Oh My Geum-bi: Episode 1
I was expecting this show to be emotionally wrenching for very different reasons. I was definitely not expecting my heart to start hurting because a nine-year-old feels the need to guard her emotions in the presence of an immature father while quietly nursing hope for a new life with him. The story moves quickly with deft character building, subtle emotional touches, and a delightful background score. With a protagonist this sweet and a story this engaging, Oh My Geum-bi has this viewer hooked.
Note: This is just a first episode recap.
EPISODE 1 RECAP
A little girl wakes up in her bed and immediately begins to recite the names of subway stations from memory. She checks the names against a neatly drawn chart on the wall and smiles to see that she got them all right.
This adorable urchin is YOO GEUM-BI (Heo Jung-eun), and she walks out to the kitchen next to putter around and make herself breakfast. Her aunt, KIM YOUNG-JI, sits at a table studying her tarot cards. When Geum-bi joins her, she notices the card of parting her aunt drew out and asks if things are not going well between her aunt and her beau.
Her aunt writes down an address in her school diary and asks if Geum-bi will be able to find the place with just the address. Geum-bi assures her that any kid with a smartphone can do that much, so her aunt tells her to go to this address if something happens to her. When Geum-bi wonders who lives there, she’s shocked to learn that it’s her dad.
MO HWI-CHUL (Oh Ji-ho), the dad Geum-bi was unaware she had, kneels before a crime boss alongside his two associates, having been caught trying to pass off a fake painting as an original. The boss is cleverer than they realized and tells them to get him the original or be prepared to part with their organs painfully.
Geum-bi watches a video about a dad and his children in class. As her teacher outlines the video project they have to do, she turns to her friend HWANG JAE-HA (Park Min-soo), whose parents are divorced. Geum-bi asks him how it feels to meet his dad after long intervals, and Jae-ha says that it can be awkward, but it’s nothing a pizza together can’t fix.
Hwi-chul sits with his fellow con artists at their apartment and worries about what to do next. He cribs at the older GO GIL-HO for pegging the crime boss as an easy mark and wonders if they should run away now, while the girl in the group, HEO JAE-KYUNG, reminds the two that the boss promised to hunt them down if they ran.
The police arrive just then with a warrant for Hwi-chul for selling fake paintings, and his only reaction to this while his friends stand wide-eyed to the side is: “Wait… just me?”
Geum-bi gets home to a bare apartment with her bag already packed and on the table. She takes this surprisingly calmly as she heats up another packaged meal. While waiting for it to cook, she lays out her aunt’s tarot cards and sees that her aunt really did have a farewell in her future.
Hwi-chul gets on the bus to prison and is harassed by another who mispronounces his name. He informs the man that the first part of his name is the Chinese “Hwi,” meaning shining, prompting an elderly convict to mock his jail-appropriate name: “Shining metal bracelet.”
Geum-bi takes the bus to the address written in her diary and arrives at Hwi-chul’s apartment to the astonishment of his two friends. Geum-bi sits at their table eating pizza as ajusshi Gil-ho confirms that she is, in fact, Hwi-chul’s daughter.
When Geum-bi asks what her father does, Gil-ho describes his profession as that of an artist. He makes something out of nothing and then returns it to nothing again, Gil-ho clarifies. Jae-kyung can only agree awkwardly.
In prison, Hwi-chul reunites with the crime boss, BAE JONG-WON, who promises that he doesn’t hold grudges as he cheerfully tells him that he would have had one of his lackeys kill Hwi-chul if they were free men now. Hwi-chul counters that he would never order someone else to do his dirty work, and asks Boss Bae if he knows the feeling of indulging his anger when he stabs someone.
Hwi-chul’s words have a ring of solemnity to them, but Boss Bae doesn’t take him seriously. Instead, he praises Hwi-chul’s ability to lie, and they both have a good laugh about it.
Ajusshi Gil-ho visits Hwi-chul in prison and promises to get him out soon. Hwi-chul rails at him for letting him take all the b lame, but Gil-ho points out that with Boss Bae in prison, they no longer have to worry for their lives anymore.
He tells a disbelieving Hwi-chul about the sudden appearance of a daughter he didn’t know existed, and how they can use this to get him out of prison through legal channels by pleading that Hwi-chul needs to raise his young child.
Despite Hwi-chul’s reservations, they end up in court making the plea, and the judge asks if Hwi-chul’s daughter really wants to live with him. Hwi-chul’s lawyer has Geum-bi come in to testify, and father and daughter see each other for the first time across the court room.
Geum-bi reads out the letter her aunt had left for her to the judge. In it, she apologizes for being unable to care for her anymore and tells her to live a happy life with her father. When the judge hears that today is the first time Geum-bi has seen her father, he gives her the choice of going to a good orphanage instead.
Geum-bi considers it, but then decides she would rather not go to an orphanage as she asks to live with her father. Hwi-chul looks extremely disconcerted and gets up to bring the proceedings to a halt. His lawyer drags him back down and stomps on his foot while the judge hits the gavel, sealing Hwi-chul and Geum-bi’s fate.
Hwi-chul limps out of jail and asks Gil-ho if he wrote that letter. Turns out that it was a fake that Geum-bi had written under Gil-ho’s dictation. Hwi-chul asks what he’s supposed to do with the child now, and Gil-ho tells him to be grateful.
Jae-kyung asks him to think about who Geum-bi’s mother could be. When Gil-ho laughs that Hwi-chul was too much of a player to remember, Jae-kyung stomps off in a huff, leaving Hwi-chul confused about her reaction.
Gil-ho leaves too, and Hwi-chul finally walks over to Geum-bi, who has been watching him for some time, clearly unimpressed.
First he gets her name wrong. Then he cracks a joke about expensive goods, assuming that her name is written with the character that stands for gold. She curtly informs him that it means “silk,” not “gold.”
Hwi-chul asks about Geum-bi’s mother, but she says that she doesn’t have one. In turn, she asks if Hwi-chul is a con artist, addressing him as “ajusshi,” which Hwi-chul takes as confirmation that he isn’t really her father. He tells her that liars go to jail, so Geum-bi starts walking towards the penitentiary with a determined look.
He calls after her, and she tells him that since he says he’s not her father, she has to go in and tell the judge the truth or risk going to jail for lying. Hwi-chul quickly picks her up to drag her away from the gate.
He asks her where she lived before, and they end up in front of her aunt’s empty apartment, which no longer unlocks with the old password. He looks up the real estate agent who sold the house and asks about Geum-bi’s aunt. Though the man is initially reluctant to divulge any information, a bit of judicious threatening gets him to spill that he heard she may be in Vietnam now.
Geum-bi sits on the street while Hwi-chul paces before telling him that she’s hungry. At his gobsmacked reaction, she guesses that he doesn’t have any money. Hwi-chul admits that he doesn’t, but then brightens up at a thought.
He takes her to a fancy buffet, and they fill their plates to the brim. Settling at a table with their food, they dig in, but when it’s all gone, Geum-bi asks him how he plans to pay for it. Hwi-chul asks her if she likes dramas and directs her to feign food poisoning at his signal.
Geum-bi looks offended at this, and Hwi-chul points out that without her cooperation, he’ll be dragged off to jail for not paying and she’ll be sent to an orphanage. Then he sits back and signals for her to collapse. When nothing happens, he signals again, getting only a mutinous look from Geum-bi.
Sighing, she gets up and takes out the pack of tarot cards from her bag. She walks through the restaurant carefully looking over the patrons, until she decides on a table. The man tries to shoo her away, but the woman invites her to read her cards.
Hwi-chul watches from a distance, wondering what she’s up to. His eyes fall on the woman and he looks struck. He notes that Geum-bi’s reading brings tears to the woman’s eyes, and sees the man give her money when she’s done. She leaves the table and heads over to Hwi-chul, who’s pretending to select a side dish. For a moment, his eyes meet the woman’s.
Outside, he asks Geum-bi what she told the woman to make her tear up. Geum-bi says that she told her how her dad lost his job, it was her birthday, and they were starving so they came to eat here despite knowing that they would be thrown out. Hwi-chul is mortified until Geum-bi pertly admits that she just made all that up right now.
Realizing that he still doesn’t know what made the woman cry, he asks again, but Geum-bi doesn’t share her readings. She wonders if he’s curious because he wants to scam the woman, and he asks her if she even knows what scamming is. Geum-bi knows, and she mockingly quotes Gil-ho’s definition of their “artistic job,” complete with the accent. (Why are you so adorable?)
The woman from the restaurant, GO GANG-HEE (Park Jin-hee), gets dropped off at home by her companion. He tries to extend the evening, but she politely refuses. He refers to something that has unnerved her and promises that she’ll feel better soon. As she gets out, he asks if he should accompany her to the 49th day anniversary on Saturday, but she declines.
Hwi-chul tells Gil-ho that he’ll be taking Geum-bi to a shelter in the morning, but Gil-ho reminds him that that’ll just put him back in jail. Hwi-chul complains about not liking children, but Gil-ho fondly recollects a much younger Hwi-chul, who looked and acted a lot like Geum-bi.
Geum-bi listens to them from her darkened room as Gil-ho insists that they look too similar to be unrelated.
Meanwhile, Gang-hee gently cleans a ceramic pot and thinks back to Geum-bi’s tarot card reading. The little girl had said that Gang-hee was uncertain about taking a path that she could see, because going meant losing something precious, but staying meant a lot more tears.
Hwi-chul thinks of Gang-hee’s sad eyes before turning in, while Geum-bi goes to sleep crying. The next morning, she examines Hwi-chul’s sleeping face, wondering if they really do look similar. Her face is open and smiling as she traces a finger over his features, but the moment he stirs, she steps back, and her face becomes somber again.
Hwi-chul gets up to find Geum-bi’s room empty and wonders if she’s left without saying goodbye. Then his eyes fall on her bag and he sighs in disappointment.
A man tells Gang-hee to give in and sell the house. He’s her brother, GO JOON-PIL, and he asks how she can sell their father’s ceramic collection after his recent death, but not her father’s house. He tells her that it’s been seventeen years since the incident and urges her to stop living like a ghost.
Gang-hee asks if he’s moved on. She grows angry as she asks if he never noticed how their parents never met their eyes from the day their brother died, even though they never blamed them for what happened.
Joon-pil loses his temper and picks up a ceramic piece to throw to the ground. Gang-hee swears that if he breaks it, she will die. He puts it down carefully and tells her that he’s putting the house up for sale.
The same piece is sitting in an antique shop, where Gil-ho examines it with exaggerated appreciation. His pretensions are busted by the shop owner, who tells him that it’s a fake, and the real one is at the house of the woman they’re planning to scam.
It seems that the man was Gang-hee’s father’s antique dealer, and he’s been planning this con for a while. The shop owner speculates that since Gang-hee merely inherited the collection, she likely knows nothing of its worth.
Geum-bi’s teacher hears about her going to court and tells Geum-bi to talk to her if she ever needs help.
Gang-hee drives down a road and spots Geum-bi when she stops at a red light. She’s about to call out, but the light changes, and she has to move. Geum-bi goes home to find Hwi-chul and Gil-ho drinking and playing cards with a couple of women.
They ask who she is, and Hwi-chul dismisses the idea that she’s his secret daughter. They laugh and call her cute, and one of them gives her some money to buy snacks. She walks into her room, alone and hurt.
Gil-ho pulls Hwi-chul aside and asks if he thinks Geum-bi will just disappear if he keeps acting this way. Geum-bi comes out of the room then, her expression set, and the two men look at her wondering if she will tell the women who she really is.
Instead, she asks the women if she can play too, holding up the bill they gave her. Turns out Geum-bi’s a Go-Stop prodigy, and she soon cleans the women out. They assume the men used Geum-bi to con them and leave in a huff. A grinning Geum-bi then asks a frustrated Hwi-chul if they should spend the money on barbecue tomorrow.
Gil-ho visits Gang-hee’s house dressed as a collector and admires her father’s ceramics. He offers to bring an appraiser to set a price for the collection, after which they can sign a contract of sale. Gang-hee agrees.
Geum-bi sits at the same signal after school again, when Gang-hee suddenly drives up beside her. She offers to drop Geum-bi off at her house. Geum-bi asks where she’s headed and asks if she can come along when Gang-hee says she’s headed to a Buddhist temple.
Geum-bi sits quietly at the temple door while monks perform rites for Gang-hee’s late father. On their way back, Geum-bi asks why these rituals have to be followed, and Gang-hee tells her that unless the rites are done, it’s said that their ancestors would starve.
Realizing that her words have had an effect on Geum-bi, she hurriedly says that it’s only a myth, then invites her over for a meal at her house. This cheers Geum-bi up again.
Gil-ho studies Joseon era ceramic values and looks up thoughtfully when he remembers a girl who resembles Geum-bi. Hwi-chul ignores him until Gil-ho mentions a “Joo-young.” This reminds him of a crazy ex-girlfriend, but Hwi-chul can’t see anything of her in a kid like Geum-bi. (Maybe because she’s got more of you in her?)
Geum-bi walks in to Hwi-chul’s surprise, since he assumed she was already home. She hands him a list of specific food items to buy by tomorrow. Predictably, he doesn’t, and when he gets home without the items the next evening, Geum-bi’s expectant face falls.
He asks what she needs with items used in ancestral rites anyway, and wonders if her aunt brought her up to talk rudely to adults. Geum-bi fires back that his mother brought him up poorly, and Hwi-chul gives her a knuckle-tap on the head for that. He scolds her for her behavior, and Geum-bi tells him that she wanted to perform ancestral rites for her mother, since neither he nor her aunt will do it.
Hwi-chul looks away and says that the dead don’t care. Avoiding her eyes, he tells her to go to sleep, and Geum-bi runs sobbing into her room. She sets up an altar there anyway, and with drawings of the fruit Hwi-chul didn’t buy propped up beside plates of everyday snacks, she prays for her mother. Hwi-chul looks in on her before quietly shutting the door again.
Gil-ho puts up a forensic board of images for their next con and briefs Hwi-chul and Jae-kyung about their mark, Gang-hee. He describes her as an anti-social person who values her privacy above all, and who rarely interacts with people.
We see Gang-hee go about her daily life, and it’s just as lonely as he paints her. He ends by saying that she clearly just wants the cash value of her father’s collection for security, which means that she wants to tie up all the loose ends in her world.
Gil-ho casts Jae-kyung in the part of the attorney and Hwi-chul as the antique appraiser. He hands Hwi-chul a stack of papers, densely packed with the names and values of antiques. Hwi-chul is reluctant to spend two days memorizing all of it and tries to pass his homework over to Jae-kyung, who passes it right back, saying that women prefer male appraisers.
Hwi-chul sits in a park trying to memorize ancient names and gives up pretty soon. He lies down and imagines Gang-hee’s smiling face against the blue sky before taking out a pencil and sketching her on the back of his homework. (He’s pretty good too.)
Later, when Gil-ho tries to help Hwi-chul with the names, he notices the sketch and thinks it looks remarkably like the woman they’re planning to con.
Geum-bi sits with her friend Jae-ha at school and learns how to use a video editing app on her phone. He asks if she’s really going to use it, and she says yes with a determined nod.
She goes home and tries to take a video of Hwi-chul while he cooks, but he blocks his face with his homework, with Gang-hee’s sketch facing the camera. Geum-bi doesn’t notice and asks how many packets of ramyun he’s cooking. A moment later, Geum-bi sits down to eat her noodles, while Hwi-chul looks at her resentfully, since he now needs to cook himself a second pot.
In school the next day, her teacher and class watch Geum-bi’s video, titled “People I Want to Make Happy.” There are clips of Gang-hee at the temple, and then Hwi-chul telling her to get the camera out of his face. Her teacher looks appalled, but Geum-bi looks very pleased with herself.
The three con artists arrive at Gang-hee’s place, all dressed up as their respective roles. They enter the garden and find Gang-hee tending to her plants. She looks up at Gil-ho’s greeting, and Hwi-chul freezes with recognition. Jae-kyung introduces herself with a fake namem, and then they wait for Hwi-chul to speak.
As the silence stretches, Jae-kyung steps on his foot, and Hwi-chul remembers to introduce himself. But he forgets not to use his real name.
Geum-bi sits at her bench near the signal and watches the clip of Hwi-chul again, smiling to herself. Towards the end, she notices the paper he holds up and the sketch on it. She pauses the video and zooms in. Her face falls as she recollects overhearing Gil-ho say that the woman in the sketch looked like the woman they planned on conning. Geum-bi starts running.
At Gang-hee’s house, Jae-kyung sets out the paperwork so that all Gang-hee has to do is sign. As she lowers her seal towards the paper, Hwi-chul stops her with a lame excuse. Gil-ho and Jae-kyung glare at him and Hwi-chul grimaces, unable to explain his discomfort.
As Gang-hee brings the seal down again, the bell rings, stopping her a hair’s breath away from stamping the page. Gang-hee gets up to see who it is, and Gil-ho tells the other two not to screw this up by getting nervous.
Gang-hee comes back in with Geum-bi, who rounds towards Hwi-chul and glares, while he stares at her in shock.
The remarkable thing about young Heo Jung-eun is how little attention I paid to anything else every time she was on screen. As Geum-bi, she stole my heart. It’s funny how Oh Ji-ho’s Hwi-chul displays every emotion through cartoonishly exaggerated expressions, while Geum-bi simply has to look at you for you to know how she feels.
I liked that we got a sense of all the characters’ history without delving too deeply into their past. That Geum-bi already knows to hide her emotions tells me that she has experienced grief and loss and has learned to never rely on others. Her independence is heartbreaking, and yet it’s the very reason that Hwi-chul can’t ignore her. She won’t go along with his plans, do as he tells her to, or be relegated to an orphaned child living in his house while he entertains. I loved that she went back outside and emptied the purses of those women. Best nine-year-old card shark ever.
One of my favorite moments — and there were many — was when her teacher looked at her with pity after watching her video while Geum-bi just grinned proudly at the screen. It’s so obvious that she was in earnest. Two near-strangers and a bare minimum of affection was all that was needed to make her feel like she had a family. Regardless of how little she thought of Hwi-chul, the idea of him as her father was enough for her to want to become part of his life.
In just the space of one episode, Hwi-chul’s world changed as Geum-bi and her own code of right and wrong barged into his life and toppled his single life onto its head. I appreciate that Hwi-chul is not unnecessarily cruel or neglectful — he genuinely doesn’t know what to do with her and is having an extremely hard time adjusting to the idea that Geum-bi might really be his daughter.
Hwi-chul is selfish, reluctant to mature, and oddly contrary. He is charmingly romantic in the way he keeps remembering the face of a sad-eyed woman he glimpsed once, and yet he clearly doesn’t see himself as someone who pines. He earns a living through scamming people, and even in this, he mostly seems to follow Gil-ho’s lead without any of the interest or enthusiasm we see in people who genuinely like what they do. The only time I had the impression that he was enjoying himself was when he was lying on that bench sketching Gang-hee’s face.
I was reluctant to start a story that has such a tragic premise at its heart, but now that the show has me in its grasp, I’m happy to watch this father-daughter relationship develop into something strong and beautiful.