on at the same time, but at the root of the broken relationship was the constant lying and mistrust, warring with their love (the film couple had dated for years, broke up when he got fed up with her lies, then meet years later when they’re both agents on different teams, assigned to the same case).
In both cases, we have the heroine doing the bulk of the lying, with the hero hiding his job but being rather clear about his feelings for her. She’s the one pushing him away, both out of guilt and fear that he’ll bungle up the operation, yet frustrated that there’s no reason for him to accept her explanation that despite the lies, she never stopped loving him. But how do you love without trust? In this case, Seo-won’s just been handed Gil-ro’s trust on a silver platter, and knows she’s just going to shatter it all over again when everything blows up in the end. And this is a spy drama; of course things are gonna blow up in the end.
- Level 7 Civil Servant: Episode 4
- Level 7 Civil Servant: Episode 3
- Level 7 Civil Servant: Episode 2
- Level 7 Civil Servant: Episode 1