Heirs: Episode 3
The show is settling into its groove, and not just because we’re packing up to head back to Korea soon. (Soon!) I’m actually warming up to how the California setting is being integrated into the story, now that we’ve put the horridness of the Cali stereotypes behind us. (The less we speak of those, the better.)
There’s an interesting effect that comes from shooting a quintessentially Korean romance drama in a place that’s both so iconic and so NOT the norm for quintessentially Korean romance dramas—it’s weird, but in a good way. It feels fish-out-of-water-like for us too, giving us a taste of what the characters feel, being out of sync and not quite there, there. And you know, I do think that’s quite the point.
SONG OF THE DAY
Park Jang-hyun & Park Hyung-kyu – “Love Is…” from the Heirs OST
[ Download ]
EPISODE 3 RECAP
In the movie theater, Tan translates the conversation unfolding onscreen for Eun-sang. Then he veers off-script, tacking on his own scenario about meeting a girl named Eun-sang that ends on: “Do I… like you?”
After a few charged moments, Eun-sang offers, “Probably not.” She points out that he’s engaged as though that’s explanation enough, and he brushes that aside impatiently: “What if I do anyway?” She says that’s too much like the movies, and Tan replies that this kind of thing happens in real life too.
Eun-sang gets distracted with the realization, “Are we really in Hollywood?” Rather, it’s her excuse to be distracted, and she marvels at the Hollywood sign while studiously ignoring Tan’s attempt to have a conversation about what he just said. Clocking her avoidance, he relents and offers to take her to see the sign up close.
She declines, telling him he’s done enough for her. Hers is the rational decision, but Tan is upset by the rejection.
They return to his house to pick up her luggage, by which time he’s become silent and gloomy. She says her goodbye and starts to head off… and then Tan grabs her bag from her and carries it back inside the house.
By now, best bud Chan-young has responded to her online plea for help and urges her to call him asap. But rather than relay that message, Tan tells Eun-sang to stay at the house until her friend calls. Trying to cling to any reason to keep her here.
He gets a call from Manager Yoon, one of Jeguk’s executives (who stood up to big bro Won the other day) and also Chan-young’s father. Manager Yoon informs Tan of the stockholders family gathering he is to attend, per Chairman Dad’s decree. Also, Won will be there, and Tan understands that his presence won’t be met with brotherly welcome.
On the other end of the call, Manager Yoon hangs up and gets accosted by a friendly Bo-na, who’s already calling him “Father.” Haha. I know she’s a ditzy girlfriend with a one-track mind, but I do find her attachment to Chan-young harmlessly cute. She complains that Chan-young is probably cheating on her already, but the moment Manager Yoon agrees that his son was bad, Bo-na jumps to her boyfriend’s defense. She’s a riot.
Bo-na is part of the broadcasting club and joins fellow club member Hyo-shin (prosecutor’s son and mysteriously vomiting sunbae). After dismissing annoying underclassmen who’ve come to fawn over Hyo-shin, Bo-na chats with him about one of their members whose family made him quit the club. I suppose it makes sense—why be a creative when you can own the creatives as some CEO or another? Hyo-shin himself would be forced to quit if his elders found out, and he figures that either he’s hid the secret well, or his parents have hid it for him. (So… grandpa rules his family, I take it?)
Bo-na wonders what pill he’s popping, and Hyo-shin waves it off as vitamins for his advanced old age—yunno, nineteen versus her eighteen. But we know better.
Tan dresses for the stockholders meeting and tells Eun-sang to stay at home till he’s back. And then, oh god, Terrible Stoner Surfer Meathead is back, make it stop make it stop make it stooooop. Never have I been so mad at beans for not killing somebody. I envy Eun-sang’s inability to understand him.
Terrible Meathead is happy to sidle up flirtatiously to Eun-sang, which at least gets Tan rethinking his plans for the day. Off she goes with him. I’m so relieved for her.
Tan’s mother, Madam Han, consults with her sister about grounds for divorce. Little Sis speaks with a conspicuous saturi accent (i.e., distinctly non-high-society), and Madam Han urges her to keep her voice down before slipping into saturi herself. (Ha, anybody else reminded of Julie “How dare he say I’m from Riverside” Cooper?) Little Sis gives her the name of a guy who’ll follow people to snap adultery photos, because adultery is her only viable grounds for seeking divorce.
I’m wondering why she’d want a divorce from her cushy situation, but no, it turns out she’s sending the rat to sniff out Madam Jung—aka Wife No. 2. Ah, is she still legally the wife? So Madam Han really IS a concubine. That explains why Tan is registered under Wife 2’s name in the family registry (until the law was reformed in recent years, children had to be registered under their father’s name, and to keep Tan legitimate he was listed as the child of the lawful wife). Granted, Madam Han has been the chairman’s recognized partner for years, but she’s eager to claim her place officially.
As she’s making her furtive call to the private eye in the cellar, she fails to see the housekeeper, Eun-sang’s mother, until it’s too late. (For convenience’s sake, she’ll be simply Mom.) Mom may be mute but she’s certainly not deaf, and she confirms that she heard all.
I’m getting the sense that Madam Han has been unsuccessful in asserting her place not because of meanie oppression but due to her own lack of mental acuity. Her argument is all, You should’ve heard how secretive I was being and made your presence known so I wouldn’t keep talking about myself incriminatingly! Silly billy.
Mom dryly notes that she was standing here the whole time doing just that, holding out messages to her employer that went unseen. Hilariously, those notes read: “If you’re lucky you won’t get caught” and “You should really use an unregistered phone for these calls.” Ha.
Tan takes Eun-sang along for the long drive to the Central Cali orchard where the company event is being held. He advises her to take a look around while he’s inside, not sure whether it’ll take him five minutes to get kicked out this time, or longer. Just be sure she avoids “the coldest-looking person” here, he warns.
Speaking of whom, Won is smiling it up as he wines and dines the attendees, though that smile immediately disappears upon seeing Tan’s arrival. Won curtly orders him aside, and Tan nervously tries to open with pleasantries. He keeps going despite hyung’s frosty reception, saying that he wanted to see him and that it’s been three years. Won sneers that he’s just a kid, lacking the judgment to know he shouldn’t have come.
Ack, Tan’s little-boy hopefulness is quite a jab to the heart as he tries to earn approval somehow, and says that he’s grown a lot taller since the last time. Won spits back, “That’s all you’ve done since you’ve been in America, isn’t it? Stick to that. Coming here overstepped your bounds.”
Poor heartbroken Tan. And standing at within earshot is Eun-sang, eyeing him sympathetically. The sprinklers suddenly switch on, drenching him. But still he stands there, lost.
Eun-sang approaches. “Are you okay?” she asks. “I’m not,” he says. He asks why she eavesdropped, and she says she was ready to jump in, grab his wrist (heh) and run away if he became endangered. He replies, “Then why didn’t you? I was in danger the whole time.”
With that, they make the long drive back home. He tells her to forget what she saw, and she answers that she’s going to forget this all—it’s just one midsummer night’s dream to her.
Tan belatedly registers fallen rocks in the lane ahead (that’s what you get for staring at the girl while driving), and swerves to avoid the boulders. They screech to a halt, and the car grinds to a halt in the sandy dirt. No cell reception means they’ve got to get themselves out of this fix. Eun-sang can’t drive, so… cut to her pushing, ha.
Still, no go. With dusk approaching, Tan suggests heading out on foot to find civilization. Eun-sang protests, because her extensive horror-movie knowledge tells her that people always die that way. On the other hand she’d die if she’s left behind, so she tags along. (Tan: “So we’re dying in the end?” Eun-sang: “Well, one of us has to stay alive for Season 2.”)
They walk on toward a roadhouse Tan remembers seeing, and he asks what she intends to do when her friend replies to her message. She says she’ll borrow money for a ticket back home, and he points out that he could lend her money too. But no, she’s not about to mooch off him to that extent.
They finally make it to a motel, where they have to spend the night until a tow truck can be called in the morning. Tan buys a couple of matching T-shirts to change into, then changes into his right then and there. I love that while she whirls around before he gets (half-)nekkid, she then sighs to herself, “What a shame, I should’ve looked.” Yes you should have, honey. I looked, and it was great.
They eat at the adjoining diner, and he finds her so cute he just stares and stares. She warns him that if he keeps that up she’ll start asking uncomfortable questions, but he beats her to the punch. If she was wondering who he was talking to earlier, “It’s the person I like most in the world.” Aww.
She leans in close and nosy-like to pry about his hyung, and his reply growl makes her rear back reflexively. But they’re sitting on barstools, so he lurches to grab her before she falls, leading to the classic rom-com clinch. Enjoy, folks.
He chuckles at her blush, which she blusters isn’t a blush. It’s, um, upset at not being able to eat pancakes on her trip to America, yeah! He offers to take her to his favorite place on Melrose later, and she orders him to stop making promises he can’t keep, because that means he’ll die (according to the movies). Psh.
Back in the room Eun-sang pretends to fall asleep right away, but Tan is on to her and persists until she gives up the act. He asks why she wants Jeguk Group to be ruined but doesn’t get a straight answer, and after a round of bickering they head to bed and Tan warns her not to get pervy with him while he’s sleeping.
Lying in bed, Tan asks when she’ll return to Korea. She yawns, “As soon as possible.” He starts to ask, “What if… I…” only to see that she’s nodded off. She starts to topple over, and he pitches forward to cushion her head, then tucks her in and watches her sleep.
Pissy fiancée Rachel had sent Tan’s address to Chan-young, eager to get rid of Eun-sang. He arrives in Malibu just as the other two pull in, and Eun-sang lights up to see her buddy. Tan glowers.
Once again when Eun-sang starts to say goodbye to Tan, he draws it out, suggesting that she stay here until her flight. The offer takes her aback, and he reframes the offer as being the fair thing to do after she got her passport confiscated because of him. All through the exchange Chan-young gives him the shifty eye until he guesses, “Are you Kim Tan?” He says they know each other, though he declines to explain how.
Their taxi arrives, and with it go any last excuses to hold onto her.
Chan-young and Eun-sang arrive at his place, and she asks if Tan is a bad guy, to which Chan-young replies merely that he’s not a nice one. Eun-sang is finally able to let down her guard a bit with him and tearfully confides about her sister running off. She’s still hasty to assure Chan-young she’ll pay him back asap and leave right away, though he urges her to take her time.
They head out to enjoy the day, and Chan-young snaps a selca of them to upload online “to show you something funny.” And there it is, on the count of three: the angry call from Bo-na. Hahaha. So predictable. He finds it cute, while Eun-sang complains that he’s going to get her in trouble and her hair possibly yanked out. I’d bet on Bo-na, ‘s all I’m sayin’.
Tan also takes note of the photo with annoyance. Then he sees his engagement photo with Rachel and sighs, “It’s tomorrow.” I don’t really feel sorry for Rachel given that she and her barbed tongue can take care of herself, but it’s gotta suck to be that unwanted by your fiancé. She’s pissy when he calls, but as the call comes with an in-person appearance, it smooths over some of her ruffled feathers.
Rachel’s mother calls her to get their stories straight—Rachel went to America on Tan’s request, not on her own whim—before she meets with (Wife No. 2) Madam Jung, whom she refers to as Tan’s mother. I wonder who exactly knows of Tan’s birth situation, though the ambiguity is certainly done on purpose.
Neither Rachel’s mother nor Madam Jung know why Tan and Young-do are no longer friends, given how tight they were right up until Tan’s departure for the States.
Young-do is called by his father to essentially get body and ego bruised by the judo mat. Why do I feel like his father is using judo as an excuse to thrash his son? His father rubs in the loss with a few “tips” afterward, saying that Young-do loses because he attacks unnecessarily, both on and off the mat.
Dad orders Young-do to pick up Rachel at the airport tomorrow, which Young-do haaaaaates but can’t exactly argue. I have to say that while I find Young-do’s just-under-the-surface rage unsettling, it’s vaguely satisfying to see him at a disadvantage for once, after watching him lord it over everyone else. What goes around, et cetera.
Restored to a good mood, Rachel thanks Tan for going shopping with her all day, happy more about his presence than the clothing gifts. He wipes the smile from her face by telling her that he likes shopping with her because anything else would seem like a real date. Snappish again, Rachel confirms that Eun-sang left his house, then orders him to stop talking about her, to which he reminds her that she brought her up in the first place.
They’re interrupted by a furious call from Young-do, who’s not about to meet her at the airport and tells her to find a way to make that not happen. I guess just not going isn’t an option.
And here, just because this scene couldn’t have been included only to be overlooked:
Rachel complains about his high-handedness to Tan, who asks how Young-do’s doing. She says he’s great, doing on his own what he and Tan used to do together. We’ve gotten hints here and there before, but I guess that confirms that Tan used to be a big bully too, though something tells me he didn’t enjoy it.
Rachel wants to go for pancakes at Tan’s favorite place, and he declines, saying that he thinks Eun-sang will be there. Rachel sneers at his naive belief in fateful meetings or whatnot and digs in her heels more, wanting to prove him wrong.
The scenario goes the other way, of course, and they walk up to see Eun-sang and Chan-young already seated. Tan still tries to pull her away, saying that he’s trying to do the polite thing to Rachel, and that makes her more stubborn: “Being polite” would suggest there’s more to the relationship than she can allow. She forces her way in.
Rachel walks right up to their table and declares, “I’m sitting here. We’ll pay.” God, she’s going to be such a nightmare when she’s all growed up, isn’t she? (Not that she isn’t already one, but I see her as the miniature version of shrieky psycho played later by someone like Seo Hyo-rim.)
Rachel proceeds to make everyone exceedingly uncomfortable, announcing that this is their engagement anniversary and generally being imperious and nosy. She has to rub salt in things by pointing out that Tan is Bo-na’s ex-boyfriend, while Chan-young is her current one. She then pointedly asks Eun-sang if she only hangs out with guys who are taken. Blaaaagh. Somebody shut her up please. I don’t care how.
At that, Tan grabs Rachel and drags her away. Once they’re at some distance, he reminds her of their first meeting, back when they were ten and he’d thought her a young genius—he’d felt the novice next to her English and Japanese fluency. And bossiness, you forgot her bossiness. Then when they were fourteen, she’d liked his brother and called Tan a kiddo who couldn’t compete, and Tan had felt again that he was the green little boy.
“For eight years, the Yoo Rachel in my memory was always smart, pretty, and adult,” he tells her. “But right now, you’re not looking that great. Don’t be like this, especially if it’s because of me.”
Well, I’m glad he said it. And moreover, I’m glad that there’s somebody in this world who can call Rachel out on her crap and have it land.
Or maybe there are two people: Back at the hotel, she crosses paths with Won, with whom she’s on friendly terms. She asks to tag along with Won, preferring his company to an empty hotel room, and he takes her along to visit his mother’s grave. She’d been a plain country girl growing up in a California vineyard, whom Won supposes must’ve found Korea suffocating.
Aw, I like Won and Rachel’s rapport together, considering that they can put their thorns put away with each other to have some genuine conversation.
Back in Seoul, Manager Yoon has a Dramatic Elevator Eye-Lock with Rachel’s mother. Gah, is everybody in this drama going to have a Secret Past Relationship?
Once her fiancé steps aside, Rachel’s mom turns to Manager Yoon with an awwwwfully familiar tone. Referring to her upcoming wedding, she notes, “Both twenty years ago and now, you’re not the one, Oppa.” It looks like she was digging for a reaction, as she seems disappointed at his bland congratulations.
She tosses out, “It’s quite strange how seeing you still makes my heart race.” He tosses back, “I hope that happens after your wedding too. Take care.” Just to get this clear: We’re talking Rachel’s mother, Chan-young’s father, and Young-do’s father. Because the relationships in this drama weren’t complicated enough.
Tan finally connects Chan-young with Manager Yoon and mentions it when he calls Chan-young. He’s looking for Eun-sang and asks (demands) that she call him back. But upon hearing the message, Eun-sang decides not to return the call, figuring their connection is at an end.
So Tan, poor sap, sits staring at his phone all afternoon, afraid to leave it out of his sight. He smiles to see a pair of socks on his door handle, ostensibly Eun-sang’s payment for some favor or another. Meanwhile, she drops by his school campus to pin up a goodbye message amidst all the other flyers: “It was like a midsummer night’s dream. I’ll be disappearing now, like last night’s dream… Goodbye.”
Tan dutifully shows up to take Rachel to the airport, and she asks whether he has any plans to come back to Korea. He answers, “I always have plans, I just don’t have the courage.”
Rachel hesitates a moment before hugging Tan goodbye, telling him she’s still mad at him. He keeps his hands in his pockets but lets her keep holding him… just as Eun-sang walks into the terminal. Agggh! I can’t even be angry at the coincidence since this departure was mentioned multiple times, but of course this would happen.
I doubt Eun-sang would ever admit to herself that she had feelings for Tan, but this really seals the deal. She turns away, which is when he looks over and spots her. “Cha Eun-sang! Stop right there!”
Despite how many of the characters I don’t like as people, I do like their characterizations as characters. Like Rachel, who’s a real piece of work and who, more dangerously, possesses the destructive power of a small tornado—I don’t like her much, but I find her a compelling character. I get why she lashes out in certain ways, and while I’d love to see her humbled and maybe left to fend for herself as a penniless wretch, I see why she’s become the person she is. It’s a real relief to see her scenes with Won (and to a lesser extent, the ones where she’s not pissed off at Tan), because it proves that she can be a happy and reasonable person, given the right circumstances. Too bad she can’t be a decent person when everything doesn’t go her way, but maybe there’s growth in store for her? Please?
Young-do’s another character I’m having a real hard time feeling any sympathy for, given that he’s so menacing and screams malevolent energy, but nobody say he isn’t charismatic. Or interesting. The dark, twisted flawed ones always are. And on the flipside I have much love for Chan-young, who rather seems like the ubiquitous Daddy Long Legs second lead de-sexified, in that he has no stake in claiming the heroine’s heart for himself. Does that make him an even more perfect second lead than the typical nice-guy second lead? (As a corollary: Please oh please don’t give him any sudden interest in the heroine, y’hear? That would be a surefire way to ruin a good thing.) And even Bo-na strikes me as an amusing bit of comic relief, kind of a like a yappy puppy you can’t shoo away.
Won and Tan are another slice of tension and conflict that adds a jolt of energy to the proceedings—Lee Min-ho does a lot of silent staring in this show, but damn if it isn’t soulful. And so I’m wishing really hard right now that the heroine pulls through as well, because Eun-sang is… I dunno. Kind of expected. I like Park Shin-hye and I think she’s doing a good job portraying the multiple sides of Eun-sang—the bubbly side, for instance, when she’s not being so guarded and defensive—but I don’t know that she’s being written as interestingly as the others. She’s just The Heroine. I’d love it if she were more.
With the English-language scenes pulled back to a minimum (although if somebody could kill off Surfer Boy, I’d be much obliged), I’m quite okay with the Southern California location shooting, and not just because it’s pretty or because I recognize the locations. It actually has a strong narrative function, in that there’s a weird dissonance to shooting what is a very Korean drama in such a different locale. Normally in other dramas, foreign shoots are a quick jaunt overseas that often hinder the character of the supposed backdrop from coming through. But this extensive sequence in the States actually incorporates the setting into the romance of the romance, if you get me.
There’s an ethereal, dreamlike quality to the relationship that Eun-sang notes in her Midsummer Night’s Dream allusion (minus the manic fairies, I suppose), and perhaps it’s because they are out of their element—both of them, despite his extended stay here—that allows their feelings to boil down to a very simple, basic matter: Do you like me? Do I like you?
I suspect that the reason for the swift romantic development is because feeling the feelings isn’t this couple’s problem, but rather living with the reality. And for them, reality is back in Korea, within the strict outlines of their socially conscious society, where it means more to be a chaebol than having a spiffy house by the sea. So while I’m never really thrilled to watch yet another Candy-chaebol, rich-poor, parental-opposition romance, I do appreciate how this drama has set up the conflict and made it feel real. Well, not real-real in the case of our reality, but the emotions feel genuine, and that’s the kind of real I care about.