Spy: Episode 8
It’s the one dinner party to rule them all, where everyone but our hero has a secret agenda for the eat ’n greet that mostly revolves around a mysterious hard drive and/or hacking into a phone, both tasks having special significance to our baddies in the North. What significance? Good question. Maybe we’ll find out next week, or maybe we won’t.
Sometimes ratings don’t always correspond with a show’s quality, but Spy might be another story—the show has seen a steady decline since it aired, and netted a new low with 3.8% this episode.
SONG OF THE DAY
Secret – “Poison” [ Download ]
EPISODE 8 RECAP
Based on the identification software’s findings, Sun-woo presents what he’s compiled on Ki-chul to the handful of people who work in the NIS, but aside from the fact that he went under the alias “Gostra,” it’s mostly stuff we already know.
What they know now is that he’s a skilled assassin and that he initiated the recent purge of North Korean agents in the South—Soo-yeon narrowly escaped only to be killed by him and a poison pen in the end.
His last official appearance was back in China in 1988, and though they had assumed he’d been killed due to an explosion which happened then (thanks to Mom), they know differently now. But it’s only when his software pulls up a familiar-looking picture of a North Korean woman that Sun-woo pauses…
…But the meeting is over before he knows it and it’s back to the grind. He takes a closer look at the picture in his cubicle, unable to shake the resemblance, until Hyun-tae nabs him for a trip to the basement document storage room.
Hyun-tae seems surprised when Sun-woo goes straight for a dust-covered file bin covering the years Ki-chul was last known to be in Shenyang. But Sun-woo is determined to catch Ki-chul with what he finds inside.
Yoon-jin knows who’s on the other end of the line when she gets an unknown caller, but is reluctantly forced to answer when she spots one of Ki-chul’s lackeys watching.
Hyun-tae reminisces over some painful past memories as Sun-woo locks his eyes on the folder containing intel from the 1988 explosion Ki-chul was somehow involved in. Just as he starts to flip through it, Eun-ah drops in, and the three of them go back and forth playfully.
She’s trying hard to hide her excitement over being invited to dinner at Sun-woo’s that night, and tries/fails not to give Sun-woo the wrong idea when she asks what his mother would like, so she can bring something.
“I’m not sure… what does she like?” Sun-woo asks, more to himself than Eun-ah. He’s starting to have doubts since he saw that picture, isn’t he?
While Mom and Dad get ready for their hacking dinner extravaganza, Young-seo picks up her mother’s ringing phone and excitedly recognizes her “uncle,” aka Ki-chul. Is he coming to dinner too?
Mom snatches the phone away, ready to take Ki-chul to task when she’s doing everything she’s supposed to. But he instead draws her attention to the television, where news is breaking that the subway bombing suspect turned herself in.
Obviously that can’t be true since Mom was the perpetrator, but Ki-chul explains that it’s his gift to her. “Do a good job,” he adds.
Hyun-tae, who had no plans on attending the dinner, is in for a bit of a surprise when Chief Song picks him up in a surveillance van. He wants Hyun-tae to go to the dinner with him to help him out with something, even though the details are scarce.
Hyun-tae’s concern is whether Sun-woo is under suspicion, to which Chief Song replies that he isn’t. He just needs Hyun-tae to do something for him without asking questions or thinking about it too hard. That’s really going to ease Hyun-tae’s suspicions about what he’s doing in his off hours, I’m sure.
Yoon-jin calls Sun-woo to tell him that she’ll be late because of work, when she’s really sitting right next to Ki-chul who tells her she did a good job. What’s with all the compliments from him this episode? I guess in this world, making a phone call is enough to give a spy a gold star.
Sun-woo heads home unable to shake off the images from the 1988 explosion, since something in there has caught his attention. No one’s arrived for dinner yet, so Sun-woo heads to his room and pulls out an old photo album to see what Mom’s face looked like when he was a child…
…Only to be interrupted by Mom. He can’t help but stare at her, prompting her to innocently ask if there’s something on her face. When she spots the photo album laying out, Sun-woo steps in front of her to obscure her view.
Chief Song has Hyun-tae outfitted with bugs and earpieces so he can follow the orders he’s to receive once he’s in the house. Song finds it laughable when Hyun-tae asks if he gave Eun-ah a secret order too, claiming that he’d end up babysitting if he asked her for anything.
They arrive at Sun-woo’s house bearing customary gifts as guests, and Hyun-tae pauses when he sees Sun-woo’s mother for the first(?) time, quickly covering that he was distracted by her beauty. No wonder Sun-woo turned out so handsome, he jokes.
Eun-ah arrives last and brings ginseng with her, flushing in embarrassment when she looks over at Sun-woo. Someone’s definitely trying to impress a hopeful mother-in-law, aren’t they? (I’ve never had Second Lead Syndrome for the second female lead, but Team Eun-ah all the way!)
I wonder if Hyun-tae is a little suspicious, since he asks Mom about her past in China and how she met her husband. She’s happy to share their romantic story, even if it’s mostly a fabrication.
Yoon-jin is brought to the house by Ki-chul and his lackeys, and told to just do as she’s ordered. She worriedly asks if they’re going to raid the house, only to get the answer that it’s not her job to think, only to do. She has her family’s safety to consider.
When asked whether they have any relatives in China, both Sun-woo and Mom are quick to say no. It’s Young-seo who unthinkingly blurts out that there’s her “uncle,” which has Mom quickly changing the subject.
Sun-woo brings Yoon-jin in once he gets the call that she’s outside, sort of springing her on Mom so that it’s impossible for her to refuse. He’s not playing around when it comes to her and Mom either, since he all but orders Mom to use banmal with her since they’ll be seeing so much of each other from now on.
Mom’s expression is icy but forced as she plays nice in front of her son, but the second the two are alone, she shoots Yoon-jin a death glare.
From Ki-chul’s surveillance van, they’re able to listen in on the dinner conversation thanks to the bug they planted on Yoon-jin. Sun-woo introduces her to everyone as the girl he’s going to marry, taking Chief Song by surprise. Everyone else knew he had a girlfriend.
Yoon-jin hops up to help Mom do the dishes after dinner, only for Mom to bark that she doesn’t need her help. Sun-woo seems to know that leaving the two of them alone is a bad idea, so he noses in to ask what they’re talking about.
They’re both all smiles for him, even though the awkward tension in the room is thick enough to cut with a knife. Eun-ah is the only one oblivious to it as she enters the kitchen, only to become mortified when Yoon-jin tells her they’ve met before—Eun-ah may not remember because that’s when she drank with Sun-woo and passed out.
Mom motions for Young-seo to distract Eun-ah, which she only gets away with because Eun-ah is so keen on making a good impression for Mom. Aw.
While Hyun-tae gets the secret order to find a way to connect to Sun-woo’s computer, Mom and Yoon-jin get some alone time outside. Yoon-jin insists she’s not wearing a bug but that she took one into the house, so their current conversation can’t be overheard.
Yoon-jin answers each of Mom’s questions honestly, claiming that it was Ki-chul’s idea for her to attend the dinner but that she only did so because he promised no one would get hurt. Mom just wants her to stay out of her way.
To shut the voice in his earpiece up, Hyun-tae innocently asks Sun-woo if he can use his computer to check his e-mail. Sun-woo directs him to the laptop in his room, but Hyun-tae’s real mission has to do with hooking something up to the router.
Hyun-tae hates all this sneaking around, but can’t get an answer from his in-van hacker buddy as to what this is all about. If the hacker knows, he isn’t telling him, but I’m not quite sure who knows what.
Chief Song finally gets to approach Dad about the passcode-cracking software his company has been developing, explaining that he can’t go through official channels because of the sensitivity of the information on the hard drive he’s collected.
Dad pretends to be happy to help, all the while hoping and praying that Chief Song will put his phone on the table just so in order for his under-the-table hacking tablet to work.
Meanwhile, Ki-chul is able to overhear the entire conversation, causing one of his lackeys to ready a gun with a silencer equipped. Yoon-jin asks Mom to give her Chief Song’s telephone number so she can help, and Mom actually gives it to her.
Yoon-jin calls from outside while Mom goes back in, catching Chief Song with his phone out. Mom’s brilliant plan for getting him to put it on the table? Awkwardly asking him to take off his coat and get comfortable. But it works.
If Sun-woo notices how Mom and Yoon-jin are suddenly working like a team, he doesn’t say anything, but he does grow curious when Mom disappears into her room to check the hack.
Yoon-jin stops him before he goes inside by playing like she’s too weak to open a jar, and the look she shares with Mom is all, I’ve got your back.
Ki-chul sends his men out when Chief Song confirms to Dad that he brought the hard drive with him, since that’s what they’re after. Meanwhile, Dad takes Chief Song to the study to try out the software while Hyun-tae takes a peek at Sun-woo’s photo album.
His eyes settle on the same picture Sun-woo honed in on as he thinks back to Sun-woo snatching the 1988 explosion case file away from him. Something’s not right.
But thanks to Hyun-tae fiddling with the network, the van hacker is able to get into Dad’s program the second Dad opens it to demonstrate its capabilities to Chief Song. (Did he just touch his earpiece like the most obvious spy ever?)
Ki-chul’s lackey is sent to silently kill the NIS watchdog posted outside the dinner party and almost succeeds before the sudden order comes into abort the mission. Turns out Chief Song didn’t bring the actual hard drive with him, which Ki-chul thankfully overheard in time.
Sun-woo finds one of Mom’s pills on the bathroom counter, but is stopped from investigating the medicine cabinet when his sister announces that the guests are leaving.
The NIS watchdog, meanwhile, can’t even manage to get the license plate number of the suspicious van that’s been bothering him all night. You had ONE job!
After the hacking dinner extravaganza, Chief Song’s hacker calls to say that he did get to crack the password… but there’s a second password that he can’t crack without being connected to Dad’s company server.
He sends through a bunch of code he managed to swipe before the second password was asked for, and though he doesn’t know what it means, Chief Song underlines some numbers and draws a dollar sign next to them.
Ki-chul meets with Mom to instruct her on how to get Chief Song into her husband’s office with the hard drive. She asks if they want to take it and kill him, but of course Ki-chul won’t say.
“What’s inside the hard drive?” Mom asks, curiosity getting the best of her. Ki-chul says he’ll tell her if she really wants to know, but it’ll only tie the two of them closer together. Mom is quick to rescind her question.
But Ki-chul, having decided to be nice this episode, tells Mom that this is the last job she has to do—afterward, he’ll disappear from her and her family’s lives. Uh huh.
Meanwhile, Sun-woo recognizes Ki-chul’s van by the license plate he caught on surveillance the day Soo-yeon died. He follows it and calls Hyun-tae to tell him…
…But swiftly loses his ability to speak when he sees Ki-chul and Mom hovering nearby.
Thank goodness for that development, since having Sun-woo wander about in relative uncertainty has been a bit of a drag in recent weeks. Part of Spy’s problem in building suspense has been the fact that we as the audience already know what our hero has yet to find out, so waiting for him to figure things out has less driving power than, say, revealing something that manages to shock both him and us.
Which isn’t to say that keeping secrets from the audience is the only way to make a suspenseful television show, but if you’re going to go the opposite route by hinging the tension on a character’s inevitable reaction to finding out X, Y, or Z, then it’s got to be played in such a way that we’re on pins and needles wondering how the reveal will affect them. So while there’s definitely some of that here, the holdout has been too long—and instead of using the time in between to really build character, we’ve had Sun-woo sort of lag behind, struggling to figure things out for himself and reconcile the unthinkable when it comes to Mom.
Now, hopefully, we’ll get to see Sun-woo on the offensive, though I admit to not really understanding where the plot is trying to take us from here. There are the big strokes with Ki-chul, Mom’s past, and Sun-woo being (formerly) ignorant of how those two tie together, but all the focus on Chief Song’s mystical hard drive lately has gone beyond me. As of right now it reads as a plot device that borders on being a MacGuffin, since it fulfills the textbook requirements of being a mysterious item everyone is suddenly after. With any luck, maybe later it’ll be revealed to have major life-altering plot significance. Maybe.
What did come as a curveball this episode was Hyun-tae’s reaction to Mom, since it really didn’t seem like he was meeting a total stranger for the first time. It would be interesting if they’ve met before or if he’s somehow familiar with her as a North Korean spy, since even Sun-woo couldn’t quite shake off that feeling of recognition he got when looking at those old photos. Hyun-tae’s character and past is one of the more interesting aspects of this show, though I don’t know whether to chalk that up to some luck in the writing or the fact that Jo Dal-hwan has an innate ability to give all of his roles a kind of warmth and depth that may not necessarily be scripted (don’t see: Age of Feeling).
At least it’ll be interesting to see how Sun-woo’s relationship with Mom progresses now that he knows her secret, and whether he’ll hold it against her in a big way only to find himself faced with the same thing again—but likely worse—with Yoon-jin. Why do I get the feeling that he’ll be much harder on Mom but much more forgiving if/when it eventually comes to Yoon-jin? Or maybe it’ll be the exact opposite. It’s hard to tell with the quiet types sometimes.