Our good guys connect some important dots, which is good. But then so do our bad guys, which is bad. It’s a constant game of push and pull, and hitting that balance just right is the thing that’ll keep this drama hurtling forward with a nice mix of suspense and thrills. Of course, it’s no given that it will—that’s the challenge it faces every episode, to keep allowing our hero to make small gains but setting him back in equal measure. Not enough to kill his spirit, but just enough to keep us wondering how he’ll pull through.
SONG OF THE DAY
Yoo Sung-eun – “이대로 멈춰” (Stop like this) [ Download ]
EPISODE 6 RECAP
Tae-san is shot in the left shoulder and falls off the cliff, landing in the water below. Ack! Yesterday I was worried merely about his survival, but now I remember the whole Don’t get yourself injured caveat to the bone marrow donation. This is not good.
Tae-san sinks to the bottom of the riverbed, then jerks awake. In the midst of flailing and checking his bleeding shoulder, Su-jin’s stuffed monkey floats away. Upside: He manages to grab it. Downside: He gets caught up in the strong current.
Up above, Seung-woo facepalms for a moment before recalling that somebody intervened to divert his shot. Teacher Kim’s long gone, though, and the only people around are the rest of the search party, who come running to join him. Jae-kyung heard the gunshot and demands to know what happened, and you can almost feel her disgust with Seung-woo as she realizes that Tae-san fell into the river.
Without hesitating she just gets down to business and leaps off herself, and so does Seung-woo. Gotta hand it to them, that’s kinda badass.
They search the area directly surrounding the base of the cliff, but Tae-san is being carried off by the wild current, gasping and struggling not to drown. When they surface empty-handed, Jae-kyung spits orders to continue the search downstream, then turns her frustration onto Seung-woo for shooting. His team has his back this time, though, pointing out that he had a right to shoot in this scenario, and Seung-woo explains that his attempt to shoot the leg was thwarted by an interloper.
Immediately Jae-kyung starts scanning the clifftop area, her brain working out that Tae-san’s helper stepped in again. Seung-woo can tell she knows more than she’s giving away and asks to know, but she ignores him and resumes the search. She orders the team to search and capture any strange person in the area—and Teacher Kim hears over the communication line he must’ve hacked into. Since Teacher Kim’s orders include not getting his own identity discovered (as well as keeping Tae-san alive until they recover that camera), that’s his cue to lie low.
Jae-kyung’s prosecutor colleague Sang-hoon gets tasked with tracking down the woman connected to Tae-san, and now that they have her name, he makes a trip out to her restaurant. He asks an employee whether In-hye works here, but rather than seeking her out personally he opts to ask about her instead—like is she married? She sure was pretty. Ha. The employee bristles and warns him off, saying that the manager’s fiancé is a detective.
In-hye is a bit of a nervous wreck while sitting with Su-jin at the hospital (well, more of a nervous wreck than usual), now that she’s decided to ‘fess up to Seung-woo but got delayed when he had to head out on the tip. Su-jin wonders if she’s a mess of worries right now, which is a turn of phrase using the term tae-san. She asks her mom what tae-san means.
In-hye is about two seconds from flipping out, then sees what Su-jin is asking and says it means big mountain. (Su-jin starts drawing a big mountain in her picture, which is cute.)
In-hye starts to excuse herself so she can call Seung-woo, but Su-jin protests—Mom’s gonna keep more things secret from her. She should stay and call him from here, she says. Su-jin is feeling cooped up and extra-complainy today, so In-hye apologizes and agrees to stay. But she doesn’t call.
Prosecutor Sang-hoon heads to the hospital next to ask the doctor about the bone marrow donor, and she repeats her line about patient confidentiality. But he guesses that it’s Tae-san and says this would be a huge point in the police case—does Seung-woo know?
The doctor says that Seung-woo doesn’t know, which confirms that Tae-san is the donor. Then Sang-hoon realizes, “So if he dies, will the girl die too?”
At some point downstream, Tae-san washes up on shore, barely conscious and maybe half-dead. A local man arrives to collect the lifeboats from the water, not hearing Tae-san gasping for help before falling unconscious. But he finds his limp body lying there in the water and drags him out, taking him to his nearby house.
It appears the man is a recluse, but thankfully he’s also practiced with medicinal herbs and gets to work whipping up a concoction for Tae-san’s injuries. When Tae-san wakes up, he starts a bit at the man’s ragged appearance (plus the burst of loud shouting, as the man is nearly deaf without his hearing aid), but Deaf Recluse just slaps on the medicine and wraps his shoulder, having already removed the bullet.
Tae-san starts to make an excuse for his bullet wound (in Korea, that would almost always indicate he’s either being chased by cops or involved in mobster activity), but Deaf Recluse just asks, “Why didn’t you kill me back then?” Ohhhhh. This is the rival gangster Tae-san was ordered to kill, Boss Han Chi-gook, and now Tae-san realizes who he’s talking with.
Flashback to 2005. Tae-san plays lookout in a dark alleyway, and gets a message from his gangster pal that the target is heading his way. Moments later Boss Han scrambles across his path, bloody and on the run. Tae-san gets his switchblade ready, taking a long moment to prepare himself, and that gives Boss Han the chance to charge him.
The knife skitters away and the two gangsters engage in hand-to-hand combat, trading punches and grappling on the ground. Tae-san knocks him down, grabs the knife, and raises it to strike—and Boss Han flinches fearfully. Tae-san hesitates, frozen in place, and that allows Boss Han to knock him away and run off.
Boss Han repeatedly asks Tae-san why he didn’t kill him, saying that’s the only reason he saved his life just now. The curiosity has been driving him crazy, and he needs to know.
Tae-san answers, a bit brokenly, “Because of my mother.”
Flashback. It’s the scene we caught a glimpse of yesterday, now in full as Child Tae-san cheerfully brings home two popsicles to share with Mom. Only, he’d found her bloody in her room, having committed suicide.
“That blood… the smell of that blood… I can still remember it.” Boss Han scoffs—then how could he kill that woman and his roommate? Aw, and that’s news to Tae-san, who asks, “They’re saying I killed Man-seokie too?”
He declares that he killed nobody, that Boss Moon framed him for it all. He starts to unload his story, trying to work out why Boss Moon decided to kill him halfway through the frame job, but Boss Han stiffens at the name of his old enemy and interrupts. Suddenly awash in panic, he orders Tae-san to leave immediately, not wanting anything to do with him.
Tae-san begs on his knees for help, saying that if anything happens to him, his daughter will die.
The police search continues. The authorities block off the mountain roads and comb the grounds, which means that Teacher Kim is, for the moment, stuck. Muahaha.
The search team tries to predict Tae-san’s whereabouts, based on current speed and time lapsed. Both Jae-kyung and Seung-woo are clenching their jaws refusing to believe he’s dead, but fearing just that. They charge ahead into the next task, which is locating and questioning all residents in the projected area.
Jae-kyung tamps down an extra worry, which she keeps to herself: Tae-san was helped by a third party, and if that man was sent by Boss Moon, there’s a chance he’s gotten to Tae-san first. She calls her colleague Sang-hoon to ask about any of Boss Moon’s gangsters who are unaccounted for, and that’s when she hears that In-hye is Seung-woo’s fiancée.
Jae-kyung is stunned, but thinks to all of Seung-woo’s reactions to Tae-san’s case, which now make sense in light of the whole love triangle aspect. One last tidbit—the bone marrow transplant—finally makes the case click into place, and she understands his motivation for escaping.
Operating under the assumption that Seung-woo doesn’t yet know of the father-daughter link, Jae-kyung orders her partner to keep that fact from getting to Seung-woo’s ears. If he finds out, the police find out, and the child’s life will be endangered.
The cops make a thorough inquiry with the locals, and Seung-woo personally inspects our deaf medicine man’s house. For now, he finds nothing. The house is empty, since Boss Han is away at the water’s edge, where he sits… shredding clothing with a rock? Then he takes that rock and scrapes his own arm with it. Hm. A diversion of sorts?
The clothing turn up in the search, and the police chief draws the obvious conclusion from the tatters—Tae-san must have been knocked around the boulders quite a bit to result in such rags. Jae-kyung tries to think positively, stating that a shoulder wound isn’t fatal, although the chief is already referring to the recovery of the “corpse.” The local authority affirms that supposition, stating that the body was likely dead when the clothing was ripped from it.
It’s a blow for Seung-woo, too, whose hand shakes to recall firing that gun.
Jae-kyung takes her frustrations to the river, cursing Tae-san for dying now, after risking everything to stay alive, and thus condemning his daughter to death. And then another puzzle piece falls into place—if a man were desperate to stay alive in order to save his daughter, why would he commit a murder for his boss like a mindless minion?
Boss Han returns to his cottage and gives Tae-san the all-clear to come out of hiding from his tiny trapdoor basement. He packs Tae-san a backpack of medicine and supplies, informs him that he faked his death, and orders him to leave. Once the baddies get word that no corpse was found, Boss Moon will come sniffing around here.
Tae-san pleads with Boss Han, asking for ten days of safe harbor. After all, he saved his life once, and he can’t leave now in his condition. Boss Han flatly refuses to help him any further, pulling a knife on him to make the point clear.
Boss Moon gets the (greatly exaggerated) news of Tae-san’s death, which on one hand isn’t such a bad thing to hear. On the other hand, they still don’t have that digital camera, and he can’t rest easy until it’s in his keeping. He orders Teacher Kim to stay in the area until the corpse is found, then wonders how he’ll find that camera. I do enjoy his frustrated curse, “Who’s the asshole who shot Jang Tae-san?” Mostly because that’s how I feel about it.
He does get word that this gangster dullards have located Tae-san’s woman, though.
In-hye, meanwhile, steals a moment in the hospital room to check up on the latest news. The reports state that Tae-san was shot and is presumed dead, which sends her reeling.
In her elegant (secret) home, Congresswoman Jo sits down to eat dinner while watching the news on one television screen, and camera footage on her computer screen. Oy, is that a webcam monitoring her son’s sleeping moments? Creepy, lady.
She takes note of the Tae-san death report. In the morning, she heads out for work as normal, not seeing the officer staking out her home and noting all her movements.
Up in the mountains, Jae-kyung staggers into the local police station, enervated despite her vow that Tae-san’s death doesn’t mean this ends for her. She shoots Seung-woo a withering stare and tells him to stay behind and return to Seoul later—after he handles the cleanup for the man he shot. His fellow cops argue that he was justified in the shooting, but Seung-woo agrees to her instructions, intending to remain behind.
Seung-woo returns to the cliffside to brood, though one look at his pictures of Su-jin cheer him back up.
Flashback to last year. Seung-woo finds Su-jin in a funk at her mom’s shop, staring at the poster for Dad and Me art contest. He offers himself as her companion, notes that it’s today, and decides why not? Let’s go.
But Su-jin says that he’s not her father yet, and that her bio-dad is dead. So she has nobody to do it with. Seung-woo offers the compromise: They can go together, and Su-jin can draw her father. And if anybody asks who he is, he’ll be… her bodyguard, sent by Su-jin’s dad.
Her mood lifts, and Su-jin says that once he marries her mother, she’ll call him Dad, and that makes his day.
So it’s with a smile that Seung-woo flips through those photos now, and we can see that she’s drawn herself, her father, and her bodyguard all holding hands. Aw.
Seung-woo gets a call from his stern police director father, who only stays on the line long enough to bark at him to report to the station asap.
Su-jin sits in her room talking to herself, explaining that Seung-woo ajusshi is a super nice guy who loves her mother and is the best kind of surrogate dad. Then we see that she’s actually talking to Dad in the form of that old photo of Tae-san and In-hye, and she says, “If I’d known you were alive, I would’ve told him not to like Mom.”
She adds that Mom ripped up this photo the day she decided to marry Seung-woo, “But you’re supposed to burn photos of dead people, not rip them up. That’s how it happens in the dramas.” Haha. How’s that for a mini Sherlock?
Su-jin wonders what Dad did to hurt her mother. Whenever she asks her mother, that night Mom always cries: “She must really hate you. Still, I like you.”
A truck heads down the mountain road and gets stopped at the police roadblock—driven by a disguised Tae-san, who now sports ugly welts on his face. Ha, another one from the Mandate of Heaven playbook?
Tae-san sweats as the officer examines his Wanted photo, but keeps up his lazy farmer mumble and gets waved through.
In a flashback, we return to the moment when Boss Han pulls his knife on him and calls him an idiot for letting Boss Moon take advantage of him three times, with his eyes wide open the whole time. This time, it’s his own damn job to get himself out of the fix.
The words sink in and Tae-san hangs his head, like he’s going to go quietly, only at the last minute he knocks Boss Han down and steals the knife, turning it on him in an echo of their first encounter. And just like that time, Boss Han flinches and Tae-san hesitates. “If I’d stabbed you then, I wouldn’t have ended up here,” he says.
Having made his point, he lowers the weapon and clarifies that he didn’t let Boss Moon take advantage of him—he did it to save In-hye, who would have been killed otherwise. The tears start to fall as he recalls how he felt after leaving In-hye, not caring to live another day:
Tae-san: “Back then, I didn’t think of anything but In-hye. I didn’t think of Su-jin. I just wanted her to live well. If she had Su-jin, I was afraid she’d be overwhelmed like my mother, so I shoved her into the operating room to kill Su-jin. The child I killed once already—I can’t kill her again.”
He begs for ten days, fully expecting to die the minute he walks out of surgery. He sobs that he’s not afraid of death for himself, but he’s terrified of the idea of the child dying. He just wants those days, stuffed in that cellar, without food if need be.
That earns him some sympathy (and a meal, thank god) and Boss Han scrawls him info about a boat leaving for the Philippines in the morning. He can stow away and while away his ten days, then return the morning of the surgery. He offers his truck and a way to get him past the guards, then sets to work mixing more herbs.
So now, Tae-san drives along to make the boat, though he has to fight the urge to return to Seoul to be closer to Su-jin.
In-hye, meanwhile, is on the verge of losing it. She’s a nervous wreck with the doctor, asking what to do if Tae-san is dead, and fearful of continuing the bone-marrow-removing process. But the doctor argues that stopping the procedure now is worse, and that she’ll intensify the search for a new donor. The doctor says she should have told Seung-woo earlier to prevent the shooting, which is one of those well-meaning but utterly unhelpful things to say. You’re going to tell the lady on the brink “I told you so”?
In-hye sobs and blames herself for it all, and in her panic that she will be the cause of her daughter’s death, she collapses in a heap. Way to go, doc.
Seung-woo gets called to his father’s office to get dressed down for his mistakes. Dad may be the police director but his disappointment today seems to be as father, not superior—he definitely doesn’t appreciate his son running around and letting personal distractions mess with his work.
Daddy Im missteps when he makes a comment about fatherless Su-jin and single-mom In-hye, and takes it back when Seung-woo bristles. He asks more politely about the surgery and states his intention to visit the hospital on the weekend.
Tae-san drops by the hospital to phone up to Su-jin’s room, only to hear that the two have stepped out for a treatment. Aie, I knew you wouldn’t go to Busan to catch that boat, but it still kinda makes my heart lurch to see him heading right back into the lion’s den.
Tae-san’s face is still disfigured, but he decides to use the antidote and return to normal before heading upstairs, which makes my heart lurch even more. You’re already playing with fire, dude!
In-hye wheels Su-jin through the hallway, but has to stop when Su-jin starts to throw up. While they’re paused there, the elevator doors open, and Su-jin catches Tae-san’s eye, recognizing him right away. She sends him a smile while her mother fusses worriedly over her, and Tae-san forces himself to stay back when she gets sick again, watching with teary eyes.
Su-jin asks to be wheeled backward to see her mom’s face, but it’s really to steal a few more glances at her father. She sends him a wave as she goes, and he waves back.
Su-jin is in a fantastic mood in her room, jumping up and down on her bed. She’s adorable. Then In-hye gets a call, and Tae-san tells her curtly, “It’s me. I’ll call again in five minutes.”
Jae-kyung and her boss are called in to the chief prosecutor’s office, and in light of the suspect’s death the chief is ready to yank her from the case. She asks to stay just long enough to wrap up this case, and to her surprise, her boss backs her up. And just then she gets a break in the case, in the form of a text: “The signal came in.” Oh crap, not the phone call?
That gives her just enough time to run out to take the call in private, and she barrages him with questions. He calls from a nearby pay phone and assures her that he’s fine, and reminds her that he promised to stay alive. She starts to urge him to turn himself in because she knows a cop who will help, but he cuts her off to inform her that he was almost killed while in holding. That’s why he escaped, and he can’t surrender until he has evidence.
He adds that it’s best that people think he’s dead, and says he’ll be taking a boat for the Philippines until surgery day. She protests, and in her search for a quieter place to talk she finds a hallway right next to his pay phone—she doesn’t see Tae-san, but he sees her. He hardens his tone to cut off her arguments and tells her to stay quiet and wait, and not tell a soul about him if she wants to save Su-jin, not even her fiancé.
He swears he wants to save Su-jin’s life, and starts to hang up. She keeps him on the line to say, “Su-jin’s dad—don’t die.”
Ack, turns out Jae-kyung is listening in on this call, with boat trip plans an all, presumably having tapped In-hye’s line. She barges in on a beer-drinking party of cops looking for Seung-woo, who isn’t there, and apologizes to the cops. To their great surprise.
Tae-san stops in the bathroom to apply more of that face-changing herbal stuff, and with his face puffy once more he heads out of the hospital… just as Boss Moon arrives looking for In-hye. But he just misses seeing the gangsters, yeaaaargh.
Su-jin finishes drawing her Big Mountain and thinks happily of reuniting with her monkey in ten days, “And Daddy too.” The door-phone starts ringing in her room, and she picks it up and raises the window shade. Peering in and asking for her is one scary-looking Boss Moon, who asks, “Is your daddy’s name Jang Tae-san?”
Su-jin breaks into a big smile and exclaims, “Yes!”
Oh, fuck. D-10.
As I mentioned up top, the balance between Tae-san’s progress and setbacks is what makes this drama a fun ride for me. Given the premise, there’s zero doubt that Tae-san will survive to the end of the two weeks—without that assurance, we have no story. That’s not the question our drama is playing with, so I don’t need the show’s obstacles to fool me into thinking he might die. That’s always the worry that he faces, since they don’t know they’re in a drama that hinges upon his survival, but my thrills aren’t predicated on that.
So what it becomes, then, is a game of how to keep him stuck up a tree (down a well, in a burning attic, whatever metaphor floats your figurative boat) in creative, constantly evolving ways. And here’s where the show is working for me, even if there are several beats that I find expected and familiar. My burning question isn’t Will he make it? so much as it is HOW will he make it, because that sure is a bind he’s in.
I’m so glad we’ve got one shrewd thinker on the side of the authorities, because if there’s one thing I hate, it’s a situation where the fugitive keeps escaping not because he’s smart, but because his pursuers are idiots. Not gonna lie, most of the cops seem to be idiots. It’s why it’s a good thing Seung-woo has an added reason for mucking things up, because he’s letting his personal beef with Tae-san cloud his judgment—and it’s hard to tell exactly how much of his animosity comes from hating criminals going free, and how much is from the fact that Tae-san is In-hye’s ex and Su-jin’s dad, both of which he really really wants to be and knows, deep down, that he’s not quite managing to be.
That blurry line makes him an interesting character, and as much as his hotheaded reactions make me want to kick him at times, those are also what keeps him compelling as a flawed second lead.
It’s also why it’s nice to have Boss Moon cottoning on to Su-jin’s existence this early in the game, however much that screws things up for Tae-san. He’s fearsome enough given what we know of him, but following his murder of Mi-sook he’s been kind of fading on the scare-o-meter because his bungling gangsters are such doofs. Even Teacher Kim, who’s supposed to be such a pro, keeps letting Tae-san slip through his fingers, so all in all I’ve been looking at the mobster side as more of the Incompetence Brigade than the Big Bad. It’s nice to reinforce the notion that we should fear him, and the moment he smiles down at the little sick girl, we’re reminded.