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A New Leaf: Episode 2

A New Leaf continues to take its time, slowly fleshing out the ruthless corporate world in which Seok-ju thrives. We learn about his family troubles and his relationship with his father, while the case he accepted at the end of the first episode begins to drive a wedge between him and the idealistic Ji-yoon. This Seok-ju can be hard to watch at times, but there are hints that underneath his cold exterior there may be something worth redeeming. After the events of this episode, though, he has a long way to go!

 
EPISODE 2 RECAP

Thanks to Ji-yoon’s mishap with the conference call, the story of her relationship with Seok-ju is the latest company gossip. In his office, Seok-ju shuffles papers unconcernedly while his colleague and long-time friend PARK SANG-TAE (played by Oh Jung-se) teases him about Ji-yoon.

He says it’s understandable to have a fling with the intern, and Seok-ju must have thought that she would disappear in a month so that nothing bad would happen. It’s natural to play around a bit when you’re young, he insists. Seok-ju replies that he isn’t nearly as bad as Sang-tae, who is twice divorced.

Ji-yoon, still ignorant of the fact that she gave herself away, overhears her female colleagues talking in the restroom. They gripe that if Lawyer Kim was going to have a fling, he should at least have had standards.

One woman reflects that Ji-yoon’s contribution to Seok-ju’s big case – the convenience store angle – probably raised her value. However, it’s possible that the convenience store workers may actually suffer because of the case, prompting the coworker to wonder if Ji-yoon is stupid or simply naïve. Ji-yoon walks determinedly out of the stall, and the other women scatter.

Ji-yoon enters the elevator with Seok-ju, ignoring the fearful peon who flees before him. She tells him that while he may not be affected by gossip about the two of them, she is just a lowly intern who may be forced to quit because of something like this. She warns that if he abuses his authority by spreading slanderous accusations, she’ll go to the Department of Labor – only to be informed that she was the one spreading the rumors via conference call.

Seok-ju turns her accusation around, saying that he hates it when the perpetrators act like the victims. He stalks out of the elevator, telling Ji-yoon that from now on she must rise or fall according to her own conduct.

At the courthouse, Seok-ju encounters the lead lawyer for the prosecution (LEE SUN-HEE, played by Kim Seo-hyung), and they’ve obviously known each other for a long time. She scolds him for defending a scumbag, while Seok-ju counters that she’s only interested in this case because it offers an opportunity to take down a chaebol heir. “You’re burning with ambition,” he says, and it looks like the two of them understand each other fairly well.

In the courtroom, the victim JUNG HYE-RYEONG (Kim Yoon-seo) is called as a witness. The two lawyers go back and forth, trying to make their evidence count.

She claims that her relationship with the accused was over, and Seok-ju counters by attacking her reputation with a naked picture that she sent the defendant, CHA DONG-HYUN, when they were dating. There’s also a phone that the rapist broke, which has his and Jung Hye-ryeong’s fingerprints on it.

The actress’s current boyfriend is called as a witness, because he saw her right after she was hit and he drove her to the hospital. Seok-ju keeps at him, demanding to know why he didn’t question Hye-ryeong when she returned with bruises on her face after meeting another man.

The boyfriend loses his cool and declares that he was angry, and that he and Hye-ryeong had a fight while driving to the hospital. Apparently driven to his breaking point, the boyfriend testifies that he actually hit Hye-ryeong, which weakens the prosecution’s claim that the bruises on Hye-ryeong’s face came from the assault.

But all is not as it seems. Hye-ryeong speaks to her lawyer, shellshocked, claiming that her boyfriend never actually hit her. We cut to a room with Seok-ju, Dong-hyun, and Hye-ryeong’s boyfriend, where it turns out that he is receiving money to lie on the stand. The chaebol heir gloats that he’s a wonderful actor, and that Seok-ju really is the best lawyer out there. Seok-ju puts a hand on the boyfriend’s shoulder and tells him to stay the course, because this is just the beginning.

The defense gets even more aggressive after the recess, exposing medical records that testify to Jung Hye-ryeong’s sexually transmitted diseases. She supposedly transferred them to her current boyfriend, yet Dong-hyun tested clean. The implication is that the chaebol heir couldn’t have raped her, since Hye-ryeong’s testimony specifies that her attacker didn’t wear a condom. The judge ends the session, and it looks like Seok-ju’s scorched-earth style defense has the upper hand, at least for now.

Prosecutor Lee chases after Seok-ju once the session ends, and asks him not to release the information about the STDs and the naked picture to the press. Whatever the outcome of the case, such bad publicity would be the end for the actress, and they both know it. Seok-ju replies that if the prosecutor really cared about her client, she wouldn’t have publicized such a sensitive case in the first place.

Ji-yoon follows the prosecutor, and sees Hye-ryeong throwing up in the bathroom. She apologizes to both of them, and when she rejoins the defense team outside the courtroom she looks very upset. Seok-ju delays entering the car so they can have a conversation in private.

He says if she has a problem with the way they defend their client, she should go work for the opposition. He goes to open the door, but Ji-yoon says she prefers to take the subway back. As she walks away he says that nothing happened between them the night he stayed over, but she may not have heard after putting her earphones in.

Ji-yoon gets back home, where her aunt is waiting. Over the phone, her aunt encourages Ji-yoon’s younger brother, LEE JI-HYUK (Lee Min-hyuk), to do well at his audition. Ji-yoon tells her aunt to stop encouraging him, since he has no talent and show business is tough to break into.

Auntie tells Ji-yoon that all her friends want to set her up with their sons, now that she works for such a prestigious law firm. Ji-yoon doesn’t appear to be all that interested, and the two women sit down for dinner.

Ji-yoon says that she hasn’t met any nice lawyers, although she’s met a few terrible ones: “Cruel and relentless,” she says, and there are no prizes for guessing who she’s talking about. Her aunt is distracted by a news story on her phone, which states that the actress Jung Hye-ryeong tried to commit suicide. Ji-yoon gets up immediately and dashes out of the house.

She meets Prosecutor Lee outside the hospital room, and they go in together. Hye-ryeong is asleep, and Ji-yoon sees the scars on her arm. The prosecutor says that Ji-yoon is still innocent, but that she’d probably still take a job with the firm if they offered it to her. Ji-yoon replies that she wants to be a prosecutor like her. “Prosecutors who don’t win have no appeal,” Prosecutor Lee reflects.

She has to leave for work soon after Hye-ryeong wakes, so Ji-yoon stays with the actress. Hye-ryeong despairs over the outcome of the case. If she doesn’t settle, her family will hear the horrible rumors that the defense is spreading. Moreover, Ji-yoon tells her honestly that she has very little chance of winning.

“How much should I ask for?” Hye-ryeong asks dully. “How much makes it okay for him to rape me?”

The next day, Seok-ju gets a call from Hye-ryeong’s lawyer. They intend to settle, but they want Intern Ji-yoon to handle the negotiations. Seok-ju calls Ji-yoon to his office, and she arrives prepared with a piece of notepad paper on which she’s scribbled Hye-ryeong’s demands.

The first item on the list is an apology. Seok-ju asks her if she’s become Hye-ryeong’s representative now, to which she replies with a scathing tirade. She asks how he can possibly put a price on stepping all over people just because he can. “How much would make it okay to rape your sister?” she demands. They both stop the argument there, realizing that the entire office is listening in and watching.

Seok-ju goes to meet CEO Cha, who is worried that his work may be suffering because of his connection to Ji-yoon. He’s not the kind of person to raise his voice to a lowly intern. “I didn’t raise my voice,” Seok-ju responds instantly (methinks the lady doth protest too much!). Nevertheless, he promises to keep his business and personal lives separate, and the boss ominously declares that he’ll take care of things from here.

At a bar later that night, Seok-ju shares a drink with Dong-hyun, the chaebol heir. He gets mad when he hears that one of the hostesses at the bar has been missing work, and breaks some of the glasses on the table. He confides to Seok-ju that the girl may be pregnant, which means a paternity suit immediately after clearing up the rape case. Seok-ju may be uncomfortable hearing such talk, because he tells the chaebol heir to call a cheaper lawyer to listen to him.

Dong-hyun goes to the restroom, leaving Seok-ju alone with Dong-hyun’s assistant. The man says his job has largely become tracking down the girls who have had relationships with his employer, and “taking care of them.” I’m seriously having trouble watching by this point, since I basically just want to drop all three of them off a tall cliff with sharp spikes at the bottom.

Dong-hyun returns and offers to pay Seok-ju with stock options, with the additional incentive of letting Seok-ju know exactly when to sell. Seok-ju points out that this is illegal, but the chaebol rapist replies that he’s sure Seok-ju knows how to make everything appear aboveboard.

At his office, Seok-ju gets some news from the veterinarian about his dog. His dog has cancer and he needs to decide on a course of treatment. Seok-ju shows more emotion after hearing the bad news about his dog than we’ve seen from him yet. He says he’ll come by the vet’s office with a decision in the next day or two, and looks at a picture of him with his dog on his desk.

Ji-yoon runs into Seok-ju in the elevator once again, and the memory of the unreturned wristwatch flusters her. She walks after him, only to see him meeting with CEO Cha. Seok-ju has to leave early for his mother’s memorial, and his boss gives him a bottle of expensive wine for the ceremony.

Ji-yoon returns to the elevator, and CEO Cha invites her to join him. He praises her for her work, and asks if there’s anything he can do to reward her. After hearing that she would like to see her juniors from less prestigious law schools receive the same opportunity she did, he promises to create an opening for graduates from her college for the next three years. She’s overwhelmed by the gesture, and rushes off with a big smile on her face.

After she goes, the boss muses that it’s strange and interesting to meet someone who flusters Kim Seok-ju. His aid asks if he should look into her, but the CEO decides not to. They haven’t ever investigated their own lawyers’ private lives, and they won’t start now. It’s merely an interesting anomaly, and he looks forward to seeing what will happen.

At Ji-yoon’s house, her aunt watches TV with her younger brother Ji-hyuk. Ji-hyuk promises to pass an audition and become the star of the family. Auntie replies that she does believe in him… but she won’t be investing any more of her money in him.

Ji-yoon remembers the watch, but it’s not where she left it. She asks her family, and Ji-hyuk’s evasion sets off warning bells. She asks if he took it, and he deflects by asking if she has a boyfriend, since it was a man’s watch. It comes out that Ji-hyuk shamelessly traded the watch for a drum, which prompts Ji-yoon to give him a well-deserved beating.

Seok-ju arrives at his mother’s memorial. Seok-ju bows before his mother’s shrine, while the rest of the family looks on.

When they’re gathered at the table for dinner, Seok-ju’s aunt brings up the case with the forced laborers. She wonders why the company took on such a controversial case, especially when they’re already so prosperous.

It soon becomes clear that Seok-ju’s relationship with his father is strained, to say the very least. They have very different world-views, with his father placing principle before everything else, which turns out to be the cause of Seok-ju’s resentment towards his father.

Seok-ju’s father thinks he’s despicable for targeting the forced laborers and defending a Japanese company after the horrors committed during the occupation. Seok-ju replies that not everyone can be famous for sticking to one’s principles like his father, and he’s satisfied with his life.

The conflict comes to a head when his father asks, disgusted, what his mother would think if she could see him now. But Seok-ju counters that it was exactly his father’s self-sacrificing work ethic and commitment to his principles that left his wife to suffer and die alone. He gets up to leave, and when his cousin asks him to apologize and beg forgiveness, he declares that he wouldn’t have said it if he didn’t mean it.

When Seok-ju arrives for work the next morning, there’s a breaking news story: his client, Park Dong-hyun, was murdered. The police have arrested Jung Hye-ryeong as the prime suspect, since she was the last person to see Dong-hyun alive. The news seems to affect Seok-ju, as he bangs a counter and walks unsteadily into his office while Ji-yoon watches him go.

Sang-tae enters the office, shocked by the turn of events. Seok-ju doesn’t seem all that affected, calmly taking a call about a meeting later that afternoon. CEO Cha comes in soon after, and Sang-tae leaves after asking Seok-ju to bail him out of a jam later by attending a presentation.

CEO Cha apologizes to Seok-ju for making him get involved in the personal life of a chaebol heir. He asks if Seok-ju would like to go with him to the funeral. Before leaving, CEO Cha tells Seok-ju that some people are destined to lead extraordinary lives, which may cost them the happiness of common people.

Seok-ju sits in on a presentation with another team. Their clients want to go with another firm, and Seok-ju’s coworkers need his persuasive abilities. Seok-ju has a moment where he loses his train of thought, hinting that he may have been affected by the news more than he lets show, but he quickly regains his composure and delivers a rousing speech that convinces the clients to stay with the firm.

Outside the meeting room, the interns gossip about how cold and focused he is, going into a last-minute presentation after hearing such news and bailing another team out of a tough spot. Ji-yoon adds that he’s exactly the same in court, ruthless and unsympathetic. He walks by, prompting the interns to worry that he might have overheard them. “Of course he did,” says Sang-tae, who overhead them as well. “You have excellent diction.” HA!

After a late-night exclusive meeting where Seok-ju represents the legal department before the higher-ups, he leaves for the funeral. As he passes through the waiting room, he overhears some guests wondering what happened at the rape trial that could have pushed Hye-ryeong into committing murder.

Later, Seok-ju and his boss speak with Dong-hyun’s father. The chaebol regrets being so soft with his son and always cleaning up after his messes. If he’d put him in jail, he reflects with a heavy sigh, at least he’d be alive today. I can’t help thinking that there would be a lot fewer rape victims, too. You’re not getting any sympathy from me, Mr. Chaebol.

They meet another CEO who’s come to pay his respects, and he indicates to Seok-ju that he may need to swing by the office soon. He fired some employees recently, and the Labor Union is making a racket. Seok-ju, of course, will be able to make the problem go away.

After the funeral Seok-ju walks alone down a dark alley, deep in thought. Suddenly, he is startled by bright lights, and a faceless form on a motorcycle. He’s pushed off the street, right underneath some hazardous construction materials. The scaffolding gets disturbed and collapses, and Seok-ju gets buried in the debris. The only part of him now visible is his hand, which twitches weakly to show he’s still alive.

 
COMMENTS

The show seems to be starting slow, but in a good way. We’re getting a sense of Seok-ju’s cold nature, so that his eventual transformation will be more believable. The many relationships that motivate our characters are building up as well, and I look forward to how Seok-ju’s amnesia will throw a wrench in the works.

I was a little worried about Park Min-young’s character when I read the teasers for the show. I mean, the earnest hard-working intern with a steadfast moral compass? I wasn’t blown away by the originality of the premise, to say the least. But a character doesn’t necessarily have to be ground-breaking to be strong, and I found myself cheering for Ji-yoon by the first episode. Park Min-young is hard not to root for, so I avoid that issue by sitting down firmly in the cheering section. She’s plucky and believable in this role (and gorgeous, but surely I’m not so shallow as to let that affect my evaluation of her acting… right?)

As for Kim Seok-ju… wow. Kim Myung-min makes moral repugnance and blatant self-interest sound good! His voice is absolutely hypnotic, and I can see why he’s such an effective courtroom lawyer. The spell wore off about halfway through the episode, however, when I saw how utterly lacking he is in anything even remotely resembling a conscience. That moment in the bar, when the ex-NIS agent bragged about being able to distinguish Dong-hyun’s bastard children from other men’s children… argh. I can’t even. I let out a cheer when I saw that Dong-hyun was murdered, and I can’t help thinking that Seok-ju isn’t much better because of the role he played in corrupting the trial process and enabling the rapist. He’s got a ways to go before I can see him without loathing, but I’m sure he’ll earn the second chance he’s been given. Please, amnesia, work your magic!

While the first two episodes seemed a little slow (possibly because of the focus on horrible people doing horrible things and getting away with them), this drama has all the ingredients of awesomeness. I mean, a main couple channeling Pride and Prejudice, the heroine of City Hunter and Sungkyunkwan Scandal, and a redemption story?! Sold, to the purple cow at Table 3!

The stage is set, the characters introduced, and the amnesia induced… I can’t wait for the real story to begin!

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