Level 7 Civil Servant: Episode 9
Dating’s hard enough without having your whole workplace in on the details, isn’t it?
Based on today’s ratings, the new shows are still shifting and settling into their places, but this is more what I expected (and what I suspect will remain the order): That Winter shook off IRIS 2—both were co-first place last episode—with a 13.4%. Civil Servant climbed from the rear to 12.5%. And IRIS 2 fell from first to third place with 10.8%.
EPISODE 9 RECAP
Gil-ro arrives to see Seo-won locked in a hug with Do-ha, which brings his frowny face out.
Seo-won gives Do-ha the chance to retract the moment, telling him that if he backs off now they’ll be able to remain good friends as usual.
Seeing that he’s not letting go, Seo-won shoves him back with a few self-defense moves to show him that she’s capable of taking care of herself, warning him that he’s barking up the wrong tree.
Do-ha replies that today will mark either the end for them, or the beginning. Which is when Gil-ro steps forward to interrupt.
The big question: Does he jump to the obvious conclusion, or is he going to be open-minded about this? We don’t quite get a read yet, but he does say sarcastically that they make a pretty picture, acting like he doesn’t care. He heads inside to get his phone without bothering to make this into a confrontation.
Seo-won gives Do-ha her answer: This is neither the start nor the ending for them, because she wants to keep being his pal. He begs to differ: “If it’s not the start, it’s the end. I won’t be stuck in a one-sided love.” Well, points for that. Do-ha storms off.
Seo-won waits outside for a long while, and Gil-ro finally emerges a while later smelling of liquor, courtesy of her mother. She starts to explain the scene he witnessed, then asks if he wants the excuse. He just says, “Don’t. You don’t have to.”
Gil-ro tells her he isn’t plagued with suspicions about whether she was playing both guys, or whether she had something going on with Do-ha: “I don’t distrust you enough for doubts like that.”
With relief, she says taking this way more coolly than she’d thought, and he assures her that he’s the king of cool. But then he ruins that effect by pouting that the hug was unnecessarily lengthy: “Isn’t 32 seconds too long?”
Gil-ro says that he totally understands that hugging can occur, platonically, between friends or colleagues. Still, anything over ten seconds is too much. Then he rethinks: “No, ten seconds is too long. Wait, five seconds. No, three seconds.” Ha, “cool,” suuure. Cool like a volcano.
Then he leaps up and bursts out, “Don’t do it! Don’t do anything, ever! Not with a friend or a co-worker or anything biologically male!” Pout-whine-sulk.
She admits that if he’d stuck to his cool line, she would’ve been a little disappointed.
They keep sitting there for a while and he lays his head in her lap. She starts to explain about Do-ha again, but he stops her, not wanting to hear about how good a guy Do-ha is.
Mom finds them there, and she’s happily tipsy as well, enough to invite Gil-ro back inside for another round. So in they go for more soju and merriment as Gil-ro plays the doting boyfriend/son-in-law role, feeding the parents and singing for them on request. They dance along to his singing, looking like a happy family of frogs. Loud, drunk frogs.
The lovey-dovey vibe lingers at the office as well, with the two of them sneaking little gifts to each and drinking their juices in unison. They can’t drink together, so they’ll drink simultaneously, I guess.
Gil-ro is dissatisfied with the “investigation” of his father’s attacker, and presses Won-seok for updates. He’s still under the impression that he’s Dad’s protector, not surveillance monitor, and requests that a new agent replace him—Gil-ro’s identity has been compromised, so he’ll settle back into analyst mode behind the scenes.
It’s what he’d do if he were really an NIS spy, but Won-seok can’t afford to clue him in or lose their mole, so he just barks at Gil-ro to keep his attention on protecting Dad.
Mi-rae provides President Han with the USB device, disguised (poorly) as a credit card, to be used to steal the secret files on cavitation technology. He’s to convey the credit card to their inside man, Director Park, which should allow him to slip out even if the leak is detected.
President Han wants out of this partnership after the job, and while Mi-rae tells him coldly that she’ll be the one to decide when he’s done, she agrees that she’d like the same thing.
At least the NIS doesn’t suspect Gil-ro of being part of the axis of evil, since his presence the other night was to monitor Dad, not conduct the secret meeting. This means their main person of interest is Mi-rae, and they turn their attention toward finding more about her. This leads to a tangent on how Young-soon and Sun-mi dislike Mi-rae… for being pretty. No, really. They trade compliments on how Young-soon and Sun-mi are totally pretty too, puffing themselves up on self-flattery. Thanks for being all empowering, careerwomen spies who are supposed to be independent and awesome and instead spend a lot of time mooning over men.
Mi-rae and JJ use a gym visit as a cover to trade info, and Mi-rae tells JJ to back off from Gil-ro now. JJ enjoys his little cat-n-mouse games and counters that there’s nothing to fear since there’s no link back to him. But Mi-rae has identified one weak link in their history—Woo-hyuk (Uhmforce) had used a bank account in the past that could trace back to JJ.
JJ warns that it’s Mi-rae who’s in greater danger and that the NIS is likely to be on her trail. Interestingly, she sounds completely blasé as she says she doesn’t care if she dies in the line of duty—as long as she keeps JJ safe.
Having met her parents, Gil-ro tells Seo-won it’s time to meet his mother tonight (his one-track mind is firmly on the promised overnight trip—the faster they meet Mom, the faster they get to go on vacation).
So she reports to Young-soon that she’s heading in tonight, and they head over armed with a gift. Despite protesting beforehand, Seo-won reluctantly goes with the lie that she’s a Tiger by zodiac (though she shoots Gil-ro a glare for necessitating the lie) and answers the rest of Mom’s questions honestly, like what her parents do for a living.
Mom greets her with all appearance of friendliness, but it’s clear she doesn’t much care for Seo-won; she sniffs at her answers and slips in backhanded comments. Then Gil-ro, wanting to salvage the situation, trots out the old diplomat lie—Dad’s a retired diplomat and only farms as a hobby—and Mom is suddenly all warmth and light.
Seo-won falls back on her old cover story, whipping up believable answers about being based in Chile, and Mom laps it up eagerly.
Seo-won takes out her gift—a Roomba-like vacuum—and sets it in motion… so that the NIS headquarters has a rat’s-eye view of the Han residence.
Seo-won whips out her camera and starts taking pictures of the house, making Gil-ro pout that she should include him in some of them. So she takes a few couple photos… which get beamed back to NIS. Ha.
Thus the first trip Chez Han is a success, though she’ll have to go back to actually bust into the safe once it’s found. The plan is to send the parents to a show over the weekend, then sneak inside while the house is empty. Young-soon advises her to do it quickly since dragging it out will only hurt herself, and gives her a week.
Watching Seo-won conduct her mission has Do-ha brooding, and he requests reassignment, which Won-seok flatly denies. Do-ha has a somewhat credible-sounding excuse prepared, that he doesn’t trust Seo-won’s methods and therefore has no right to be on the same team.
But both Won-seok and Sun-mi (who overhears via the comm) understand that he’s distancing himself because he likes Seo-won. Won-seok refuses to let him go regardless, telling him that ditching his team is betrayal.
That night, Seo-won’s feeling guilty over her latest batch of lies and gets snappish with her parents when they bug her to help Dad in more of his business ventures. She barks at Mom, saying, “You don’t even know what you’re talking about!”—and those words are particularly hurtful since Mom knows she’s not educated.
Huffy and insulted, Mom and Dad pack up and start to leave right away, saying they’re sorry to have made their daughter so ashamed of them. Seo-won manages to stop them before they leave, apologizing in tears and taking back her words. Sadly, it doesn’t make Mom feel any less ignorant and stupid, but she changes her mind and decides to stay.
With Won-seok feigning ignorance on any attacker news, Gil-ro goes to Mi-rae for info about his father. Is he involved in anything dangerous? Perhaps he has enemies out for blood?
Mi-rae laughs off his concerns and tells him to worry about himself, treating him with enough dismissiveness that he backs down without feeling too suspicious. But as soon as she leaves, Mi-rae gives President Han a call, insinuating that they could always include Gil-ro in their plans, since he seems so interested in finding out what they are…
Seo-won returns to the Han house with Gil-ro and has a beauty session with his mother, which makes Gil-ro rather adorably huffy. First off, she’s rattling off more lies without batting an eyelash, and secondly, she’s totally ignoring him in favor of his mother. Heh. All the while, the bugged Roomba makes its rounds, sending video back to HQ. Figures a tiny robot is the most effective spy on this show.
Mom orders Gil-ro to cut fruit for them and bring tea—okay, this I like. He actually goes and does it, while Mom shows Seo-won baby pictures and laughs about how Dad cut her out of all the photos because he only cared about getting the baby in the shot. One picture has burnt edges, saved from the house fire that almost killed Gil-ro. It was Dad who raced inside the blazing house to rescue him.
Speaking of whom, Dad comes home and Gil-ro proudly presents his girlfriend for the introduction. But Dad’s just had the threatening phone call from MI-rae and rips into his son for poking his nose in where it doesn’t belong. Completely ignoring Seo-won, he orders Gil-ro to move out and go abroad.
This time, Gil-ro complies and packs his bags. Aw. More crossed wires.
Well, at least one parental relationship is on the mend, with Seo-won and her mother back to normal. Mom apologizes again for their fight, saying that it’s frustrating to be called out for knowing nothing. Poor Mom.
Mom gives Seo-won some typical motherly advice about watching her health—and keeping men out of her bedroom. Ha. It’s basically “Give them an inch, they’ll take a mile” advice, and Seo-won promises.
The NIS’s close watch on Director Park means that they know practically the instant he heads in to his company and uses the secret USB to download those trade secrets. Granted, it’s the most low-rent secret USB ever, but let’s assume this show didn’t have the money for James Bond-ian gadgetry.
At work, Seo-won asks how Gil-ro’s doing, wondering if he’s holding up after Dad’s outburst. Gil-ro assures her that she got a taste of a normal interaction at the Han house, but also tells her that he moved out.
Seo-won has a minor freakout—this means her route to completing the mission is cut off—but tries to contain herself and argues that it’s for his own good that he return home. She speaks so forcefully that he concedes that he’ll go back tomorrow, but he does lean in to pout, “Put me up tonight.” Ha.
He adds that he doesn’t actually have a home—he’s never felt at home in that house. She doesn’t know how feels to go “home” to that house every day, he says. And when he says, “See you at home later,” he’s referring to her place.
Gil-ro meets with Won-seok to declare that he really can’t continue this mission—being with his father all the time, to him, is something he can’t handle. Won-seok, like Seo-won, has to find a way to argue that makes it seem they’re concerned about Gil-ro more than their mission, and he points out that they need him to protect Dad. He even reminds him of something he said the day Gil-ro got kicked out of the NIS… which has Gil-ro pointing out, “But you said I wasn’t kicked out.” Oopsie. I wonder if that slip will come back to bite Won-seok in the ass.
Right now, though, he’s spared explanation because he gets an emergency phone call. Gil-ro assumes this is a spy mission and adorably gets suuuper excited to be called to duty, thinking he’s getting his Bond moment. Only to find that they’re heading to Won-seok’s daughter’s school for a personal matter.
Won-seok’s daughter is something of a budding thug, and she’s in trouble for bullying another student and taking her money. Trouble is, the other girl’s father is a cop and he’s blazing mad, determined to take this as far as he can to get her expelled.
So Won-seok does the only thing he can and asks meekly for forgiveness, father to father, and kneels at the officer’s feet. This is the scene Gil-ro witnesses, and the display of family sacrifice has him flashing back to Won-seok’s words about protecting one’s family—it’s the most important work in the world.
Seo-won worries about Gil-ro’s broken relationship with his father, and fears for how he’ll react once President Han is carted off for his crimes. She sends him a photo of his baby picture, asking if he’s ever been focused on one person to the exclusion of all else, “Like a father looking at his son…”
And so, Gil-ro shows up at her door that night, without his bag. He barges inside, and Seo-won’s immediately on the defensive (thinking of Mom’s advice, heh), warning him to stay out of the bedroom.
But he’s really here for comfort, and he hugs her, saying, “Thanks for everything.”
At a pojangmacha, our two lonelyhearts have drinks together, with Do-ha brooding in silence and Sun-mi chattering on as she gets drunker and drunker. She’s hurt at the realization that he likes Seo-won but keeps her cheery face on, even as she scoffs at herself for indulging in a one-sided love.
She asks if he likes Seo-won so much that he feels he has to quit to get away from her. “But you have me on your team,” she says, though I suppose the sad thing is that Sun-mi is no Seo-won.
When they leave the pojangmacha, she encourages him to lean on her since he’s so drunk (methinks she’s projecting), and he ends up piggybacking her instead. She tearily asks him not to quit, but he says he’s already made up his mind to go.
Back at the apartment, the tender moment turns awkward as they sit there on the bed, totally aware that they’re separated by little more than self-discipline. From what I know of these two, that is not encouraging.
Gil-ro shuffles closer, and she scoots away. He moves again, and so does she, until they’ve done a whole circuit around her bed. I know these guys can act thirteen sometimes, but you’d think they actually were thirteen.
Finally Gil-ro brings up a fun fact he picked up somewhere, about locations where couples have their first kiss. Popular entries include the car and the front door, and Seo-won relaxes at that suggestion that he’s on his way out.
Until he adds that location isn’t important, of course, and then her eyes bug out. Ha. I guess it says something that I hadn’t even realized they hadn’t had their first kiss yet.
He leans in for a kiss… and she jumps up again. Arg! Lordy woman, if you keep doing that I’m going to stop wanting you to GET that kiss and start wanting to hit you for being so ungrateful. Seriously!
Her fidgetiness makes him suspicious that she’s hiding someone in the closet, which I suppose is only understandable given her history. She proves that the closet is empty, and he declares, “Then I want to sleep over.”
Phew, at least they finally get to the point and do the damn kiss already! If only because they’ve done this whole nervous-dance fake-out way too much before, and you can only do it so much before we stop caring. If you can’t muster the interest to actually kiss, then I’m going to stop caring whether you do.
It’s something that really bugs me about this show, which I am trying to take in stride because it’s not like this romance is the only thing about this drama that’s juvenile. The entire plot is, and so is the tone and the execution. So maybe it fits. Although in that case, you really should have cast teenagers and turned it into a Disney show. Or even young adults in their early twenties, fresh out of college with no life experience. I’m growing weary of the “Choi Kang-hee is too old” refrain (although I do agree—still, there’s only so many times you can say it before you’ve said it enough), but for this story in particular the age makes a difference, making their emotional immaturity stand out more glaringly. Joo-won looks like a baby so it’s somewhat believable that he’s in the throes of puppy love, but I wish the show weren’t so simplistic as to push the idea that a kiss is somehow a gateway to a woman’s downfall. They’re adults. They can kiss.
Do-ha’s character is interesting for the way that I find his predicament interesting only on an intellectual level. By which I mean: I care about him in theory, but not in actuality. His angst is not interesting to me, and therefore Sun-mi is also a non-factor.
I really wish the show had put Seo-won and Do-ha together as a fake spy couple for a while, and thought that the year-long time skip was the perfect opportunity to do it. Thus you have Do-ha developing feelings while they’re “acting” as a couple, while she remains strictly professional. And when she encounters Gil-ro again, he has greater reason for jealousy because he thinks Seo-won is dating Do-ha—and because of her mission, she has to act like she’s dating him. Then she gets the new mission to romance Gil-ro, and we get a whole messy set of questions asking what’s real, what’s fake, and what’s to be trusted.
So many what-ifs, flattened into cartoon cut-outs. I guess it could be worse—at least it’s still funny. See? Glass still half full.