Ahh, more goodness. On the whole, this show knows how to pace itself, dropping Tae-san (and ourselves) into nerve-racking situations that keep our stomachs in knots, then giving just enough of reprieve for us all to catch our breaths. Yes, I’m talking like it’s our joint fugitive endeavor, because I do feel like I’m on the run with him much of the time, except that he’s turning out to have quite a number of tricks up his sleeves that I’d never have thought of. Probably for the best that this is his story, then.
SONG OF THE DAY
Nell – “Haven” [ Download ]
EPISODE 9 RECAP
Congresswoman Jo flat-out accuses Jae-kyung of being in league with the fugitive, showing her that clip of the two of them in the getaway car. Jae-kyung recognizes that the video has been altered—for one, she’s not gagged in it.
She tells the chief prosecutor that she and Tae-san were kidnapped and almost killed by Boss Moon. Unfortunately, this sounds fishy given that she never reported such a huge incident. Arg, I knew keeping quiet was gonna bite her in the ass. Jae-kyung also says she didn’t arrest Tae-san during the escape because she was waiting to also take down Congresswoman Jo, but she sounds more desperate than persuasive.
…and then we return to the present, realizing that Jae-kyung is just thinking this. I hate when dramas do that. Though I suppose I’m relieved she kept her head after all.
Maintaining her cool, Jae-kyung advises Congressman Jo not to believe every anonymous tip that gets sent her way, and points out that obvious doctoring has occurred. The congresswoman feigns concern—oh, she was just alerting them, in case the anonymous tipper sends the video to the news. It won’t do for them to assume the prosecutor was working with the criminal, would it? And by the way, does she have an alibi?
They both know that Jae-kyung doesn’t, while our baddies are already covering up their tracks. True, the real CCTV footage will absolve Jae-kyung by showing her as the victim, but it also makes it look like Tae-san was her abductor.
The cops get word of Jae-kyung being in danger of being fired, thanks to the footage. Seung-woo dashes out to address the matter, just seconds before a call comes in—from Tae-san himself.
Calling from a pay phone, he poses as a citizen reporting a Jang Tae-san sighting. He describes himself with enough detail to convince the detectives it’s a legit tip, and the info sends them looking into the jjimjilbang he was allegedly seen entering.
Seung-woo, meanwhile, bursts into the chief prosecutor’s office as Jae-kyung and her boss argue in her defense. The chief orders them off the case and an investigation into the claims, and Jae-kyung realizes that they’ve been maneuvered out of position.
But Seung-woo presents the chief with an alibi and an explanation covering Jae-kyung’s ass: She was with Seung-woo pursuing the fugitive, and he had gotten the tip about the stowaway attempt and asked Jae-kyung to help. Then when a third party jumped in to free Tae-san from their custody, they’d gone off together after them. Thus it appears somebody is trying to set her up.
Jae-kyung is relieved at his help, but not exactly falling over herself to thank him. She knows he just wants her to share what she knows, and warns that she isn’t just going to offer it all up. But he’s put together enough to guess that Congresswoman Jo is the target of her secret investigation, and that Tae-san is wrapped up in this somehow.
She figures that he doesn’t want news to leak of In-hye’s link to Tae-san, and tells him that she won’t mention it to anyone. But neither does she have nay intention of giving up her turf for his personal reasons.
Fine, he accepts that she won’t trust him with her info. He declares his plans to reinvestigate from the beginning and find out for himself whether Tae-san was framed.
Thanks to Tae-san’s tip, police officers are mobilized to join the search. That calls away the cop standing guard outside Tae-san’s house, now a crime scene, and Tae-san uses that opportunity to slip inside and grab some supplies. I do suppose this is the safest place for him to power up, safer than any public place or stranger’s home.
The sight of Man-seok’s bloodstain still on the floor stops him in his tracks, though, and he stops to clean it up. Then he showers and medicates, and even though I’m on edge every time he stops and want him to move the hell along, that anxiety conflicts with the relief I feel anytime he gets to do mundane things like eat and nap. And change his underwear, thank goodness.
There’s also a stash of cash hidden in a pillowcase, and it sends Tae-san into a flashback of Man-seok adding to the pile every time Tae-san gave him spending money. He’d started a stash for Tae-san, too, urging him to save up and get married.
Tae-san packs food, clothes, and a ring he finds in his drawer—aw, he’d held onto it for eight years?—as well as a wrapped wad of paper used to prop up a table, whose purpose we’ll have to wait to see. The sight of frozen ham brings to mind another memory of Man-seok, who’d loved the stuff.
So Tae-san lays out a spread on the table with sliced ham and soju in an offering to his friend, apologizing to the only person he’d thought of as family other than In-hye and his dead mother. He’d never properly thanked him, either, which is a deep regret.
Su-jin appears next to him to prod him to thank him now, which he does: “Man-seok-ah, I was grateful to you, and I loved you.” Su-jin corrects his use of past tense and chides that love doesn’t end when you die (foreshadowing? Nooooo), so Tae-san continues, “I love you. I’m sorry.” He promises to catch those responsible for murdering him, and hopes that in their next life they can be born as brothers: “I’ll be a decent hyung to you then.”
Su-jin asks what’s next on the agenda and why he didn’t go along with the prosecutor lady. He says he was going to find her when Boss Moon was arrested, but there’s been nothing in the news of it. Ack, because she shoved that incident aside to search for Tae-san! This is why they tell you to stay put when you’re lost in the forest, isn’t it? Otherwise you’re just running circles around each other, missing connections.
Jae-kyung is waiting at the police station when the officers trudge in on their false errand, chalking up the tip to a prank call. They even reviewed the jjimjilbang security footage and found no sign of Tae-san in the area. But the details were so spot-on, they sigh.
That sparks a suspicion in Jae-kyung’s brain, which may be the only brain firing on all cylinders (aside from Tae-san’s, that is), and she reviews the call recording. She recognizes the voice and beelines for his house, recognizing right away that they were diverted while he dropped by. Her partner Sang-hoon points out that he may have gotten scared off when Boss Moon wasn’t arrested.
That leaves In-hye as their sole lead, and Jae-kyung resolves to keep a sharp eye (or ear) out for Tae-san to make contact.
In-hye is clinging to the same hope, so distracted that Su-jin says God will get angry at her for praying so much. After all, Mommy told her that she was getting her bone marrow transplant because God had a conscience, so to continue praying would be second-guessing his decision. Ha, you really can’t say anything lightly around kids. But it gives In-hye the tiniest assurance to be reminded that if you promised to trust somebody, you should just trust them.
And then, he calls. He’d dropped by the nail shop where Man-seok’s grieving girlfriend works, but deemed it too risky and now has a favor to ask of In-hye. She guesses it has to do with that evidence, and he makes plans to meet with her tomorrow at a department store, warning her to make sure she’s not followed. Gah, this show makes me so hopeful and anxious at the same time.
Meanwhile, Teacher Kim follows the trail to Boss Han’s secluded home, here to take care of Tae-san’s helper with the help of his trusty pen-knife. Nobody’s home, so for now he puts the knife away.
Tae-san calls Boss Han next, and hears with relief that ajusshi managed to run away in time. Boss Han is grumpy about Tae-san forcing his escape by bringing scrutiny to his village (which is news to Tae-san), and orders him not to call again.
Jae-kyung is alerted to the phone call and listens to the recording with her partner, which confirms that Tae-san can’t have the camera, nor did he entrust it to an accomplice. Sang-hoon’s amazed at Tae-san’s ballsiness in bluffing with Boss Moon, and Jae-kyung sympathizes for a brief moment that he must’ve been terrified, judging from his shaking hand. She decides not to contact In-hye lest she scare her off, and starts formulating her plan.
Teacher Kim reports to Boss Moon that Tae-san’s helper friend escaped. Halfwit Henchman supposes that the helper, known only as Mr. Han, must’ve taken the camera with him, but Boss Moon decides that he’s been tricked. That really gets his goat, and he fumes to have been taken in.
Then Brainy Smurf reports on Congresswoman Jo’s failed attempt to get the prosecutor fired with that video footage. They head out to meet her, and Tae-san watches them leave the parking garage from around the corner. And it’s now that Tae-san connects some long-forgotten dots, recalling once seeing Mi-sook with Boss Moon—so she was his girlfriend?
Boss Moon confronts the congresswoman for going behind his back with the video, suspicious that she’s going to throw him to the wolves while covering her own ass. That kidnapping footage can be used as evidence against Boss Moon while Congresswoman Jo slips away scot-free, he argues. She counters that she can’t complete the deal without him (he literally has to be there, in person, on the day of the auction for the deal to go through), and they snipe at each other. Yes, yes, fight amongst yourselves. Tear each other down and spare us the trouble.
Congresswoman Jo backs off and apologizes (not ’cause she means it, of course, just to placate him), saying that she had almost succeeded in getting the prosecutor thrown off the case when that pesky police detective stepped in and vouched for her. And now Boss Moon recognizes Seung-woo’s name—as In-hye’s fiancé. She instructs him to find out why the cop would help the prosecutor.
Seung-woo tries to make sense of the case with his new perspective, struggling to see how Tae-san fits into everything. If he was framed, why? Recalling that Tae-san had insisted he’d had an alibi, Seung-woo finds that warehouse—the one Tae-san said he was at, which the gangsters had said was emptied a month before.
Jae-kyung briefs the task force on tomorrow’s plans to crash Tae-san’s meeting with In-hye. The cops are understandably suspicious of her constant stream of tips, which she declines to identify.
Seung-woo calls In-hye to check in that night. Jae-kyung overhears and tells Seung-woo there are a lot of things she’s sorry about, but when he presses her to explain her case after they catch Tae-san tomorrow, she hedges again. This time Seung-woo offers to explain why he’s so curious about Tae-san, which takes us to flashback:
This is his first encounter with In-hye (so further back in time than her squatting encounters), whom he witnesses being mugged in the streets. Seung-woo is close enough to snatch her bag back from the mugger, who gets away. He’s taken aback when she’s incredibly relieved to have her cash back (all of thirty dollars) and retrieves her bruised apples, answering that she’s going to eat them. Not an easy life for her, then.
The second time they meet, Seung-woo sees her walking along in the dead of night, alone, for long enough that he stops the car to chide her for not taking a taxi. She admits she has no money for one, and he offers a ride.
He explains now to Jae-kyung that the reason for her difficulties is Tae-san—he’s why she had to work multiple jobs and raise a child alone. Whatever his reasons were, Seung-woo hates him for it, and for reappearing now. If Tae-san was framed, Seung-woo will clear his name—and send him away out of their lives.
Tae-san makes another stop that night, using his old pawnshop as his base while checking out CCTV tapes of certain roads and intersections.
We get another flashback to the old days in Busan, when In-hye finds Tae-san sometime after his shrimp allergy incident. He’s his usual curt self, and she admits she was going to pretend to bump into him accidentally, but that won’t do. She asks playfully why he doesn’t plan his bike rides to coincide with the end of her shift anymore, which rattles him since he totally thought she hadn’t noticed.
She guesses at the reason for his conflicting actions—it’s because he thinks she’s too good for him, isn’t it? She’s a college student with a nice family, and he’s an orphaned delivery boy. He just tells her to be thankful that he stopped coming ’round, but In-hye isn’t so easily shaken and explains that she did consider how different they are, “But more than those thoughts, I think of you.” Then she asks him out to eat, this time for something he likes.
Tae-san tries once more to warn her off, and she asks if he won’t regret that. And that was that, the start of a beautiful relationship that ended with a catastrophic crash and burn.
Tae-san has a delivery made to the shop, which turns out to be disguises—glasses, mustaches, and the like.
The prosecutors meet in the early hours to plan their operation today, disguising officers as shoppers. Jae-kyung is prepared for the mobsters to find out about the plan the moment once the police get involved, but figures that this is still their best shot at nabbing Tae-san. An added concern is Teacher Kim, whom they suspect will crash the party; they know he interfered before, but know nothing about his identity.
The plan calls for officers at every exit and in the parking lot, with decoy cars prepared in case the baddies try to intercept transport again.
But I don’t know how much help that’ll be, since Teacher Kim is aware of every last detail. Boss Moon insists that they really have to get Tae-san this time (just like every other time, ha), and advises Teacher Kim to be particularly careful—don’t kill anybody, don’t let anyone see him, and above all, don’t get captured. Asked if all is in place, Teacher Kim says yes, just as we see a batch of C4 rigged up and blinking, awaiting detonation. Ack!
With an hour left till the contact time, all of the authorities are in place at the shopping center, disguised as janitors and shoppers and even big teddy bears. Jae-kyung directs from the control center and spots In-hye on the cameras, who’s been instructed to wander until Tae-san finds her.
The teddy bear cop (with whom In-hye is familiar) stops her to offer up the helpful warning to stay away from this area, because it’ll become chaotic soon. Wait, are you an idiot, or are you an idiot? Okay, I suppose the cops only know that they’re here to catch Tae-san, proving once again that it really is better when your left hand knows what the right hand is doing.
In-hye immediately understands that Tae-san is in danger and starts running for the exit—just as Tae-san is spotted waiting for an elevator. Jae-kyung issues orders over the comm to get him, and the officers start running in the direction she instructs.
But as it turns out, the guy they’ve pegged isn’t Tae-san after all, just a really good doppelganger, and the real deal has adopted a clean-cut dandy look for today.
The officers rope off the building to prevent exits, which is observed from a distance by Teacher Kim, who has his people on standby in the parking lot. We get a close-up of that explosive again, though I still don’t quite know how it’ll figure in.
Tae-san, thankfully, isn’t inside the mall yet and watches the melee through binoculars. He starts running, and the commotion draws the attention of Teacher Kim from the adjacent building. Ah, crap.
In-hye makes it outside and receives a call. Tae-san instructs her to go to the hospital immediately, then hangs up.
The decoy Tae-san walks through the mall, picking up cops on his tail. Jae-kyung orders the capture, and the masked man is taken down by a whole contingent of cops… and revealed to be an unfamiliar face. Jae-kyung barks at her team to immediately look outside.
Tae-san is trying to hurry away from the area as quickly but unobtrusively as possible, sweating bullets at a red light. Teacher Kim approaches from behind with his freakish Terminator walk… and just before he reaches his quarry, Tae-san spies his reflection in the window of a passing car. Oh thank god.
The light turns green, the pedestrians begin crossing, and Tae-san… turns to Teacher Kim? He cuts to the chase—who is he and where did he come from? Is he here to get the camera? Then kill him?
Tae-san stalls with questions (“How long have you been in Korea”) and bides his time, explaining that he doesn’t recall ever seeing Teacher Kim amongst the mobsters, and the reason he’s curious is because—fling! He knocks Teacher Kim aside and makes a break for it.
Tae-san runs through traffic, and while dodging cars Teacher Kim loses sight of him. Teacher Kim stops a bus to check its passengers, then spots a pair of feet peeking out from around the bus stop corner. He charges ’round… and finds two shoes. HA! I love that this is the third time Tae-san has used his shoes to distract, and they fall for it every time.
So then Teacher Kim gets on the bus, just as Tae-san leaps out of the window. Muahaha. Teacher Kim yells at the ajusshi to stop the bus—after stopping it twice to get on—then remembers the warning to not get noticed. He stays put, fuming.
Turns out that Tae-san hired his decoy through an errand service—ah, he wasn’t merely dropping off disguises, but also picking up Tae-san’s clothing to wear. Hee. Hee. Hee.
Jae-kyung is beyond frustrated, and mutters that Tae-san must’ve caught on to her phone tap. This does not escape Seung-woo’s notice, which, oooooh. Jae-kyung’s gonna be kicking herself over that slip something fierce.
In-hye returns to the hospital, and Tae-san grabs her. I’m going to just pause for a moment to enjoy the clinch, because c’mon, this guy has had a really bad week. He deserves a moment of warmth, right?
In-hye notes his cuts and scrapes and pulls him aside, eyeing him worriedly. He assures her that he’s made sure not to get an infection, though he can’t hide that he’s pretty beat up all over. She asks why he didn’t stow away, and he says there was an info leak, likely with her phone being bugged. Ahhh, he says he called her out to the mall today to confirm this suspicion, which means he never intended to contact her. Phew. I mean, he didn’t get caught anyway, but it’s a retroactive phew just the same.
Tae-san apologizes for the trouble, but has nobody to ask for help but In-hye. We don’t hear his request.
Seung-woo drives back mulling over his twofold discovery—that Jae-kyung tapped In-hye’s phone, and that In-hye lied to him about her whereabouts today. He tries calling, then heads over to the hospital, finding her thankfully alone.
He asks point-blank if she went to the shopping center today, and whether she’s in contact with Tae-san. She’s stunned but doesn’t hide it, asking how long he’s known. He asks frustratedly why she didn’t tell him, and why she kept meeting Tae-san even though he’s a fugitive. So finally she confesses the truth of Tae-san being the bone marrow donor.
Tae-san leaves the hospital and remembers the hair clip he’d bought at the mall for Su-jin. No! Don’t you dare go back there! Do you hear me? Auuuuuugh, he turns around and heads back, foolishly grinning at the trinket.
He arrives in the lobby in time to overhear Seung-woo asking whether In-hye distrusts him, insisting, “Su-jin is a daughter to me, too!” Over his shoulder, In-hye spots Tae-san… and Seung-woo does too.
And Su-jin crosses off another day on her calendar.
I do love this stretch in man-on-the-run stories, where the hero really steps it up in the outsmarting game. There’s a certain familiarity to the rhythm of fugitive plots, which isn’t a putdown but a matter of fact that the show itself gives a nod to with its periodic film references. The beginning is the hardest on all of us, with the hero being blackmailed/backstabbed/blindsided into taking a fall wrongfully, and then he scrambles along thinking as quickly as his synapses will fire to make use of any gap to escape, then catches a few breaks as he scrabbles to stay alive and find a spare moment to breathe. And then he starts thinking, and plotting, and getting into strategy mode, and that’s when things get way more fun.
I love that through these familiar pathways the show still manages to pull out fresh moments. I’m definitely not surprised every time he comes out alive, because that’s the whole point of the show, so it’s up to the writing to keep us on our toes. I think it does that nicely, even when all it takes is a few smartly implemented lo-fi techniques like calling in his own sighting tip. And going back to the scene of the crime to catch a breather. And cluing in to the phone tap and rigging a decoy scenario that keeps everybody busy while he observes from afar.
For a while it wasn’t clear whether Seung-woo would go the way of the jealous and controlling second lead—you know, a nice guy only until things stop going his way—or return to his decent roots. I appreciate that he tiptoed along that ledge for a while, which feels human and realistic, before being told to basically suck it up and do his job. Plus I just enjoy it whenever Jae-kyung puts him in his place. Not that she’s got a stellar track record, since it’s almost comical how badly these authorities are faring on the Catch That One Desperate Injured Guy, Seriously It’s Your One Job front, but she’s at least admirable for her single-minded focus.
Now if we could only get our hands on that goddamned digital camera. Well, he’s survived his first week from hell; what’s one more, right?