Awww, I like it. SBS’s new Wednesday-Thursday drama You’re All Surrounded came out of the gate with a refreshingly fun, well-paced story and a set of endearing characters who already make me care. I wasn’t expecting such a good premiere episode, but in one hour I know my characters, the setup, and the backstory that drives them, and I feel confident about the way the story’s being doled out. It’s a nice mix of comedy, intrigue, and young love, and the cast is just plain delightful.
SONG OF THE DAY
Heunjeok (Trace) – “시작” (Beginning) [ Download ]
EPISODE 1: “Teheran-ro, 114th Street, Number 11. Gangnam, Seoul”
In the middle of a normal workday in Gangnam, a car suddenly flies through an intersection—literally airborne—with two thugly tattooed men riding inside.
A few paces behind, a van gives chase, trying to weave through the heavy traffic to catch up to the gangsters. We know this to be our team of cops in the violent crimes unit, but there’s no time for introductions as they bob and weave through oncoming traffic.
Still, their personalities emerge: the leader is impatient, and possibly enjoying the chase a little too much; the first driver is too cautious and nebbishy to get things done right and gets abandoned in the street mid-chase.
The boys in the back row are taciturn and one looks immensely peeved to have to reach for his seatbelt, and the girl in the middle looks terrified and two seconds away from losing her lunch.
That’s the first thing she does when they hop out of the van to continue the chase on foot, while the silent pretty boy stops running to hang his trenchcoat on the nearest pretty lady he sees, pfft.
The only two with their heads in the game are our team leader and the annoyed upstart, who seem to be mostly racing each other, and only chasing criminals as an afterthought. No matter, because when they catch up, two of their teammates have already bungled things up by being taken hostage.
Everyone else freezes, but the brash upstart doesn’t even miss a beat as he marches forward, gun drawn. His teammates scream for him to stop, but he just steadies his aim… BANG. The screen goes black.
We rewind to eleven years ago. A circle of teenagers is gathered in a southern seaside town, where one girl—the badass leader—takes a boy to task for ditching her friend for a Seoul transfer student.
From the crowd, a different boy intervenes in the couple’s defense: “Love changes.” But he’s ineffectual at getting either side to back down, and when the Seoul girl calls the leader a country bumpkin, she launches herself into the air for an epic throwdown.
The boy with the love platitudes is the first to react, and he jumps in front of the Seoul girl and takes the blow in her place. All hell breaks loose, and soon the entire group of surly teens is lined up at the police station. The town is Masan, which tells me everything I need to know about our gangster girl.
The cop taking statements asks for her name, and she tries to give a fake one. But the two-timing boyfriend calls her out and makes her give her real name: it’s UH SOO-SUN (meaning “disorderly or unkempt,” in other words, Hot Mess, later to be played by Go Ara).
She rattles off her address when prompted, which makes the cop’s eyebrows go up. That’s the same address as the cheating boyfriend sitting next to her, and his name is Uh Nam-sun. HA, they’re brother and sister?
Mom and Dad storm into the precinct and Dad goes straight for Soo-sun, knowing that she’s the source of the trouble. He flips her over and leaves her lying on the floor to stew in her embarrassment while he bows in apology to the other parents. She scowls at the platitude boy, who suppresses a laugh.
His name is KIM JI-YONG, and he gets taken home by his mom, who doesn’t think it’s funny to be fighting high school students. Ah, that means he’s in junior high, which explains why he’s pint-sized and wearing a different uniform. He calls it love though—he jumped into the fray to defend the Seoul girl because, “A man should protect the woman he loves.” Hee.
As Soo-sun’s family passes by them in the street, Mom and Dad mention the rumors surrounding Ji-yong’s single mom—that she had an affair with a married man and had him out of wedlock, and they ran away from home.
It appears that everyone in our story is from Masan, because then we meet a bright-eyed eager young detective, SEO PAN-SEOK (Cha Seung-won), whose name means “flagstone,” perhaps to tell us that he’s hard and immovable like stone? These character names are hilariously on-the-nose.
He decides that he’s going to crack the case of the decade by collecting cigarette butts to take DNA samples from, to compare to the evidence they have on a serial killer. He spends the day collecting an entire apartment building’s worth of butts, only to return to the precinct where the serial killer has already been caught.
The grandmother of the victim in a different case comes by to see him, anxious for news on the trial for the suspects involved. He assures her that he has a witness lined up and they’re going to put those bastards away for a long time. Her eyes well up in gratitude and she takes his hand.
He gives the witness a call to make sure she’ll be in court, and it turns out to be Ji-yong’s mom. She promises to meet him at the courthouse.
Ji-yong and his buddy (Hey, it’s Ding-dong!) sneak into the girls’ high school so he can get a peek at his crush.
He finds Soo-sun dancing in the broadcast room instead, oblivious to the outside world, and he shakes his head at her before getting to work. In the girls’ classroom, the TV suddenly plays a performance by 1TYM that gets the whole school squealing.
Ji-yong then calls out his noona crush by name over the PA system and dedicates S’s “I Swear” to her before jumping out the second-story window to avoid getting caught. Cutest tween proposal ever.
He makes his grand exit with the entire student body of girls cheering him on, as he turns back to make heart hands and finger guns at his crush. The only person who isn’t smiling is Soo-sun, who gets blamed for the stunt because she was the only person found in the broadcast studio.
She’s waiting outside the junior high school when he comes out later that day, and she tells him it’s all his fault that she got in trouble for something she didn’t even do, and was forced to miss her idol audition.
He doesn’t scare easily, and points out that her face would’ve kept her from passing anyway. Pwahaha. But then she takes it a step too far and calls him a concubine’s son, and he grows silent and walks away. She realizes her mistake as soon as she says it, and hangs her head.
Ji-yong sits in the schoolyard alone, ego still bruised, when a classmate tries to get his attention by calling him a concubine’s son. This time he answers with a punch to the face, and Mom gets called in to the school to pick him up.
When they arrive home, Mom tenses up at the sight of a man waiting outside. She sends Ji-yong in, and the man leers as the boy passes by. He tells Mom that he came by to get a good look at her son’s face so that if she testifies tomorrow against his boss, he’ll know exactly how to repay her in kind. Shaking, she answers through gritted teeth that she won’t be testifying.
Ji-yong asks Mom about the man and she deflects, wanting to know why he got into another fight. He asks instead if Dad’s really dead, and finally tells her what the other kids call him.
He has no intention of seeking out a man who doesn’t want to be his father, but he thinks he’s old enough to know if his mother was a married man’s mistress. He points out how odd it is to not have any pictures of Dad in the house if he really died, and presses her for an answer. If she does, we don’t get to hear it.
The next morning, detective Pan-seok is waiting at her door. She apologizes and tells him she won’t be testifying, and he pleads with her that she’s their only eyewitness and the only way to get a clear conviction in the murder trial. He asks if she’s been threatened, and Ji-yong overhears her answer yes—they came and threatened her son, so she won’t be testifying and he can’t change her mind. Pan-seok swears that he’ll protect them, and begs her to testify to everything including the threats.
They stop when they see Ji-yong there, and Pan-seok introduces himself to the boy. He leaves the victim’s pictures along with his card, and asks Mom to reconsider one more time.
Later that night Ji-yong sneaks into Mom’s room to look at the crime scene photos, and they show a young girl who was clearly attacked and murdered with brute force. Mom turns over the memory in her head, of the day she saw two men running away from the crime scene holding a bloody envelope, and found the girl lying bruised and battered inside.
Ji-yong hems and haws while Mom offers to make hot cocoa (“What am I a child? …Okay, give it here), and says that testifying is up to her, but he feels bad for the girl who died if no one speaks up on her behalf. Mom decides it’s time to tell him about his father, and admits that she got pregnant before they were able to get married, and his father died early. She says she’s felt sorry his whole life that he had to grow up without a father, but Ji-yong counters that she also had to live without a husband: “I’ll hurry and grow up, and protect you.” Awwwwww.
The next morning, Mom goes to see Pan-seok and tells him that she’ll testify after all. He lights up in gratitude and assures her over and over again that he’ll protect her.
Soo-sun comes out of school that afternoon and curses the rain as she stands there getting soaked. Suddenly a yellow umbrella comes out of nowhere and she whirls around to find Ji-yong smiling back at her.
She bites her lip and asks if he’s trying to make her feel bad, because she doesn’t, not at all, nope. He just says with a smile that his mother isn’t a mistress, but a single mother, and that he’s proud to be her son and isn’t at all ashamed of her.
He tries to give her the umbrella, but she turns it down and then trips over her own laces and winces in embarrassment. He puts the umbrella in her hand and stoops down to tie her shoelaces, saying that he knows a way to tie them so they don’t come undone.
He bends down in the rain and ties her laces so the bow is in the middle, and she awkwardly tries to hold the umbrella over his head so he doesn’t get wet. How could anyone not love this boy?
Mom hears the front door open and goes to greet Ji-yong. But by the look on her face, someone terrifying is at the door.
Ji-yong comes home sometime later and picks up a shiny necklace just outside the front door. He pockets it and heads inside, but stops cold when he sees that their house has been ransacked. He looks cautiously from room to room, and then he sees Mom lying in a pool of blood in her room.
He runs over to her and clutches her in his arms, pleading with her not to die. She opens her eyes, and cries that he’ll save her, and starts dialing emergency. But he doesn’t have the chance to make the call because the killer comes back, perhaps to look for the pendant.
He turns the house upside down looking for something and then comes into the bedroom, where Ji-yong is hiding under the bed. The killer looks everywhere and then reaches to lift the bedspread that’s keeping him concealed…
Mom sees what’s happening and uses her last remaining strength to grab the killer’s feet, and shakes her head sternly when Ji-yong makes a move to help her. He watches helplessly as the killer makes sure to finish the job this time, and Mom cries as she dies to save her son.
As Ji-yong suppresses his cries, he overhears the killer take a call and say that he still hasn’t found the pendant. He adds that because of Detective Seo, he’ll finish the rest of the job cleanly. It’s purposely vague, and can either be interpreted to mean the killer will do a good job to keep Detective Seo from sniffing him out, or Detective Seo will help them clean up this mess.
Once the killer leaves, Ji-yong comes out from under the bed and breaks down as he reaches for Mom’s face.
Soon the house is crawling with cops, and Pan-seok comes out to check on Ji-yong and offers to have him over for the night. But Ji-yong turns to him accusingly and asks if he convinced Mom to change her mind about testifying when she was dead set against it.
“Then you should have protected her like you promised!” It’s a crushing blow to Pan-seok, who can’t argue or defend himself when the kid spits his own promises back at him.
Ji-yong runs off and hides out at school, and then remembers the killer’s phone conversation. He quickly calls Pan-seok and tells him that he knows what the killer is after, and that he can find the necklace in his jacket pocket back at home.
Ji-yong still refuses to tell Pan-seok where he is, but the school bell rings on the hour and Pan-seok hears it, and tells him to stay put at school and he’ll come for him in half an hour.
It turns out he’s actually at the girls’ high school, and Soo-sun happens to be there late as well. She notices him from across the building in the broadcast room, and gets on the PA system to get his attention.
Ji-yong turns around when he hears footsteps approaching from the darkened hallway, and walks toward the sound. But he shrinks back when he recognizes the combat boots headed his way—it’s the killer.
He takes off running, and at the same time, Soo-sun gets on the mic to start in on this long-winded apology to him. It’s a hilariously dissonant scene—her comically out-of-touch apology that devolves into annoyance that he isn’t answering her because he’s surely holding a petty grudge, all while he’s running for his life from a killer.
She even inadvertently helps the killer by tracking his every move from her vantage point, which leads him straight to the science lab where Ji-yong is hiding out. As the killer tries to smash the door in, Ji-yong busts open the locked cabinet and douses the man with something that burns his eyes. Nice.
He’s about to run off when he spots it on the ground: the pendant. Oh noes.
Soo-sun leaves, still unaware of what happened at school that night, though she is wary enough of the suspicious man in black walking toward her that she hides out of sight as he passes. He’s too busy clutching his burned face to notice her, and she sees a distinctive scar behind the killer’s ear.
Ji-yong staggers along the marina and goes over it again in his head. He told Pan-seok about the pendant, and it showed up in the killer’s possession. Pan-seok knew where he was, and the killer came looking for him there.
And now the rest of the killer’s phone conversation paints Detective Seo Pan-seok in a very different light: a dirty cop.
Ji-yong crumples Pan-seok’s card in his hand angrily, and walks ahead.
Present day. Soo-sun takes in glitzy Gangnam in wide-eyed wonder, and then does a double-take when she reaches the Gangnam Police Station—an old, dirty, rundown hovel of a government building that looks like the definition of dreary.
Our nebbishy cop from the opening arrives beside her and recognizes her from his police academy class. He’s JI GOOK (Park Jung-min), though she pretends not to remember him.
She’s a little happier to see PARK TAE-IL (Ahn Jae-hyun) show up next to him, though it seems to be largely for aesthetic reasons. He smiles back at her pleasantly.
She doesn’t see that our hero EUN DAE-GU (Lee Seung-gi) has arrived on her other side, and they exchange discomfited looks. His name means “silver cod,” as in the literal fish, why I don’t know. OH. Puppy becomes Guppy? I just cracked myself up.
The light turns green and Dae-gu leads the way as the foursome Abbey-Road-crosses to the other side.
They line up in police uniform along with the other new recruits, and the entire department is buzzing. Soo-sun guesses that the man standing in front of their line is their team leader, because he looks the most detective-like.
Squad Chief LEE EUNG-DO (Sung Ji-ru) does line up in front of them, but then someone else enters the room—none other than Detective Seo Pan-seok. Dae-gu glares, and when Pan-seok lines up in front of Eung-do, Dae-gu balls up his fists like he’s ready for a fight.
One of the other squad chiefs wonders how they’re supposed to get work done with so many newbies on his team, and Eung-do shuts him up when he says he’s got FOUR rookies assigned to his team.
They all stand at attention when Police Chief Kang enters the room (how much do I love that their precinct is run by a woman?) and she lets the section chief make the welcome address to the new recruits.
They ask Pan-seok to say a few words as the violent crimes unit team leader, so he gets up there and says, “Gangnam is now a disaster zone.” Way to sugarcoat it, boss. He does NOT look happy to take on fresh-faced rookies to make his life harder, and doesn’t really try to hide it.
And then before the inauguration speeches come to a close, one more person walks through the doors. A well-dressed woman click-clacks over to the front of the room in high heels, and introduces herself as KIM SA-KYUNG (Oh Yoon-ah), the new missing persons team leader. (Her name means “between life and death.”)
Pan-seok looks gobsmacked, Eung-do looks worried, and Section Chief Cha smirks at Pan-seok like a happy toad.
After changing out of uniform, Soo-sun cuts through a crowd of female officers milling about swooning over somebody, and opens the door on her three teammates while they’re changing. *whistles* Thanks for the show, boys.
Her jaw drops and she slams the door shut, only to come face-to-face with Pan-seok, who makes her open the door again. Seconds? Don’t mind if I do.
Here’s where we get the formal introductions to our rookie team. Ji Gook says he’s always wanted to live in Gangnam so he applied to everything from the traffic beat to this, and landed here. Well that’s alarming. He talks too much, and Eung-do cuts him off before he can ask his first question.
Soo-sun introduces herself next, and Dae-gu’s eyes twitch when she says she’s from Masan. She admits way too honestly that she came to this department because detectives get paid the highest salary. More sighs from the two veterans.
Tae-il goes next, and says smoothly that he grew up in Seoul and became a detective because it seemed fun. Eung-do nods and says that’s a little better.
Last is Dae-gu, who stands up, says his name (technically the first time we hear it), and then sits back down. Everyone stares. Eung-do tells him he’s supposed to say where he’s from and how he ended up here, but he answers with a clipped, “I don’t want to.” For the first time in the whole meeting, Pan-seok turns his head to look.
Eung-do defers to Pan-seok, calling him hyungnim, and Pan-seok tells them they might as well quit now. He points to Soo-sun and says, “Especially you. I’ve never had a long-haired teammate before.”
She protests that he’s discriminating against her, but he says he was referring to her hair. He tells them he was serious about this precinct being a disaster zone now, and begs them to do nothing. “And don’t kill anyone.”
Dae-gu stares back defiantly, and the intent isn’t lost on Pan-seok, who glares right back and demands, “What’s wrong with your eyeballs?” Dae-gu mutters a swear (akin to “damn” but spoken more like “screw you”) under his breath that makes the whole room gasp.
Pan-seok is two seconds away from blowing his lid when the radio alerts them to a case. He turns on a dime and he’s all business, and Eung-do has to scream at the rookies to get off their asses.
They strap on weapons and team-strut their way through the precinct behind their leader, to the sound of admirers swooning.
And based on the clothes they’re wearing, their first case ever is the one that opened the episode… the one that ends with Dae-gu possibly shooting somebody. Yipes.
Yay, I was hoping for competent, and was pleasantly surprised by how well executed the premiere episode was. It’s the best of economic storytelling, with a quick cold open that doesn’t require character introductions to put you in this world of rookie cops who are in over their heads, a swift backstory that doesn’t stretch beyond an episode but still tells a compelling tale, and then finally character introductions to close the episode out. I liked the backwards setup of withholding our lead characters’ names until the very end, especially given that one of them doesn’t give the answer we expect.
I don’t think it’s a leap to assume that Dae-gu is Ji-yong, otherwise we’ve spent an entire episode on a random dude’s backstory. If it’s true and he’s been harboring revengey thoughts for eleven years and presumably became a detective to get close to Pan-seok, it adds a great edge to the team—now it’s not just four hapless rookies on the job, but the start of one dangerously contentious relationship between team leader and new fish. I’m pretty much going to be making fish jokes for the next ten weeks, if you hadn’t guessed.
My favorite thing about the backstory was how well the tone shifted from funny to sweetly earnest to creepy, all without breaking me out of the narrative. The mystery surrounding Mom’s death and the original murder she witnessed, and Pan-seok’s possibly corrupt, possibly misunderstood (also possibly framed) eager young detective were great larger questions to propel us into the present-day storm that’s brewing between Pan-seok and Dae-gu.
Their connection is crucial, whereas I don’t think Soo-sun needs to be part of Dae-gu’s past necessarily. I’m glad that she’s not some great first love torn away by tragedy (just to be different if at all possible), which made their interactions realistically light and sweet, especially because her character is so fun. Ji-yong’s teenage characterization will go a long way in informing who Dae-gu is now, especially when he’s so surly at the outset—Ji-yong was uncharacteristically mature for his young age, but more importantly he was innocent, and Pan-seok plays an important role in the loss of his innocence that sets the stage for great conflict. A mother’s murder is nothing new in motivating a detective hero, but it’s a classic for a reason, and the fact that it’s possibly also the loss of Pan-seok’s innocence as an idealistic police officer who believes he can change the world? Two great character conflicts for the price of one.
- Disaster awaits for You’re All Surrounded’s troublemaking rookies
- You’re All Surrounded teases parodies and fisticuffs
- Guns drawn and bullhorns at the ready for You’re All Surrounded
- You’re All Surrounded’s comic book teaser
- Lee Seung-gi and Cha Seung-won’s first day as cops
- Newbie Ahn Jae-hyun joins You’re All Surrounded
- Casting finalized for You’re All Surrounded
- Go Ara up for cop role opposite Lee Seung-gi
- Park Min-young courted to play rookie cop
- Cha Seung-won, Lee Seung-gi in potential drama reunion
- Lee Seung-gi eyes cop role for next drama