Spy: Episode 2
Sleek and stylish, just how I like ‘em. That and how briskly-paced this show is, since Spy isn’t messing around when it comes to getting in and out without wearing out its welcome, which is pretty nifty considering its double-header format and its unusual time slot on Friday nights.
The limited timeframe also cuts lingering introductions short, throwing Mom into the thick of things when a ghost from her past reappears with a score to settle. If our resident baddie knows what Mom was capable of when Sun-woo was just an ultrasound blip, what does he think will happen when he threatens Sun-woo after he’s all grown up? That second-degree sunburn will be the least of his worries.
SONG OF THE DAY
Baechigi feat. Park Soo-jin – “악몽 (Nightmare)” [ Download ]
EPISODE 2 RECAP
At the sight of the scarred North Korean agent at her door—an apparent ghost from her past—Mom bolts for the kitchen to grab a knife just seconds before he enters.
HWANG KI-CHUL (Yoo Oh-sung) casually strolls into her house, bolstered by years of knowing her by another name, and tells her not to be so frightened by his reappearance. Is it the scar on his face? He chuckles a bit as he notes, “You’re the reason it turned out like this.”
He survived whatever attempt Mom once made on his life, sardonically claiming that he made it through the arduous recovery process by thinking of her. Mom would rather cut to the chase and asks him what he wants.
Ki-chul’s come on business, and helps himself to a glass of Mom’s liquor as his eyes scan every corner of her house, even the knife rack with one missing. He seems to enjoy taunting her about how they last parted ways, which wasn’t amicable to say the least, before his gaze falls on her family portrait.
“Your kids are cute,” he drawls, adding that Mom became such a patriot after she changed her name and her native country to fit in here.
But he focuses specifically on Sun-woo, figuring that he must be the child she was pregnant with when they last saw each other. “Seeing him all grown, did he grow up on the blood of the children that died then? I’m not sure how, but the connection he and I share runs deep.” What children?
Mom takes that opportunity to lunge at Ki-chul with her knife, the two fighting deftly and evenly until Ki-chul manages to overpower her. He calmly returns the knife to the rack like nothing happened, claiming that he’s here with a job for her.
“I don’t know what it is, but I won’t do it,” Mom spits back, unyielding. Ki-chul reminds her that it’s not a favor he’s asking, but a demand—if Mom wants to continue living the idyllic life she’s built for herself, she doesn’t have much of a choice.
When asked why he can’t do it himself, Ki-chul wryly mentions the recent string of deaths among North Korean spies, though he admits most of those came at his hands. And so, Mom just has to make one delivery in order to get Ki-chul off her back for good.
While interrogating Soo-yeon, the North Korean agent who turned herself in, Sun-woo is able to piece together that the scarred man who executed her comrades is the same one who spared him in China.
Sun-woo was barely conscious then, but remembers the man telling him to go back home… because they’d meet again soon.
Soo-yeon is desperate to make a deal, since all she wants is for them to get her family out of the North before they’re sent to prison camps or worse. Sun-woo can only share what Hyun-tae tells him from the control room, which is that they can only ensure her safety, not her family’s.
The spy defector despairs at this, crying that she doesn’t even have information they could use anyway—she was just a grunt trying to make money for her family. But she claims that money can move anyone out of the North, and that her supervisor would make some of the arrangements himself…
Suddenly, Hyun-tae bursts into the interrogation room to demand where her supervisor is. Did the scarred man kill him? Is he still in the country? Is he still alive? His questions have a desperate and uncharacteristic tone, like there’s something personal at stake here. Innnteresting.
Back with Mom, Ki-chul lords his scarred status over her as a debt, claiming that she owes him this one favor for what she did to him. After all, he never told anyone back at home that she was still alive, so shouldn’t she do this one little thing for him?
Mom still says no, prompting Ki-chul to pick up the phone and threaten to call her family members to tell them who she really is… starting with Sun-woo.
Chief Song pulls Hyun-tae aside to give him one for bursting out like that, even though both of them seem to know who Hyun-tae was talking about when he was asking Soo-yeon about her supervisor.
From the sounds of it, whoever-it-was might’ve once been an agent for the South, but Chief Song adamantly refers to him just as “that bastard” and tells Hyun-tae to drop it—he’s probably dead or in a prison camp somewhere. He warns Hyun-tae to tread lightly, since he’s on the verge of getting fired.
Sun-woo ends up overhearing the tail end of this conversation, having to rush off when the sound of his phone ringing gives his position away. It’s Mom, only it’s not Mom—it’s Ki-chul. Luckily he hangs up before saying anything.
The threat is enough to get Mom to agree to do whatever it is Ki-chul wants, just moments before Young-seo enters to find her mother with a strange man.
But Ki-chul is adept at making her like him when he calls himself an “uncle” who was once close with Mom, even going so far as to give Young-seo a little spending money before Mom snatches it from her hand.
Before he leaves, Ki-chul reminds Mom that she’s making the right decision to help him, since she’s protecting her way of life by doing so. “Don’t think of doing anything stupid,” he warns before speeding off.
Of course, Mom memorizes his license plate and changes her door entry code, stopping only to shut down Young-seo’s question about the “uncle” that’s not her uncle. Mom then anxiously swallows some pills from the secret stash we caught a glimpse of in the first episode.
She flashes back to confronting Ki-chul with the sonogram photo of fetus-Sun-woo, though she’d defied him when he told her to get rid of the baby. They both knew the father, and that’s the reason why Mom claimed she couldn’t go through with it.
But the brutal Ki-chul had no scruples about shoving a pregnant woman down as he asked her what was more important—the child in her belly or her own life? Mom made her decision by fleeing and detonating a bomb in her wake. Well, that explains Ki-chul’s burns.
Sun-woo is none too happy when Chief Song reassigns him to a desk job, insisting that he’s made for the field. He tries taking off his cast sling to prove he’s in perfect health, but it’s a no-go with the chief. The decision has been made.
Hyun-tae picks up the sling Sun-woo threw to the ground with a sort of rueful acceptance, since he’s been demoted too. He does pick at Sun-woo’s sour attitude though: “A spy doesn’t follow his heart, but he puts up with it in his head and digs up information until the critical moment comes.”
And if a spy lets his instincts override his brain, he’ll become a laughingstock like him, Hyun-tae notes regretfully. Sun-woo only has one question: “Who is the Supervisor?” Hyun-tae answers that Sun-woo doesn’t need to know—the Supervisor is only important to a fool like him.
Mom tears apart her house looking for bugs, managing to finally find one planted in her chandelier. Ki-chul can only use it as a microphone, and listens intently to the sound of Mom’s breathing as she discovers the hiding spot.
She rushes to the door when Dad can’t get in using the old passcode, and hastily throws away the cake Ki-chul brought when her husband brings a new one.
A nightmare returns Sun-woo to the scene of the crash, and while he fades in and out of consciousness he ekes out, “Please save… our Sung-hye.” (Is that Mom’s former name? If so, how would Sun-woo know that?)
Sun-woo wakes up in his girlfriend’s home, the nightmares nothing new to her. She’s concerned about him, even though he explains away all her worries with ease despite his reluctance to tell her what he was dreaming about.
Their relationship is a close and comfortable one, though it seems like Yoon-jin knows more about Sun-woo’s job than Mom, considering that it’s that job that first brought them together.
She expresses more enthusiasm than Sun-woo at his move to the analytics division, asking coyly if it means they’ll have more time to date. Sun-woo can’t help but smile and rustle her hair affectionately at that.
Out of the blue, Sun-woo asks Yoon-jin if she misses her parents, reminded of the North Korean defector’s cries about her own. Yoon-jin gets a faraway look in her eye as she says that you don’t miss your family until they’re gone, but that family is all that’s left in the end.
Sun-woo tells her that he’ll have to treat her better since she’ll be his family soon, but she’s not so sure: “Just treat me better regardless. I might not be able to become your family.” He won’t stand that kind of talk, and vows that he’ll fight for her every step of the way—they’ll get Mom’s blessing, just wait.
Speaking of, we find Mom and Dad together on their bed but in completely different places mentally—Dad is absorbed in his laptop work while Mom looks around the room suspiciously, suspecting a bug.
She attempts to turn up the TV volume so her conversation with her husband won’t be overheard, but Dad unknowingly steamrolls over anything she might’ve wanted to say by claiming that he’ll have more time for her after this big project is over with. She can talk to him all she wants then.
He gets out of bed to take a phone call from work, emerging into the darkened living room to find Sun-woo sitting there in silence. He asks Dad what he would do if something bothered him at work, prompting Dad to sit down next to his son when he figures out that Sun-woo’s seeking some good ole parental advice.
Dad only has time to tell his son that he should follow his heart and do whatever he won’t regret—and if it doesn’t work out for him, he’ll be able to take care of his son financially in about two years. He says that last bit half-jokingly, but another phone call forces him to cut the conversation short, even though Sun-woo looks like he could use more of his precious time than he received.
While sitting in on one of Yoon-jin’s classes, Mom’s ringing cell phone ends up interrupting proceedings when she can’t bring herself to answer it, knowing who’s on the other end. When she finally does, Ki-chul instructs her to take a bag out of one of the nearby lockers, threatening to expose her identity to the whole nation if she doesn’t.
Mom takes the package to the location designated by Ki-chul after disguising herself in bargain store clothes, while Sun-woo brings sweets to mend things with fellow colleague Eun-ah (though he probably still doesn’t know she has a crush on him).
He uses Eun-ah’s absence from the control room to turn off the cameras in Soo-yeon’s room, so that what they say will be kept in confidence. He wants her to give him any details she has on the scarred man who killed his colleage—and in return, he’ll help get her family out of the North.
Ki-chul calls Mom to tell her to leave the bag in the subway terminal, claiming that someone will retrieve it after she goes. Mom is wary about that being all he wanted her to do, but Ki-chul reassures her as he tells her to live happily and raise her kids well.
Mom has a crisis of conscience as she prepares to do as she’s told, even though the long look she gives the bag makes it seem like she knows something terrible could be inside.
But still, she makes a step to leave, only to be stopped by a little girl telling her she forgot her bag. Mom tells the precocious child that it’s not hers and goes…
…Only for the bag to explode behind her. Jesus. The girl somehow survives, and Mom carries her through the smoke to her mother’s arms before fleeing the scene.
At home, Yoon-jin doesn’t understand why Mom is suddenly so fixated with the news covering the subway explosion, a conversation Sun-woo is too zoned out to participate in.
Mom worriedly watches for any sign that authorities might know it was her, but though they’ve pegged it down to “the woman in sunglasses,” that’s a far cry from a positive ID. But lest she get too comfy, a text with a close-up video of her planting the bag arrives on her phone. Uh oh.
Ki-chul calls to take credit for that, and admits the whole subway explosion was a setup to get Mom under his thumb for the real task ahead: “Turn over your son, Kim Sun-woo.”
Mom says her son doesn’t need to be dragged into this as a simple government employee, to which Ki-chul chuckles, “You don’t know? Kim Sun-woo works for the National Intelligence Service. He’s an exceptional field agent, though not as good as you. He’s fast, strong, and adept at deceiving people.”
Clearly, since Mom’s face is a mask of shock—she had no idea what her son really did. Ki-chul then admits that Sun-woo got his latest injuries from running into him in China, and claims Mom just has to do this one tiny little thing to get off the hook.
“Hand Kim Sun-woo over to me,” Ki-chul says. “Then you’ll be free.”
Looks like Mom forgot the golden rule of being a spy, and that’s to never trust spies. I think she got off pretty easy there with a zero-casualty explosion, because that lingering look she gave the bag before leaving left a lot of interesting questions hanging regarding her character. As if there weren’t enough of those already.
Which isn’t a criticism—far from it, actually. I’m really digging Mom’s character and mysterious backstory, which we can piece together to a certain degree before we find ourselves on unfamiliar territory. The fact that she was willing to kill Ki-chul to protect a way of life she’d found herself gravitating toward puts her in a new light for sure, since we don’t know if she had a mission involving the man who would become her husband and if her love for him, and for her unborn child, caused her to betray her cause and live in relative hiding for all these years.
Her past with Ki-chul raises even more questions, since his fixation with her seems to go beyond contempt for her betrayal and her attempt on his life. While it wouldn’t be a stretch to say that Ki-chul now has an adult version of Sun-woo to blame for Mom’s actions, we know he could’ve ended Sun-woo’s life by now. No, his asking Mom to hand her son over seems less about any benefit Sun-woo’s capture might bring and more about tormenting Mom with the very love that drove her away from him in the first place. Let’s just hope that Mom knows better than to trust any more of his empty promises now.
The revelation that her son was working as a secret agent was par for the course, and for right now I’m mostly curious as to where Yoon-jin’s affiliations lie. Her uncanny reflexes made an impression in the first episode, though I’d be a little wary of a show with three completely oblivious leading spies—a mother unaware that her son is a spy, a son unaware his mother was once a communist spy, and a boyfriend unaware his girlfriend is probably-maybe-likely some sort of spy. As much as we don’t want Too Many Spies around here, Yoon-jin can’t just be around for window decoration, can she? Especially not with how much she presumably knows about Sun-woo… right?
So far, Sun-woo seems to be the most competent spy in the business, and I love what we’ve seen of his colleagues so far—Eun-ah’s juvenile crush on him is adorable, and Hyun-tae is the good kind of crabby ajusshi to have around. I can just see those two going nuts after one day working a desk job, though something tells me their field expertise will be in high demand now that Ki-chul’s back in town. Or at least it better be, because you can’t go calling a show Spy without having some major spy-on-spy battles planned. That just comes with the territory.