Pinocchio: Episode 7
There are some harsh growing pains in store for our rookies, and as it always seems to be in life, the most idealistic of the bunch with the loftiest expectations is the one who falls the farthest. Today’s episode is inspired by a proverb about the frog in the well, who refused to look outside his limited home and never got to see how big the ocean was. That’s all good and well for frogs, but in reporterland, frogs get yanked from their comfortable homes and tossed into the big, scary sea, and learn the hard way that their limited viewpoints are for crap in the real world. Time to sink or swim.
SONG OF THE DAY
Papercut Project – “오늘도 대기 중” (On Standby Again Today) [ Download ]
EPISODE 7: “The frog in the well”
Dal-po and Yoo-rae head back to the station in good spirits, after getting the CCTV footage to air in tonight’s broadcast about the woman who died in the gym. They see In-ha returning to rival station MSC across the square, and Yoo-rae notes that In-ha will probably get yelled at by her sunbaes for failing to come up with an exclusive.
Dal-po immediately worries for In-ha and shouts over to her that they managed to get the CCTV footage, but In-ha scoffs that they’re the ones who’re about to make a big mistake. But before she can finish the sentence, her teammate Beom-jo scoops her up and throws her over his shoulder, leaving Dal-po flabbergasted.
Both teams of rookies report to their news chiefs, and with two hours until broadcast, the schedule is adjusted—YGN pulls their exclusive forward and gives it more airtime, and over at MSC they plan to do the same. MSC has a different version of the story, and they’re convinced that beating YGN to the punch will lead them to scrap their story and scramble to back-fill their news.
But Mom (anchorwoman Song Cha-ok) is the lone dissenter, and she tells her team that they should wait and let YGN report their story first… and then come out with the truth that’ll debunk their version. Damn, she plays dirty, but I see why she’s good at her job.
Beom-jo stops In-ha from taking any of Dal-po’s calls before the broadcast, and the higher-ups come by to congratulate them on a job well done. Beom-jo gives the obligatory modest response, while In-ha blurts, “Yes, I think you’re right.” Haha. Beom-jo clamps a hand over her mouth, but she just pries herself free and says matter-of-factly that she can’t do false modesty, and the director laughs.
Over at YGN, the other rookies file in with high-fives for Yoo-rae and Dal-po, and Yoo-rae enjoys retelling their day of adventure. But In-ha’s half-finished sentence and the facts of the case start to niggle at Dal-po, and he can’t shake off the feeling that there’s something else to the story. He decides to check the hospital for the victim’s surviving relatives one last time, despite only having half an hour left.
He makes his way to the funeral rooms and finds that the woman’s daughter has arrived. He hands her his card and says he has questions about her mother, and she says through tears that she already gave an interview with MSC reporters. Ruh-roh.
It’s ten o’clock and the nightly news begins, while Dal-po hears the real story from the daughter: She’s in need of a liver transplant, and her mother was told that she had to lose a significant amount of weight in order to be the donor. Oh crap, their diet-leads-to-death story is really a heartwarming tragedy about a mother’s love?
But it’s too late to stop YGN’s report, and Dal-po turns his head to see the story being aired as soon as he finds out the truth. He runs over to the TV and pleads for it to be turned off before the daughter can see it, but can’t manage to stop her from witnessing her mother’s death on camera, with a false report no less. She cries that that’s not the truth about her mother, and Dal-po is crushed to be the one responsible for dealing such a blow. All he can say is, “I’m sorry. I’m really sorry.”
And then YGN gets their asses handed to them by MSC, where Cha-ok reports the full story about the mother who died trying to save her daughter’s life, complete with tearful interview. The chain of blame at YGN starts with Hyun-kyu tearing Yoo-rae a new one, Gyo-dong asking Hyun-kyu why he didn’t check his facts, and Editor Jo asking Gyo-dong what the hell he’s doing.
Notably, each sunbae shoulders the responsibility himself as it moves up the chain. But they aren’t above silent looks of blame down the chain either, and Yoo-rae squirms wondering where Dal-po ran off to at a time like this.
In-ha watches proudly as Mom reports the full story, while Dal-po watches feeling utterly defeated by this woman yet again. She twists the knife further to say that the news is like an onion—the more layers you peel back the more the truth gets revealed—and MSC plans to deliver only reliable, trustworthy news. People watching at a train terminal all nod in agreement, but we see that Hyung is standing in the background seething at the screen.
Dal-po buries his head in his hands in defeat, and trudges back to the station late that night. The office is empty, and he sits down at the conference table directly across from where he sat on the day of their interview debate.
Past Dal-po appears across the table and looks him square in the eye, and launches into his litany of accusations about how dangerous it is for a reporter to speak before knowing all the facts. About how he ought to know that his words have more weight. About how detestable it is to ignore that responsibility. About how this is why Pinocchios shouldn’t become reporters.
Present Dal-po defends himself, but it’s no use—his conscience is literally staring him in the face. He looks up at himself and asks with tears in his eyes the same thing that In-ha asked that day: “Are you talking about me?” Past Dal-po just repeats exactly what he said then and answers, “Yes.” The vision gets up and walks away, and Dal-po sheds a tear, left alone with the cold hard truth. What a great scene.
In-ha shows up to her post at the police station and asks after Dal-po, but Yoo-rae says she hasn’t seen him all night. In-ha tries calling and fumes when she gets his voicemail, thinking that he’s ignoring her calls on purpose.
YGN wins the ratings game, but it’s a bitter victory for them in light of their huge mistake, and they worry that MSC is hot on their heels. Director Lee tells his staff to stop looking at the ratings, because this war with MSC has caused them to lose sight of what’s important—reporting well-researched, factual news. He tells them that it’s back to basics from now on, and they’re going to put on blinders as far as MSC is concerned.
Gyo-dong returns to the city news desk, where all the other news chiefs are ready with their congratulations. Princess sheepishly says he lost the ratings bet, but Gyo-dong knows it’s all an empty victory for YGN and says as much. But when they reset the betting pool for the entire season’s ratings and people start switching their bets over to MSC, he gets up and finally joins in with a defiant post-it in YGN’s corner, leaving Princess a little scared.
Gyo-dong is alarmed when Hyun-kyu calls to report that Dal-po never showed up for work today. He tries calling, but we see that Dal-po has over fifty unanswered calls. He’s currently at home scrubbing Grandpa’s back in the bath, and Grandpa looks down at the dirty bath water in shock, wondering if it’s his or Dal-po’s dirt.
Dal-po says cheerily that it’s his—the pressroom at the police station is a hovel, and he hasn’t washed or changed his underwear in a week. GROSSSS. Grandpa tries to gently ask if they ought to take separate baths, but Dal-po says it’s fine. Grandpa: “I’m sure you’re fine with it!” Hee.
Yoo-rae’s sunbae asks if she’s been chewed out by Hyun-kyu yet, and she says he’s been surprisingly quiet, which frankly scares her more. She jumps to attention when Beom-jo’s chaebol mommy enters the station, and Yoo-rae recognizes her right away as the CEO of Beom-jo Mall. She doesn’t really put it all together until Beom-jo comes running up to hug his mommy right in front of her, and she gasps to realize that he really is a chaebol.
Meanwhile, Mommy is aghast at the state of her son, and refuses to hug him. She gives him a change of clothes in the car, and he tells her to throw those old clothes away, this time opting for a much less fashionable, but much more practical outfit.
He tells her proudly that because of their news broadcast last night, a liver donor came forward for the daughter who needs a transplant, and people are even organizing a donation fund so that she doesn’t have to worry about the cost of surgery. Beom-jo marvels at the power of the news, which saved a life.
Mommy is extra proud and happy for him, and asks about the peculiar requests he had in using his Mommy Chance Card today. He says that In-ha is sick, and so at his request, Mommy has her staff clean the reporter’s hovel in the police station and provide a heated blanket and space heater. In-ha swoons at the sight of warm fluffy blankets, and pretty much dies of happiness to see her favorite snacks included too.
Dal-po eats happily with Grandpa and says that being a reporter is no way to live, and Grandpa readily agrees that he should just quit then. Dal-po uses the adage that you run away from poop because it’s dirty not scary, but Grandpa says he’s got it backwards. That gives Dal-po pause and he admits that he is running away because he’s afraid: “Being a reporter was scary—far scarier than I ever knew.”
Grandpa shocks Dal-po by understanding quite keenly what they’re talking about, and says he’s good then: “A person who doesn’t know to be afraid is a problem; knowing what to be afraid of and fighting is okay.”
I love that Dad interrupts when he comes home to find them eating eel without him, and cries like a whiny little brother about Grandpa playing favorites and hyungnim always getting the tail.
Dal-po mulls over Grandpa’s advice, and remembers declaring to In-ha that they’d become reporters together. He decides to bite the bullet and call his team leader, and says he’ll report for duty.
Hyun-kyu paces in the hallway waiting for Dal-po to show up at work, and Director Lee asks why he’s so worked up. Hyun-kyu says that he’s waiting for the big explosion—the one that every rookie has when they get driven to the edge, quit, and come back.
Ha, we see flashbacks to Editor Jo threatening to jump off the roof in his rookie days, and Hyun-kyu returning to the station with his father and a bucket of snakes in his time as a newbie. Apparently everyone goes through this, which is a relief.
Dal-po walks in and Hyun-kyu keeps looking around nervously for the snakes, but he only apologizes for causing them to worry, and goes resolutely down the hall to see Gyo-dong. This time it’s Dal-po’s turn to be surprised when he apologizes and Gyo-dong just tells him to get back to work then.
Dal-po wonders why he isn’t being punished—he prepared himself for some kind of consequence, and asks why he’s being let off the hook. Gyo-dong agrees that it was a pretty massive mistake, but that everyone gets one free pass, because he made a similar mistake once.
Without looking up, Gyo-dong says that thirteen years ago he falsely reported that a man was a killer, leading to that family’s ruin. Dal-po struggles to contain his emotions, and asks how he recovered from that mistake. Gyo-dong: “I didn’t. I ran away like you.”
He says he quit journalism and became a PD, and five years later, he met a kid on the quiz show he was producing. Dal-po asks why he came back to the newsroom, and Gyo-dong admits, “Because I was embarrassed. It felt like I had been discovered hiding away because I was scared.” Dal-po asks how it felt to get back on the job after that, and if being a reporter was doable. We cut away before he answers.
In-ha’s cold gets worse, and Beom-jo is sweet about taking care of her and wrapping her up in his scarf. But then he has to remind us of his creepy stalker background by noting that she hasn’t been this sick since high school, and she wonders how he knew that. He catches his slip-up and hurriedly says she must’ve mentioned it.
They accost Officer Chan-soo for a scoop, and In-ha hilariously threatens to give him her cold-infested cooties if he doesn’t give them a lead. They see him holding a phone record of some sort, and while Chan-soo plays keep-away, Beom-jo snaps pictures and Dal-po walks up and reads it at his leisure. It’s a list of calls made to and from the chemical plant manager’s phone (the one Hyung trapped in a manhole).
They all ask if Dal-po is back on duty, and Chan-soo says that In-ha was looking everywhere for him. But when Dal-po asks her for a chat, she runs away from him with excuses about chasing down a lead. He catches up to her just as she’s feeling woozy and teetering on her feet, and both he and Beom-jo catch her on opposite sides.
But she pries Dal-po away and lets Beom-jo lead her out, focused on doing their job. Dal-po watches them go with a worried look, and Beom-jo insists on breaking the rules and letting Mommy’s chauffer drive them around tonight.
Yoo-rae sees them leave and sighs that some reporters are lucky enough to get chaebol partners while she’s stuck with the beggar partner, and Dal-po apologizes for being a loser. He asks for a rundown of everything she’s found out so far, and she mentions a throwaway tidbit that she didn’t report because it’s not anything interesting—Chan-soo’s continued investigation into the container fire.
She does note that the prime suspect is someone they know—it’s Moon Deok-soo, the plant manager who gave that interview in the case they debated for their YGN interview. Yoo-rae doesn’t think much of it, but of course Dal-po sees it differently.
Chaebol Mommy takes it upon herself to help In-ha and Beom-jo, and makes the rounds to the other police stations herself, with expensive coffee and snacks in hand. It’s so funny to watch her poke around for a scoop wearing her leopard fur coat and her peacock hat, momming the cops, all, Well WHY don’t you have incidents to report?
She gets something for In-ha to report on her hourly call, and then Beom-jo suggests that she go back and get some sleep while he and Mommy make the rest of the rounds. In-ha protests but she’s too sick to be of much use anyway, and returns to the station.
She finds Dal-po asleep (with Yoo-rae snuggling him) and no place to lie down in the room, so she heads to the restroom where she turns on the toilet seat warmer and hugs it for warmth. Omg, are you going to sleep there?
Dal-po wakes up and finds In-ha sleeping on a toilet, argues that she has to go to the hospital. But she just keeps pushing him away, and finally shouts, “No, this cold is really severe! If you catch it, you’ll suffer!” Awwww, you’ve been avoiding him all this time so he wouldn’t catch your cold? That’s so cute.
He yells at her for being so stupid and stubborn, and carries her out. At the hospital, the doctor says she has shingles and she must’ve been in a lot of pain, but even still all she worries about is whether or not it’s contagious and if Dal-po will get sick too.
As she drifts off to sleep, she clutches the edge of Dal-po’s coat and murmurs that she has lots of stuff to say, and then periodically wakes up to make sure Dal-po is still by her side, each time muttering the same thing—that she has so much to say to him. He just holds her hand the whole night, and promises to listen to whatever she has to say once she gets some rest.
He falls asleep by her side still holding her hand, and In-ha wakes up and yells at her hand like it betrayed her. But when she sees Dal-po sleeping there, she can’t help but indulge her feelings a little, and lies down to watch him sleep. She kisses her own fingers and then reaches out, and unlike Dal-po who pulled away, she gently touches his hair.
Of course that’s the exact moment when Dal-po opens his eyes though, and she panics so hard that she falls off the bed. She’s so mortified that she runs out of there without a jacket or shoes on, and the doctors all look at her like she’s crazy while Dal-po chases after her with her shoes.
Outside, she says she has lots of things to say to him, and finally gets to fire up her prepared I-told-you-so speech, about how he belittled her for being a Pinocchio but she got the story right and he got it wrong. He takes the wind out of her sails by just apologizing and agreeing that he was in the wrong, and she stammers that she had more to say.
She says she remembers every harsh word he said to her in that debate, and turns it around to call him the one not fit to become a reporter. Again, he agrees with her readily and it knocks her off-center. She declares that it made her really satisfied to watch him go down, but then hiccups right away, and he calls her out on the lie.
She deflates as she says that she hates to admit it, but instead of being happy, she was worried about him. He stoops down to dust off her feet and put her shoes on, and she says that she was worried because she couldn’t see him, and knew that he was blaming himself. She calls herself an amateur for being worried about a rival reporter, and turns her back to him and chides herself for not being able to clean up her feelings.
He reaches out to touch her but pulls back again, and she tells him to forget this confession too. She says she’s sorry about always confessing and telling him to pretend he didn’t hear it, thinking he must see her as pathetic.
She decides that she must have lost her mind because it’s so cold out, and he suddenly wraps his arms around her in a backhug. Omo. He says the cold has made him lose his senses too, and she just stands there shocked as he hugs her.
Hyung bravely makes his way to MSC, and stops In-ha’s team leader Il-joo on his way out for a report. He asks about the reporter in the big banner standing next to Cha-ok, and Il-joo tells him that they’re mother and daughter. Oh no. Hyung, don’t do anything bad to In-ha!
After a full recovery, In-ha returns to the precinct in good spirits, and Yoo-rae runs up to jealously sniff her hair: “You got to wash it, didn’t you? With shampoo and everything?!” Lol. In-ha is ready to take on the whole city now that she’s feeling better, but Dal-po’s appearance sends her ducking for cover and sneaking away so she doesn’t have to face him.
Beom-jo takes note and when they’re alone, he asks Dal-po if he’s still fighting with In-ha. He says that the others sometimes ask if Dal-po is really In-ha’s uncle because it seems like he likes her as a woman, and Dal-po doesn’t even flinch as he answers matter-of-factly that he does—so what? Beom-jo stands there slack-jawed.
Dal-po makes his best pouty faces at Chan-soo hoping for some new info on the container fire, and with enough prodding, Chan-soo admits that there are a few things that still bother him about the case, though his boss told him to stop wasting his time. He says there are a few leads he hasn’t followed through on, and Dal-po gets to work writing down all the phone numbers he memorized that time he glanced at the plant manager’s phone log.
Yoo-rae marvels at Dal-po’s memory, and wonders why he’s chasing after this case when they have better stories to keep up with. One of the phone numbers makes him pause, and he says it seems familiar somehow. He taps it into his phone, and finds that it’s Bumper, the truck he paid to have fixed. He tries dialing the number, and this time Hyung picks up.
Dal-po goes to a busy city square to meet Hyung, and calls to report to Hyun-kyu, who lights into him for acting like a detective instead of doing his job as a reporter. At the same time, the plant manager’s phone turns back on in the same location where Hyung is supposed to meet Dal-po, and Chan-soo takes a team of cops to try and track their suspect down.
Hyun-kyu fumes at Dal-po’s blatant disobedience, but Gyo-dong notes it with amusement, saying that a reporter should be investigating cases. He chuckles to himself and mutters that Dal-po is something else, thinking back to their conversation earlier.
We flash back, as Dal-po confirms that he’s asking if he can handle this job. Gyo-dong says it’s a bit early for him to be asking that, because he’ll be listening to and reporting lots of cases in the future—ones much more complex and heavier than the health club death.
Dal-po and Hyung get close enough to get off the phone and wave at each other. But when Dal-po sees Hyung’s face, he stops in his tracks. He unmistakably sees his brother’s face, and doesn’t know how to react as Hyung comes closer and closer.
Hyung comes up with a smile and says he really didn’t need money for the bumper, and then remembers that he didn’t introduce himself. He sticks out his hand for a shake: “I’m Ki Jae-myung.”
Gyo-dong answers Dal-po: “When you can’t dare to make a choice or a judgment. An unimaginable case like that. A frightening case where reporting it means someone lives or dies. When you meet a case like that, ask me again then: ‘Can I handle it?'”
Dal-po comes to his senses and asks again what his name is. Hyung smiles pleasantly and repeats, “Jae-myung. Ki Jae-myung.” His hand is outstretched as he asks for Dal-po’s name, and after a long hesitation, Dal-po reaches up to shake his hand and ekes out, “My name… is Choi Dal-po.”
Aaaaah! He found Hyung! I’m always really happy with a show that exceeds my expectations for pacing, and this writer may have other faults, but she’s always been so great about not saving all her goodies for later. Because I’m just a firm believer in spending the good ideas now and forcing yourself to come up with better ones down the line. We’ve been teased with coincidences and near-misses between Dal-po and his brother from the start, but I didn’t expect that they’d get to see each other so soon, since it’s a reunion you could milk a lot of angst from. This version is of course the worst of all possible scenarios—Dal-po comes to the meeting thinking that the man he meets could be the killer’s accomplice, and we know that it’s worse than he could even imagine, because Hyung isn’t an accomplice, but the sole killer on a vengeful tear.
Gyo-dong was completely right in saying that Dal-po has seen nothing yet, but what a way to follow that up with the real test of his fortitude. If he was going to give up everything over the health club death case, what will he do when he starts digging into Hyung’s case? I know he was being smart and careful not to give his real name, but right now I’m terrified that Hyung isn’t done killing, and knowing that his little brother is alive might be the thing to stop him before any more damage is done. Still, despite the heart-thrashing angst to come, this is a setup that feels rich with payoff for Dal-po, as the son of wrongly accused Firefighter Dad, and the deeply conscientious reporter he’s being groomed to be.
I like the trickle-down effect at YGN where everyone sees themselves in every rookie and takes ownership of their subordinates’ failings as if they were their own, but it feels especially rewarding with Gyo-dong and Dal-po, who happen to share the same turning point that changed them forever. It’s a nice perspective for Dal-po to see that not all reporters are the same, and that one person deeply regrets the pain he caused. I like even more that Gyo-dong doesn’t seem to have all the answers, and that he’s just as unsure as Dal-po is whether people like them can survive in this field.
But what makes Dal-po great is that he’s his own worst critic and doesn’t need Gyo-dong to teach him the obvious lesson. The newsroom Past/Present Dal-po conversation was a highlight, and Dal-po’s words had so much more resonance the second time around when directed at himself. What’s so great about the sequence is that Present Dal-po reacts as if it’s happening in the moment, complete with defensive arguments for how he couldn’t have done any better. But righteous and idealistic Past Dal-po shuts him up with that look of disgust, like he’s staring right at Song Cha-ok and accusing the woman who tore his family apart for being irresponsible as a reporter. In that moment he’s his own worst nightmare and the worst kind of hypocrite, and I love the economy with which all of that is conveyed.
In-ha took a bit of a backseat this hour, but she made up for it with another sweet confession and a moment of vulnerability. I suppose she’s always vulnerable because she’s forced to be honest, but in Dal-po’s case that gives her the advantage—she gets to say what’s on her heart and request that he forget about it, while he can only look at her from afar and repress his feelings. It’s the difference between him just watching her sleep and her reaching out to touch him, but if the sudden backhug was any indication, he might be having a harder time concealing his feelings than he thought. The more he surprises her, the better—that’s when she goes back to calling him Dal-po, which is infinitely better than calling him Uncle. Let’s not pretend that’s not weird. It just happens to be their denial buffer though, so I get why she tries her best to stick to proper titles, and given how great their family is, I can’t exactly root for them to just say to hell with it all. Do you think maybe nutty Chaebol Mommy will adopt Dal-po, and then he and Beom-jo can be brothers? Agh, but then who will scrub Grandpa’s back?? Oh the dilemmas.