This drama is sexy. It’s dark and slick and seedy in all the right ways, and I swear this is a compliment, but Lee Jun-ki plays a really believable dirtbag. We’ve seen a lot of fugitive stories come and go, but this one does a pretty great job of setting up a rich world with dark characters in the first episode, all while making us care about our dirtbag of a hero. It’s that tiny sliver of hope that he’ll redeem himself someday… though obviously he’s going to have to walk through hellfire to get there.
Episode 1 premiered to low 7.5% ratings. Master’s Sun led the pack with 13.6%, and Sword and Flower brought in the rear at 6.3%.
SONG OF THE DAY
Nell – “Run” for the OST [ Download ]
EPISODE 1 RECAP
A police van crosses the Han River in mid-day, as a man looks out the window. The Xs on the bridge turn into a caged reflection, and then we see his neck covered in strangle marks, and his hands cuffed together. He has flashes to a dead woman, and waking up next to her covered in blood.
He screams at a man: “It wasn’t me!” A woman orders her minion to shut Jang Tae-san up for good.
A woman drives down the street, wailing and sobbing uncontrollably. Her light turns red, but she guns it at the intersection, and sets off a chain reaction. One car swerves out of her way, and she passes the police van in slow motion. Ahead of them, another car swerves, and then another.
And then BAM. A truck of doom hits the police van with such force that it turns over on its side. More cars screech to a halt, and finally a man on a motorcycle is the cherry atop this massive pileup.
The camera swirls around to our hero, lying bloodied and unconscious inside the police van. Title card. Well that was a doozy of an opener.
We backtrack to an unspecified time, in a gambling den. Our hero JANG TAE-SAN (Lee Jun-ki) is no prince—he talks a big game but loses, and quite regularly at that. He starts to complain about having to go home with such losses, but perks up when he gets a call.
He makes his way into a nightclub, where the whole staff bows and greets him. Well that’s never a good sign. A waiter thanks him for coming and points out the rich noona sitting in the corner, who requested to see him.
Tae-san kicks him in the shins and says he’s no host bar employee… and then promptly asks for his cut and heads over to her table. Pffft. What a winner you are. The waiter asks him to order a bottle of liquor, and Tae-san says he can’t drink more than half a bottle before he blacks out. Somehow I think that fact is going to bite us in the ass later.
The woman clearly has a crush and money to burn, and says she came here just to see him. She hands over a designer suit and he lights up.
Elsewhere in the club, scary mob boss MOON IL-SEOK (Jo Min-ki) marches down the hall with minions in tow. He reaches a backroom where a woman is crying and pleading on her knees for another chance.
Boss Moon shows no mercy to the woman who’s worked at his club for ten years. She skimmed money off the top, and she’ll pay the price. On his orders, his minions gag her and take out a giant blade to cut off her finger. Aaaack.
He runs into one of his hostesses on his way up, just as she’s getting kicked out of a room for singing badly. She hears a woman screaming, but he quickly throws an arm around her and leads her away to keep her distracted.
Tae-san is so drunk that he thinks the noonim is helping him get home, and then looks up in confusion at the hotel she brings him to: “This isn’t my house.” She coos that she doesn’t know where he lives.
Behind them, Boss Moon arrives with that hostess, as he’s telling her that he knows her dream is to set up a bakery someday. He tells her she can quit and he’ll help her out, just as Tae-san pulls away from his date and falls right in the path of his car.
He stumbles up onto the hood, not hurt, and then the two men lock eyes. There’s definitely animosity there, and Tae-san instantly tenses up. The hostess shrieks when she sees him and hides her face, and Boss Moon tells his minion to get rid of “that trash,” and smirks as they drive away.
Tae-san wakes up the next morning and throws his arms around the woman lying next to him… and then comes to his senses. A close-up of his bare shoulder shows an old scar—a pretty big one, like a giant stab wound of some kind.
He makes his way out of the hotel, cursing liquor as his enemy. He finds an envelope stuffed into his suit pocket with money inside, and he sighs. I’m sighing with you man. A suit is one thing (just barely). But cash makes you the other thing.
Three gangster minions from the club happen to run into him at the perfectly wrong moment—standing there counting money at the entrance of the hotel, and he cringes to himself as he walks away. Gives new meaning to the term walk of shame.
They note that he’s outright selling himself now, and one of the younger guys asks why the boss doesn’t kick him out if he’s such a disgrace. The older one says it’s because Tae-san “went to school” in the boss’s place twice. Huh, so he’s been to prison twice for the man? There must’ve been some serious fallout afterwards.
He comes home to his roommate, who calls him hyungnim. I’m going to assume everyone he’s associated with is from that gangster world, though this guy seems a little nebbishy for that, especially when he asks how Tae-san can sleep with women he’s not in love with.
Tae-san freaks out when the guy accidentally sits on his suit jacket, and Roommate wonders why he’s so obsessed with his suits. Tae-san says with a glimmer of nostalgia, “Because you never know who you’ll run into.”
At least he has a job—he changes suits and heads to his pawnshop, where that same bar hostess who was with Boss Moon shows up to pawn a necklace, which is clearly an excuse to see him. She calls him ajusshi and says he looks nice today, and Tae-san brushes her off with his usual curtness.
His assistant tells him to be nicer to her, since she shows up every three days like clockwork to pawn and re-buy one thing after another, just to see him. Another of his lackeys shows up in a foul mood over the gold pig he sold him the other day, saying it’s a fake and demanding his money back.
They start arguing about how useless Tae-san is, when he doesn’t lift a finger around here and just spends all his nights gambling and clubbing. “Did you sell your body last night?”
A woman wanders into the pawnshop just in time to overhear every bit of that conversation. Tae-san raises his fist to hit the other guy, and freezes in mid-air as he locks eyes with the woman, SEO IN-HYE (Park Ha-sun), looking back at him.
They relocate to a coffee shop and sit in such awkward silence it’s making me uncomfortable. He finally asks what brings her around, and she braces herself before asking him to take a blood test.
He doesn’t understand why she’s asking, and she haltingly says she has a daughter with leukemia who needs a transplant. It still doesn’t dawn on him why she’s asking him, and wonders if she’s going around asking everyone she knows to take a blood test.
He muses that she must’ve gotten married. In-hye: “The child… is eight years old.” As he repeats “eight years old,” it finally sinks in. His eyes widen.
She says that the child believes her father to be dead, and he has a momentary flashback to a moment when he told In-hye coldly that she and a child were a burden to him.
She tells him now not to even think about seeing his daughter, and that he should know he has no right to be a father to her. Damn. It’s so cold both ways—you know exactly why she made that choice, but the look of shock on his face is crushing too.
The shock finally wears off: “You had the child? YOU HAD THE CHILD?!” Augh, so that flashback conversation must’ve happened when she found out she was pregnant. He said that, and so she had the child alone.
She just keeps reversing and running him over with more bad news. She says she has a fiancé, a man that her daughter follows like a dad. So all she wants from Tae-san is for him to take a blood test.
He just keeps repeating her words numbly, and asks if she raised the child on her own all this time. In-hye actually scoffs at the question. Another flashback brings us to the hospital, where Tae-san screams at In-hye to go inside the operating room.
She cries and pleads, “Oppa, no!” but he shoves her inside and walks away as the doors close, without so much as another look over his shoulder. Dude, you pushed her into an operating room to get an abortion against her will and left her there? Shit.
Back in the present, In-hye storms out, laughing at herself for her stupidity in coming to him. He chases her out, screaming, “Why? Why did you have the child?! Who told you to have the baby?”
Her eyes fill with daggers, and she spits back that she never once asked him to be a father. “I didn’t come find you in all this time because even as she was dying, I didn’t want to bring you back from the dead!” Oof.
In the hospital, a little girl leads a hallway soccer match with a giant smile on her face. This is In-hye’s daughter, SEO SU-JIN (Lee Chae-mi), and the nurses spot her running past with alarmed looks on their faces.
Suddenly someone scoops her up in his arms just before she reaches the goalpost, much to her dismay. This must be Mom’s boyfriend, IM SEUNG-WOO (Ryu Soo-young), who frowns when she calls him ajusshi.
He tells her that she can’t be running around like that, but she gets feisty and says that she can do whatever she wants before she dies. He’s surprised at her attitude, until she explains that a kid in the ward died yesterday of the same illness that she has, and she heard the mother crying that if she knew he’d go like this, she’d have let him do all the things he wanted.
He assures her that she won’t die because she’s too pretty and lovable, and Su-jin smiles again. In-hye arrives after her meeting with Tae-san, surprised to see Seung-woo there in the middle of the day. Su-jin quickly whispers to Seung-woo to keep her secret from Mom, and he winks at her. Aw. So cute. I feel a little better knowing she has a good surrogate father around.
Mom gets upset when she sees a stuffed animal in her hand, and takes it away to put in the trash. Su-jin cries that she didn’t even get to say goodbye yet: “Would you like it if I left without saying goodbye?” Oh, kid. You’re gonna make me cry a lot, aren’t you?
Seung-woo pulls In-hye aside for a soda break, and gently tells her that she can’t be letting Su-jin see how scared and desperate she feels. He says that Su-jin is the one who’s most afraid, so they have to give her hope. He says brightly that a donor will show up soon—he can feel it—and puts an arm around her.
Tae-san sits in the dark, going over In-hye’s words to him today, now mixed in with happy memories of when they were in love.
We’re introduced to a congresswoman JO SEO-HEE (Kim Hye-ok), who’s beloved by her constituents. She tells her fellow assembly members that she’ll be retiring from politics once the welfare center she’s working on gets set up, after which she’ll live quietly with her son.
Boss Moon looks over the plans for the same welfare center, and says the end is in sight. He asks about an oil company’s embezzlement case, and his lawyer assures him that they’ll get a conviction.
As he leaves a garage, Congresswoman Jo arrives, and they each take precautions to switch cars before meeting by the river. She doesn’t like that his driver is around to witness the meeting, but he introduces the guy as his son.
And then we finally meet the woman from the opening car crash. This is our prosecutor PARK JAE-KYUNG (Kim So-yeon), who races to finish a last-minute case report before jetting off to the airport to catch a seminar in Chicago.
She’s down to the wire about everything, wears shirts with stains on them without batting an eyelash, and has a sunny disposition even as her whole staff nags her about this or that around her.
Boss Moon and Congresswoman Jo relocate to a place he insists is safe, and it turns out to be the home of the bar hostess, OH MI-SOOK. Mi-sook takes one look at the congresswoman and recognizes her immediately, and nervously says she’ll head out.
And on her way, she remotely turns on a hidden camera poised at the living room. Innnteresting. Mi-sook runs to send “Unni” an email to say that the meeting finally took place, and she’s recording as instructed.
It’s a helluva meeting to get on camera too: they outline their plans to smuggle drugs into the country, lined in historical artifacts. The pieces are being shipped in to coincide with the big launch party for the new welfare center, and Boss Moon reminds Congresswoman Jo that passing the customs inspection is her part to play.
She says that the lead inspector is famously gaga over his daughter, and tells Boss Moon to put people on the daughter as a backup plan.
We see the inside of someone’s apartment, an entire wall covered with a giant white board that’s filled with leads on both Boss Moon and Congresswoman Jo. It turns out to be Jae-kyung’s apartment, and she rushes in to change her clothes before heading to the airport.
She picks up a picture from her wall to take with her. Oh hi there, Kang Haneul, what’re you doing here? All we know is his name is Kim Sung-joon and the reason she’s really going to Chicago is to try and track him down, or at least follow up on a person who might be him.
At the same time, Mi-sook comes back to her empty house and checks her camera. A flashback shows Jae-kyung giving it to her, and she tells her that it looks and functions just like a normal digital camera, except the hard drive will turn all videos into ghost files.
Tae-san heads to the hospital, per In-hye’s half-hearted if-you-want-to-show-up instructions. He gets there half an hour early and straightens up after getting a glimpse at his reflection in the door.
She heads over without the slightest expectation that he’ll show, but when she calls, he says he’s heading out now. He says it as she walks up to the hospital entrance, and she’s shocked to see him there early.
He takes the blood test and starts to ask the doctor about the transplant and the child’s condition, but In-hye cuts him off and walks him out, saying that she’ll call if he’s a match, and not if he’s not.
He finally has an outburst at her, calling her cruel. He asks why she’s acting so scary—is she that afraid that he’ll suddenly want claim to his daughter? “I won’t ever do that!” Yeah that’s a no-win statement either way you look at it. She scoffs, “I’m sure you wouldn’t. And that’s how it should be.” She walks away, leaving him muttering to himself, “How can a person change so much?” Well, YOU try dating you and then we’ll talk.
He’s about to leave when he has second thoughts, and decides to go up to the children’s ward. He nervously walks down the hall with his head hanging, and then In-hye’s warning that he has no right to see his daughter floats through his head.
He sighs aloud, “She’s right…” He turns around to go back, when suddenly a soccer ball comes rolling down the hall. It stops at his foot, and there’s Su-jin, looking back at him and asking for her ball back.
He stoops down to pick it up, and then one look at the little girl’s shoes makes him freeze. He knows that’s his daughter. He stares back at her with wide eyes, and then she suddenly goes, “Daddy?” Omo.
He’s so taken aback that all he can do is run away. But she just gets up out of her wheelchair and follows him down the hall and around the corner. He jumps a second time to see her right on his tail, and she just looks up at him with these big saucer eyes and says again, “Daddy!”
He finally manages to talk back, and calls her a funny kid: “Who’re you calling daddy? I’m not your dad.” She asks why he came then, and he just stammers that he’s a passing ajusshi is all. So then she stops him again: “Passing Ajusshi, I have a favor to ask…”
Outside, In-hye tells the doctor that Seung-woo doesn’t know about Su-jin’s dad (she basically told everyone he died), and the doc promises to keep her secret.
Tae-san sits nervously next to Su-jin, who explains very eloquently that it’s time for her to part ways with her friend (the stuffed monkey), because it’s what’s best for both of them. But you see, she can’t explain the situation to said friend because she’s a stuffed monkey, and she wouldn’t understand her story. Ha.
Tae-san fixates on her wording, and Su-jin says Mom told her that every person has a story that they can’t tell other people. He gets the gist, and asks if that means she’s giving him the monkey, and Su-jin says she’s just leaving her in his care for a little while. “That means I have to return it to you.” Su-jin: “Of course.”
Mom calls for her down the hall, and Tae-san hurriedly gets up to leave. Su-jin grabs his hand and puts the monkey in his palm, asks him to promise to give it back. She turns back to give him an air-pinky-swear, and as she runs off, he air-pinky-swears her back.
As he rides the bus home, all he can see out the window are kids playing and families out together, and dads playing with their little daughters. He looks at the monkey in his hand and wonders why she called him dad—isn’t she supposed to think he’s dead? He sighs, wondering if growing up without a father meant that she ran around calling everyone dad, and that breaks his heart all over again.
Once her mom leaves the room, Su-jin takes out her pencil case, and hidden inside is a worn photo of Mom and Dad when they were happy. Awwww, she knew. She knew it was him. It’s a crumpled picture that she must’ve dug out of the trash, but it’s covered with stickers and she lovingly caresses Dad’s face.
Tae-san pours himself drink after drink, still in disbelief that he found out he has a daughter and that she’s sick all in one day. He sighs, “She’s pretty.”
His roommate comes home and he huddles with his face to the wall, and asks aloud, “Why does my heart hurt so much?” He cries himself to sleep.
Early the next morning, Mi-sook checks outside her house, and finds that she’s being watched. There’s still no word from Jae-kyung, and she starts to panic when her staff says that she’s away on a trip. Mi-sook asks them to convey the message that she really misses her and wants to see her… and we see that her calls are being monitored too. Uh-oh.
In-hye braces herself for bad news, but the doctor tells her that Tae-san is a match. And as if on cue, Tae-san calls the doctor, curious about the test results. She passes the phone to In-hye so she can tell him herself, and he leaps up, awash in relief.
He says he’ll come to the hospital right away, and as he’s getting off the phone and rushing to get out, Mi-sook comes by to leave The Camera in his care. Oh dear. He tries to brush her off, but she insists she really needs to pawn it, and so he writes her a receipt and hands her money. He thoughtlessly puts the camera in his pocket because he’s in such a rush.
He runs home and strips down to jump in the shower, and his roommate beams when he sees the camera—he was just yesterday complaining that he didn’t have one for his big beach date with his honey, and here’s a fancy digital camera right there in his hands…
Tae-san arrives at the hospital still as anxious as ever, and says that he’s ready to do the surgery NOW if they need, but the doctor says it’s been scheduled for two weeks later. She says it’s nothing short of a miracle that he’s a match, and says that without him, Su-jin would’ve been out of options.
He asks what he has to do in those two weeks, and the doc says all he has to do is not get hurt and infected. You know, that sure sounds easy, but knowing the hellish two weeks he’s about to face, I’m now terrified.
In-hye walks him out and says she’ll call the day before the surgery, but he tells her not to bother, a little offended that she thinks he might forget the appointment. He promises to show up, and reassures her that she has nothing to worry about. Ugh. Ugh. This is like the line in the horror movie before all hell breaks loose, isn’t it?
He leaves the hospital grinning from ear to ear, and tossing his little monkey into the air to celebrate. He gets a call from his lackeys at the pawnshop, who send him on an errand to retrieve a watch from their storage unit.
He digs around for a good half hour before they call him back with a “never mind,” which is really suspicious. When he gets back to the office, they tell him that Mi-sook called and asked him to come over, crying because she was so sick.
He’s reluctant, but then he decides that today will be the day Jang Tae-san saves many lives, and heads out. Ack. This is bad. Don’t go over there!
He arrives at her house, and finds the gate and even the front door open. There’s no answer so he goes inside, and as soon as he steps in, a gloved hand knocks him out with one blow to the back of the head.
Mom tells Su-jin that they found a marrow donor who matches, and Su-jin suddenly bursts into tears: “I didn’t know what kind of place heaven was, and without Mom and without Ajusshi—I was so scared to go there alone!” In-hye hugs her tight and cries that she’s so sorry for making her scared.
Tae-san wakes up… in a pool of blood. It’s everywhere—on the floor, all over him. He props himself up and looks around in confusion, and then he sees Mi-sook, lying dead right next to him.
He jumps back in horror, and the knife is in his hand, which he doesn’t even register. The whole place is turned upside-down and there’s just blood everywhere. He finally inches forward to check on her, when someone bursts through the door.
Talk about your gripping openers. If you didn’t already have me with Tae-san’s story, that cliffhanger would be the thing to do me in. I have to say, waking up in a pool of blood and a knife in your hand is pretty up there in my list of imaginary worst-case scenarios. The basic story isn’t anything new, but I took to it right away, mostly because of the hero. Two Weeks actually feels more like The Chaser than Mandate of Heaven, despite the overall premise being closer to the latter. But it has more of the trappings of The Chaser, only with more flair for action, (which for me was the big thing The Chaser lacked) so good vibes all around so far.
I’m always impressed with a show that’s willing to start a series with a despicable hero. Tae-san isn’t exactly Gaksital-levels of antihero, but he’s certainly a terrible waste of a good suit. And it’s almost worse that he has the potential to be smart and principled, but chooses instead to take the easy and cowardly way out of everything. He’s more pitiful than evil, but not in a way you’d actually feel sorry for—quite the opposite in fact, because it makes me want to kick him in the shins for wasting his life away. He feels like a movie hero, mostly because dramaland is usually populated with the clean-cut set, and this guy is, well he’s Ha Jung-woo in every movie ever (and still, the cleaned up TV version). I like that Lee Jun-ki plays him with a sheen of bravado that’s barely masking his self-loathing. It’s palpable, and fantastic. And it’s even better that they don’t pretend he isn’t a pretty boy—it’s part of his character that he skates by on his looks, and that actually makes him more pathetic.
The tension and backstory between In-hye and Tae-san was a great place to ground the main character. It’s horrible no matter whose perspective you’re looking at it from, and I think they’re both right and both wrong, which makes the conflict really worthwhile. The daughter is of course going to be adorable, but it just really got to me that while In-hye thinks he’s the scum of the earth, all she sees is her dad, and she’s pretty much the only person in the world who’s going to look at him that way and not see him as the sum of his (terrible) life choices. It’s not like being a father will be a magical cure, but I like where his redemption arc is headed, and that it begins with a connection to his daughter.
There were way too many characters to meet for a premiere, but the pieces have to be set in place in order to end on that cliffhanger. It’s the more important beat, so some introductions have to fly by, and we’ll just have to trust that the rest of the series will take the time to flesh them out. The interweaving of everyone’s connections does keep it interesting, albeit complicated. At least with a mystery, part of the fun is getting teased with story behind each character before knowing the score.
What I really love is how quickly we’re moving. Within one episode, we have a rich backstory, life and death stakes, a bloody whodunit, and the clock is set. I’m pretty damn excited to see where we go next. Again, no promises until all new shows have been watched. We’ll keep you posted on recaps.
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