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Prime Minister and I: Episode 2

The ruse begins, and Episode 2 gives us a chance to enjoy the inherent awkwardness in the Odd Couple match-up of two people who just don’t see each other in That Way. At least, not yet, and I’m content to let that play out over time—these two have enough likable charm that I feel pretty confident that I’ll buy the romance once it swings around, but don’t need it to come blazing out of the gates. Not while we have comedy to mine, and there’s certainly plenty of opportunity for that in this setup. I’m particularly fond of the forced smiles Lee Beom-soo has to slap on his face, which are hilariously stilted, and wouldn’t want to trade those for anything.

SONG OF THE DAY

Fromm – “사랑 아니었나” (Was it not love). I can’t shake the feeling she’s modeled herself entirely on Feist, but then, I like Feist so… [ Download ]

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EPISODE 2 RECAP

Yul pulls Da-jung around the corner just in time to avoid being spotted by the nosy Reporter Byun. Another reporter joins him and mentions the rumor that the mystery woman may have been paid to implicate the prime minister-to-be. Da-jung bristles to have her character impugned but Yul keeps her quiet until the reporters leave, then drags her up to the roof for a more private conversation.

Da-jung asks suspiciously if he had anything to do with that rumor, and Yul tells her no way—he’d shot down that idea. But that just confirms to her that he would consider such a thing, and she turns his own insult (said to her the other day) back on himself about how he’s a lowlife, selling her out to save his own skin. She adds the suggestion that he quit this prime minister bid, because the country can’t have people like him running it.

Yul counters that he won’t do that and says he’ll do what he has to survive, and she’s free to do as she wants. He leaves her huffing indignantly after him.

Turns out it was press secretary Hye-joo who leaked the rumors about Da-jung being a plant, and aide In-ho confronts her with displeasure. He reminds her that Yul had told them not to throw Da-jung to the wolves to save themselves, but Hye-joo just says that they couldn’t just do nothing while they were being attacked; she’ll take responsibility for it.

Fuming, Da-jung storms up to confront Yul again, and is just around the corner as he leaves his office to tell Hye-joo he has come to a decision: “I’m going to step down.” Hye-joo immediately argues against it, saying that they can’t give up everything they’ve worked for over such a petty thing. Yul counters, “Are one woman’s personal rights such a petty thing?” He calls Da-jung the victim here and says that resigning is the only right response.

This has Da-jung reeling, since her perspective on the matter has just been spun wildly in the other direction.

Yul begins his press conference to address the news, wherein he refuses to name the woman in the photo despite repeatedly being probed for clues. I honestly don’t see why he can’t just give a version of the truth, but I suppose we’d have no drama then, and he sticks by his principles despite knowing that not saying anything looks suspicious.

Reporter Byun throws a wrench into the works by making the link: the mystery woman is the same reporter who scored an exclusive interview with a tabloid paper. Just as he’s about to out Da-jung, she calls out a confirmation—yes, she was the woman in the photo.

All eyes swing to her as she joins a stunned Yul onstage. She introduces herself and smiles for the cameras, saying that yes, she was that woman, and that she and Mr. Almost Prime Minister here “…are in love!” Pffffft.

She stamps on his foot to quell Yul’s protest and puts on a loving face for the press, who go wild.

Naturally Yul’s not pleased, finding her method of damage control absurd. Da-jung says that it’s better than him resigning, and that they can later announce their amicable breakup, like celebs do. Yul asks whose idea this was, and she (a bit unconvincingly) claims credit for it—only to have In-ho interrupt and admit that he’d thought it up and asked the favor from Da-jung.

Da-jung gets excused, and Yul turns his displeasure to his aide, telling him that he doesn’t care to become prime minister through tactics like these. He has lived by his principles throughout his political career—don’t be anybody’s puppet, don’t take bribes, don’t lie. Therefore he’ll resign.

But In-ho asks scathingly, “Are principles so important?” There’s an undercurrent of bitterness and darkness about In-ho that makes him fascinating. He asks if Yul considers everybody—his staff, the president, the citizens—so trivial as to be discarded this easily. He adds that Yul’s decision to resign was for Da-jung’s benefit, but that wouldn’t keep her from being whispered about as a seedy or loose woman; better for her to be part of this romance story.

Hye-joo arrives to deliver a stinging slap to In-ho’s cheek, saying merely, “Thank you.”

The unfolding scandal has been closely monitored by Joon-ki, the bitter bro-in-law and also minister of strategy and finance. He hears that public sentiment is turning in Yul’s favor, which does not make his day—not after all the effort he went through to conjure up the scandal.

In-ho shows Da-jung to a room where she can rest for the night, given the reporter presence outside, and thanks her for deciding to help. She asks what happens if the situation twists in an undesirable direction (say, she’s made out to be a crazy person), and In-ho assures her smilingly that he’ll take responsibility in that case. She wonders the same thing I’m wondering: “How would he take responsibility?”

Yul wrestles with his conscience all night, replaying the others’ words in his head. He feels strongly in his no-lying stance, but there’s no denying In-ho has a point about Da-jung being in danger of worse fallout if he resigns. Plus, Da-jung had said she’d prefer this to being made out to be somebody who could be paid to smear someone’s image.

He also flashes back to being asked to take the position by the president, being supported by his staffers, and vowing to the people to do his best.

In the morning he’s made his choice, and finds Da-jung sprawled out on the couch, which she falls out of as she wakes. Yul informs her that he’s going with the plan, however grudgingly, and that as soon as he’s appointed prime minister they’ll be breaking up. She tries an experimental “jagi-ya” (honey) for practice, which creeps him out and has him barking at her to do her practice without him.

Hye-joo warns Da-jung of the need for utmost secrecy, checking that she has no debts, prior convictions, or ex-boyfriends. He brusque (barbed, even) manner ruffles Da-jung’s feathers, but Da-jung assures her that she’ll do her job acting as the perfect dignified girlfriend. And then she gets Yul’s number and immediately calls him to tell him to store her as his Number 1. Haha. You’ve gotta give Da-jung credit for jumping into this plan with gusto, given that she’s doing it as a favor to them.

In-ho finds Da-jung plotting her exit from the reporter-filled lobby, apologizing that he forgot to take care of this for her. But she says she’s got it covered, already formulating her plan. With the help of a floor-sweeper machine, she rides past the crowd right to the doors and slips away unseen.

At home, Yul’s three kids wonder about the lady in the news and whether their father really means to marry her. Youngest Man-se chirps that she’s a nice lady, but middle child Nara shakes her head, judging from Da-jung’s fashion sense (as in, lack of one) that she’s not on Dad’s level.

They get a surprise visit from uncle Joon-ki, who has come with birthday presents for Nara. Interestingly, eldest son Woo-ri seems a bit suspicious of his uncle, and Joon-ki notes that he’s just like his father.

Nara sniffs that Uncle is better than Dad, who hasn’t been home or even called, and Joon-ki files this tidbit away with interest. Then he puts on his warmest face to address the reporters outside, saying that he offers his brother-in-law his warmest congratulations for his happy news.

Yul arrives at his front gate, interrupting Joon-ki’s impromptu interview. But despite the unwelcome drop-in, Yul loses a little ground when Joon-ki says (for his ears only), “I don’t know if this romance is real, but isn’t forgetting your child’s birthday rather pathetic?” Then Joon-ki leaves in high spirits, noting to his aide that he’s just received a gift—now he knows what Yul’s weakness is.

Da-jung finds reporters camped out in front of her building, just as her father calls to confirm the news, having read it in the papers. I love that Dad doesn’t care whether the guy is a prime minister; he just cares about seeing whether he’s good enough to date her. Awww, Dad.

At work, Da-jung has to convince her editor boss and photographer Hee-chul about the story, and hurriedly fills in the gaps in logic with lies. For instance, the reason she was barred from the press corps was because she was afraid their relationship would be discovered, and Yul had put her in jail because she’d wanted to break up over their vast differences in status. (The dramatizations are hilarious in their own right, for being over-the-top parodies of dramatic love angst.)

Her skeptical editor wants proof and tells her to call Yul. So she does, calling with an aegyotastic “Jagi-yaaaaa” that gets the first call disconnected. Yul endures the second call with gritted teeth, while she pours on the cutesy talk on her end. That’s not enough and the editor calls her a liar; he’ll believe her if Yul comes to get her.

Just then, Yul’s voice booms, “Are you looking for me?” And there he is, all smiles for his audience, ushering her into his car. They have to keep up the ruse for the sake of his driver, who seems to approve of the romance, haha.

Da-jung notices that her colleagues are tailing them, though, eager to get the scoop on the prime minister candidate’s date. So she directs the driver in their getaway route, while Hee-chul struggles to keep up. Once they lose the tail, Yul has his driver continue to their destination: a hotel.

Gulp. Da-jung freaks out, thinking this is taking their ruse a step too far, and she breaks down as they arrive at the door begging him to relent. And on the other side of that door: a room full of staffers, gathered for a late-night strategy session. LOL. I’m so embarrassed for her.

Joon-ki’s on top of this news, of course, understanding that Yul’s team is scrambling to manage this romance storyline. He gets to work on creating his own storyline: the prime minister candidate who doesn’t know his own children’s birthdays but is busy with his love life.

In the hotel room, Yul is quizzed on details about Da-jung and their fabricated dating history. Because he’s got no corruption or scandal in his past to muddy up the confirmation process, they’ll likely spend most of the hearing asking about this latest scandal.

Hye-joo apologizes for slapping In-ho earlier, and says she hadn’t realized he’d be so swift to throw himself into helping, probably since he’s a new hire who hasn’t proven his loyalty yet. She, on the other hand, has been working with Yul for a decade. In-ho surprises her by saying that he’s also been watching Yul for a long while, and had been a longtime member of an organization supporting him. I’m… not so sure I buy that as the explanation. There’s certainly more to the story than a simple fan club.

Da-jung steps outside for a break and runs into Yul, who asks after her father’s reaction to the news. She says he’d probably insist they marry, but assures him not to worry—Dad will just forget it all soon enough.

Yul thanks her for all her help thus far, saying that today will be the last day. He’s curious, though, to know why she agreed in the first place. Her mind flashes back to Yul being ready to resign to protect her, but her answer is flippant—she was just looking after her best interests. She tells him to pass his confirmation hearing and become a prime minister “who will be a source of strength for ordinary folks like me. Promise that you’ll become a prime minister who doesn’t side with the strong or neglect the weak.”

He can promise that readily, and he makes her promise something in return: “Be a good reporter.” He compliments her writing ability (if not the actual content) and says he’ll be watching her career. Da-jung leaves him with one tip, offering to tell what Man-se’s favorite cartoon is.

Coincidentally enough, that’s a question he gets asked during his confirmation hearing, now that Joon-ki’s pulling the strings. It’s followed by a string of questions asking about his kids’ favorite celebrities or future aspirations, and there’s a distinct snideness to the question-asking, saying that he must be too busy to know these things. But how can a man like that spend time dating around?

Yul sits calmly through the tirade, then methodically answers each and every question. His responses neutralize the proceedings and even wring some laughs, but Yul adds that he learned of these facts only yesterday, conceding that he is the neglectful father he was accused of being. “You ask how I can date while knowing nothing about my children. I don’t know that myself. But the only answer I can give is that I wanted to protect that one woman.” He adds that he’ll probably continue to be a clueless father, but the exchange is that he’ll be a diligent prime minister. “Becoming a good father—that will be my next concern.”

With that, Yul is approved and the president swears him in… and then asks when the wedding is.

Da-jung gets called to the hospital and tears into her father’s room near tears, seeing his body lying with a sheet over his face. And then Dad sits up chuckling at his prank—which, god is not a joke sick people should play, though I guess gallows humor has its uses. Already he’s talking of Yul as his son-in-law and clucks to see that he didn’t come here with Da-jung.

She complains to Dad about joking that he collapsed and stalks out in a pout, only to hear from the doctor that Dad did actually collapse. And worse, his brain tumor diagnosis gives him six months to live at best.

Da-jung walks home in a daze, and when Dad texts her telling her to take care and bring the fiancé with her next time, she breaks down into sobs.

Yul is briefed on the upcoming event commemorating his appointment, and In-ho points out that Da-jung has been left off the guest list. He argues that they owe her a debt of gratitude, but Hye-joo counters that they’ll need to set the stage for the breakup, and Yul agrees with her.

Hye-joo asks if In-ho harbors personal motives toward Da-jung, and his response is surprise, followed by, “Would it be wrong if I do?” I don’t think he’s actually that far along, though he calls her interesting and seems to find her amusing.

In tears, Da-jung drinks alone in a pojangmacha that night, thinking of Dad’s desire to see her married off.

Yul gets a startling call, and then we cut to Da-jung slumped over in a police station. HAHA. She’s shaken awake but flops back to sleep right away, and the officers have no recourse but to wait for her Number 1 contact (listed as boyfriend) to come get her.

Yul’s arrival has Da-jung bolting awake, and Yul claps a hand over her mouth to prevent her from saying anything damning. He takes her away with his small army of bodyguards, all of whom stand by silently while she retches into the bushes outside.

She just stands there slurring her apologies while he scolds her for this inconvenience, griping that he’s already got enough of a headache dodging the when-are-you-marrying questions. That makes her eyes widen, and she suggests, “What if we got married for real?”

She falls to his feet half-drunkenly, half-pleadingly, and looks up at him with tearful puppy dog eyes and asks him to marry her while clinging to his leg. And that, my friends, is how to make a memorable proposal.

 
COMMENTS

I wasn’t expecting too much of Prime Minister and I, but it’s off to a promising beginning and I welcome the warm fuzzy rom-com sensibility. We’ve had a lot of very melo romances this year and I miss the good-ole-fashioned, opposites-attract romantic comedies that used to rule dramaland and the ratings. These days it’s all about the melos, which have their place (and crack factor)—but you can only have your emotions put through the wringer so many times before you need a break from so much FEELING. A heartwarming, feel-good drama is just the ticket, so I’ve got my fingers crossed that this show continues with the momentum it’s building.

It’s all about tone, I think, because the story itself could go in so many different directions that the premise alone doesn’t ensure anything. I’m thinking of Suspicious Housekeeper, which shares a lot of basic plot points with Prime Minister and I but was a vastly different show. (I liked that drama, but it was worlds apart in execution, going more for mysterious and eerie.) So this drama will live and die by its quick pacing and touching character moments, which go a long way toward endearing us to this cast. Not everybody is likable, but so far everyone’s interesting, which may be even better.

For instance, Joon-ki sits in the classic villain’s seat, sabotaging Yul at every turn, but given that he’s the brother to the dead wife, I cut him a lot of slack for taking up the opposition role. Especially with that intriguing flashback bit where we saw the wife dying in the passenger seat of a car, where her door briefly swung open before the car crashed—was she trying to run away? Were they in a fight? Was Yul driving? In-ho has my full attention as well, because Yoon Shi-yoon plays him with this dark undertone that is so fascinating. Hye-joo could swing either way, I think, and I hope the drama keeps her mostly sympathetic—I don’t mind her being a strong ball-buster if that stems from competence. But I hope her hardass attitude doesn’t spring from petty jealousy over romantic feelings, because I want her to be more interesting than that.

I suppose we must have a strong enough reason to set up the contract marriage, which is why I mostly accept the Dad-wants-to-see-me-settled reasoning driving Da-jung, though it does seem like an obvious MacGuffin. But perhaps we need the push to come from her, since it was his side that initiated the dating rumor; this puts them on something of a level field with regard to the ruse. Clean slate, new act—let the faux romance begin.

 
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