Chief Kim: Episode 2
Our hero starts to see that he’s in a bigger pond than he thought, and that his competitors might be more bloodthirsty sharks than the little fish he’s used to dealing with. Sung-ryong may try all he wants to hold onto his unethical, lazy lifestyle, but how long does he think he’ll be able to ignore his nagging conscience?
EPISODE 2 RECAP
Newly accepted to TQ Group, our hero launches himself into Boss Bae… for a celebratory hug! The gangsters immediately cease their fighting in favor of a round of beers, sharing inspirational speeches and vows to continue their brotherly corruption together. Now that they’re friends again, Sung-ryong tells Kwang-sook to send a copy of the ledgers to Boss Bae.
Back at TQ, Ha-kyung works on her apology letter when coworker Sang-tae barges in to show her a news article. The news reports that former Chief Lee was a whistleblower and that his attempted suicide was faked by TQ. Manager Lee warns them against falling for tabloid articles, but no one can deny that a false suicide better matches Chief Lee’s integrity.
They decide to look for whatever evidence that Chief Lee may have left behind, like some secret file or hint about what really happened. Ha-kyung recalls that all of Chief Lee’s work files were erased, and although Director Chu suggests that they trust the police to do their jobs, Ha-kyung agrees with the others: “We can’t trust anyone right now.”
Meanwhile, Executive Director Jo is struggling with trust issues of her own. A flashback shows us that it was Seo Yul who pushed for the obviously unqualified Sung-ryong to replace Chief Lee, vaguely insisting that he has an eye for these things. Director Chu, too, complains to Director Go about the selection, but is told to deal with it. When they’re interrupted by a touchy phone call about Director Go’s son’s poor college exam scores, Director Chu quickly excuses himself.
At the same time, the Prosecutor’s Office is strife with scandalized rumors that Seo Yul has resigned – not for a law firm like everyone expected, but as TQ Group’s new Director of Finance. Yul’s furious junior prosecutor confronts him as he packs up his belongings to leave, accusing Yul of stealing his investment strategies to get ahead – but Yul coolly assures him that his strategies aren’t worth stealing. Further, Yul scoffs at the junior prosecutor’s implication that the Prosecutor’s Office is anymore righteous or just than the private corporations; he’s sick of obeying the orders of higher-ups to lose when he knows how to win. “I’d rather just live as trash than pretend I’m not,” he says. “I don’t want to justify being just a rich coward. It’s lame.”
Back at the office, Director Chu grumbles about how a low-life underachiever like Sung-ryong could become a chief at TQ, throwing his resume into the trash – but Ha-kyung tries to stay positive, insisting that a person’s character and compassion is much more important than his specs. Director Chu sarcastically calls her saintly and kind, but the moment he brings up her apology letter, she erupts in a fit of rage and starts kicking office supplies around the office, lol.
As soon as Director Chu leaves the room, the other coworkers rush to the trash to check out their new chief’s resume, complaining that it’s just as unbelievably lame as he said. They decide not to give their underachieving new chief an inkling of respect, at least to preserve their pride.
Meanwhile, Sung-ryong sits at home in sweats, reading up on TQ’s latest rumors about Chief Lee’s possible murder. He notes that it sure is fishy for a clean company like TQ.
Ha-kyung meets with Chief Lee’s wife to discuss the new rumors surrounding her husband’s suicide. She tells Ha-kyung that the police have been acting like they’re just rumors, but she’s certain that they’re hiding something from her: they won’t show her any evidence of the alleged gambling or embezzlement, and the black box and GPS are missing from his car. Ha-kyung suggests they find a lawyer for the case, but Chief Lee’s wife tells her no one is willing to step up.
Ha-kyung is summoned by the Director of Ethical Management, who says her apology letter doesn’t sound sincere enough. Ha-kyung agrees to rewrite it through clenched teeth.
Chairman Park sits with his wife, Madam Jang, at an annual memorial service for her father, the former chairman of TQ. He helps her down the stairs outside the church, gently noting that they should start holding the service at home since her body is getting weaker. She brushes off the subject, however, and informs him that she wants to start attending the shareholders’ meetings again. Chairman Park takes it in stride, saying she should do as she pleases, though Executive Director Jo glances nervously at him.
They’re interrupted by their son, who arrives late to the service in an expensive-looking car and reeks of alcohol. The chairman reminds him he’s never been on time for the service for the last three years, and the situation only worsens when a scantily-clad girl emerges from the car to complain about having to pee. Yikes.
Sung-ryong packs his things and takes one last look at his apartment, reminiscing about his days here with his own father. We flashback to a tiny Sung-ryong, walking hand-in-hand with his dad down the street, complaining about having to move around all the time. His father gently explains that he wants to live honestly and work at a company that will understand his good intentions. At that, precocious Sung-ryong suggests he just live dishonestly like his coworkers, but his father says he’d never be able to live with himself that way.
As Sung-ryong leaves his apartment, he picks up an ancient, dusty VCR tape from the floor and tucks it into his bag. Later, Kwang-sook sniffles her way through a dramatic farewell as she sends Sung-ryong off at the bus station, and Sung-ryong looks just as sad as he boards the bus. Aw.
Executive Director Jo tells Chairman Park that Madam Jang may be onto their plans to sell TQ Delivery, despite their efforts to keep the plan confidential. They know that if she brings it up at the shareholders’ meeting, the board will certainly be persuaded. Executive Director Jo then asks if it’s necessary to include Prosecutor Seo Yul in their plans. The chairman admits that Yul is rude and dogmatic, but insists that someone like Yul is necessary for his thievery.
Meanwhile at the Prosecutor’s Office, Yul’s replacement investigator arrives for her first day, though her face and identity isn’t shown to us yet. Yul’s junior prosecutor seems less than thrilled to see a bright, overeager girl stroll in.
Sung-ryong moves into his new one-room apartment in Seoul and heads out for his first day at TQ the next morning. He drops by the convenience store for a breakfast kimbap and reaches for the last one – at the exact same time as Ha-kyung. Recognizing each other from their ramen incident, they fight over the triangle kimbap like children, but finally Ha-kyung snaps that he owes her for ruining her last meal. Sung-ryong gives in, but nags her the whole time.
After their antisocial breakfast, they unknowingly head in the same direction to TQ, prompting her to demand why he’s following her. He assures her that he’s just heading to work, but obviously she doesn’t believe him. When they arrive at TQ, he’s stopped at the door by security: Ha-kyung has tipped them off about a suspicious person who’s been following her all morning. Security drags him out of the building, kicking and screaming at “Triangle” (as in triangle kimbap), while she strolls into work. LOL.
Security eventually sorts out the issue with HR, confirming that Sung-ryong really does work at TQ as a department chief. They apologize for the misunderstanding, explaining that they thought he was a pervert, especially he kept calling Ha-kyung “Triangle” (as in underwear), lol.
Having sorted out his first issue, Sung-ryong heads toward the elevators, but is informed of another obstacle: these elevators are for high-ranking TQ employees only. He tries to use the elevator anyway, but is denied access without a special key card. At that moment, Yul arrives for his own first day and is personally escorted into the elevators by an assistant. At Sung-ryong’s dumbfounded expression, Yul smirks and waves him away like he’s a piece of dust.
Sung-ryong finally arrives at the Business Operations Department, but before he can introduce himself, Ha-kyung recognizes him and yells at him for his persistence. At her outburst, her coworkers stand and face him, armed with staplers, and Director Chu scolds him for not being able to take no for an answer from women.
Scandalized, Sung-ryong finally declares himself the new chief, but he still doesn’t get the reaction he expects. No one bothers to stand to introduce themselves, and Director Chu answers all of his questions with, “If you don’t like it, maybe you should quit.”
The department then presents him with a detailed flowchart of the TQ power hierarchy. First, Director Chu advises, the office absolutely must do everything ordered by the higher-ups, no matter how ridiculous the command: particularly Park Myung-suk, the short-tempered son of Chairman Park. They tell Sung-ryong to memorize the chart in the next five minutes, but to their surprise, he assures them that he’s done. Ha-kyung muses that he must be good at memorizing things, but when Director Chu suggests that she show him the ropes around here, both Ha-kyung and Sung-ryong insist he can figure things out himself.
At the shareholders’ meeting, Chairman Park announces that newly arrived Seo Yul will be taking care of all of TQ’s accounting and investment matters. To Executive Director Jo’s annoyance, Chairman Park even hands over her Chinese accounting project to Yul, which he coolly accepts. Yul then meets with his private accounting team, whom he immediately instructs never to question any of his orders since he is “never wrong.” Now there’s a charmer.
Meanwhile, Sung-ryong watches his own department being pushed around by the rest of TQ, his employees forced to reconcile with their superiors’ ridiculous personal purchases. Fed up, Director Chu stands and orders the department to reject their requests, but even he’s just playing mobile games on his phone.
Sung-ryong is summoned by Yul to his office, who sits flippantly eating shrimp crackers in front of him. Sung-ryong recognizes him from the elevator, but to his surprise, Yul greets him with: “You work for Boss Bae, don’t you?” Yul sighs that he should have met Sung-ryong in an interrogation room, explaining that he was a prosecutor only a week ago, and that Sung-ryong is famous around the Prosecutor’s Office for being infuriatingly good at cleaning up behind him.
Sung-ryong plays innocent, insisting that he got into TQ Group after a fair screening process. Yul, however, just laughs at that: “You think I hired trash like you out of fairness?” he snorts. He clarifies that he selected Sung-ryong because he needs someone to clean up his illegal matters. He already knows that Sung-ryong only applied because he thought he could embezzle from TQ, which is fine – he’ll let Sung-ryong pocket whatever he can without getting caught. In exchange, Sung-ryong must do something for him in secret, a task the General Manager will brief him about soon.
After he’s unceremoniously dismissed, Sung-ryong muses to himself that something sure feels fishy, but decides to hold off his decision until after he’s briefed. Meanwhile, a young, excitable girl named Hong Ga-eun is hired as an accounting intern for TQ Group.
When Sung-ryong returns to the office, a member of Yul’s new accounting team barges into the Business Operations department to scold them for the imbalanced accounts. Though Ha-kyung insists that the inaccuracies in their spending accounts isn’t their fault, the officer tells them to correct everything by tomorrow morning.
Sung-ryong strolls into this suboptimal atmosphere, apparently oblivious to everyone’s misery. He offers to fix the accounts himself if the department throws him a welcome party, and the employees share secret glances before agreeing to celebrate.
No one shows up, of course – except for out-of-the-loop maknae Sang-tae. Sung-ryong shows up at the restaurant just as Sang-tae realizes he’s been duped, but it’s too late to escape. Instead, they have a personal meal together, and it’s not long before they’re gossiping about love problems and Sung-ryong sets him up on a date with Kwang-sook, hee.
Meanwhile, Ha-kyung and Director Chu have dinner on their own, drunkenly complaining about work. Ha-kyung sighs that they tell their younger employees to be exact and thorough, but hypocritically, they themselves are forced to obey their superiors and ignore the gaping holes in their accounts. Director Chu points out that this is the only way to make a living, but Ha-kyung just sighs that she’s at her limits. At home, meanwhile, Sung-ryong decides to follow Yul’s orders for now.
Sang-tae enthusiastically greets Sung-ryong at work the next morning, prompting everyone else to suspect something amiss. As soon as Sung-ryong leaves to hand in his accounting report, the employees corner Sang-tae, demanding to know what happened between him and the chief. Sang-tae denies their allegations, but they immediately figure out that Sung-ryong must have introduced him to a girl, lol.
Meanwhile, Chief Lee’s wife tracks down Chairman Park as he arrives at work, screaming at him to admit the truth of what happened to her husband. Ha-kyung arrives just in time to rescue her from security, and they sit on the roof on the verge of tears as Chief Lee’s wife sobs that no one is on her side. Afterward, Ha-kyung receives a phone call from an unidentified woman, requesting that they meet that evening.
Sung-ryong enters the Accounting Department with his spending report, incredulous at the difference in quality of their floors. Yul’s accounting team presents him with a USB drive with last year’s accounting files, instructing him to use it to figure out how things are run around here. The whole thing is very hush-hush and secretive, to Sung-ryong’s frustration, but they note that he only needs to do as he’s ordered. Sung-ryong muses to himself that TQ’s thieves are very gutsy, which works just as well for him: “No one will even notice a small-scale thief like me.”
As frazzle-brained intern Ga-eun is overloaded with small tasks, she accidentally spills her coffee on the carpet and begins mopping it up – a mop that Sung-ryong walks straight into as he leaves, crotch-first. Ouch.
He limps his way back to the Business Operations Department, where Ha-kyung is spacing out at her desk, thinking about the phone call she just received. Sung-ryong offers to help anyone who has too much work on their plates, but everyone just ignores him.
Sullen, he shuffles off to his private office to check out the accounting files he’s just received. Sung-ryong is shocked by the scale of liquid assets being handled by TQ Group, and notes something wrong in the numbers. With these files, he is certain that there was more to former Chief Lee’s attempted suicide.
Outside TQ Group, Chief Lee’s wife stands in protest of TQ’s dishonesty. Sung-ryong watches as she insists to a TV interviewer that her husband was no gambler or embezzler. Still, Sung-ryong chooses to stay out of it; he’ll just lay low, steal his money, and then disappear to Denmark.
Chairman Park meets with Yul and Executive Director Jo, demanding to know why Chief Lee’s wife is making such a big fuss in his front yard. Executive Director Jo apologizes, but Yul notes passive-aggressively that the rumors have already spread overseas. Chairman Park simply orders them to sort it out ASAP.
Afterward, Executive Director Jo bites that Yul’s job is to figure out how to get rid of a legal protester like Chief Lee’s wife, but Yul drawls back that such menial tasks are up to her. He strolls away as she huffs in fury. Chief Lee’s wife, meanwhile, chases away any security or employee that tries to stop her from her legal protest.
That night, Ha-kyung takes her stress out at a batting cage. A flashback shows us that she just had a conversation with Madam Jang at her home, where she’d presented Ha-kyung with a surprising request: to correct the wrongs of TQ. She had explained that she knows Ha-kyung is both very capable and intolerant of injustice, since she’d been so adamant in protecting Chief Lee’s wife.
Ha-kyung had asked what she should do, and Madam Jang had told her to find evidence of accounting fraud at TQ. Ha-kyung had been taken aback, certain that for something so serious, Madam Jang needs someone more powerful than she is – but Madam Jang insisted that the Prosecutor’s Office is corrupt, and Ha-kyung herself is more than capable.
At the batting cage, however, Ha-kyung sends a text message to Madam Jang: she’s not prepared to do this job.
Sung-ryong meets Yul up on the roof at night, where Yul asks if he’s finished going through the files. Sung-ryong confirms, but Yul can immediately tell something is off: “You don’t want to do this, do you?” Yul can tell Sung-ryong is just planning to take what he can and run, but Yul threatens to put him in prison for his past if he doesn’t comply.
Yul tells him to just do what he’s told – he won’t stop Sung-ryong for stealing, as long as he doesn’t get caught. Sung-ryong agrees with a good-natured smile, but as he leaves TQ, notes gleefully to himself that he’s still going to just take what he wants and disappear to Denmark.
Just as he leaves the office, a car heads straight toward Chief Lee’s wife, who is still outside the building in protest. Thankfully (?), however, Sung-ryong slips on a large piece of ice, sliding all the way across the sidewalk and pushing Chief Lee’s wife out of the way – letting the car slam into him instead.
Ha-kyung screams, rushing to Chief Lee’s wife’s side as Sung-ryong hobbles to his feet. “I’m okay,” he says… just as a river of blood begins pouring from his head, and he falls unconscious.
This is a pretty weird show, but the showrunners seem to have a strong handle on its identity as a not-(very)-serious, wacky comedy — and if its avenue to social commentary is a healthy dose of goofy Namgoong Min… well, count me invested, no matter how silly it gets along the way. Namgoong Min does have a unique kind of trademark humor, making each scene distinct in its hilarity and his utter willingness to pour himself into the ridiculousness, in the sense that I already can’t imagine anyone else playing Sung-ryong’s role.
Although that humor is a strong positive aspect for me at the moment, it does sometime feel like Sung-ryong’s stakes and attitude are in a different world from the other characters’, sometimes jarringly so. I think it’s that difference that adds to the unevenness of each episode, but I also feel that the showrunners have been solidly good at reconciling the humor with the plot. As long as this comedy remembers that it’s a comedy and doesn’t get Too Serious, I think that it will stay a lighthearted, reliably enjoyable show.
In that vein, I definitely enjoyed the second episode much more than the first, especially now that there’s a more tangible sense of each character and their world. Besides Namgoong Min’s constantly (and expectedly) delightful rendition of Sung-ryong’s character, I was pleasantly surprised to see that Ha-kyung and Seo Yul were just as fun to watch. Any show about corruption requires a solid villain to be interesting at all, and I have high hopes that Seo Yul will provide that role. Though it seems strange that Yul, Chairman Park, and his cronies would entrust a new guy with such serious liabilities, I trust that Yul has the smarts to properly incentivize and manipulate his way through his obstacles, just as Sung-ryong undoubtedly will. Particularly comparing Chairman Park’s kind of lame, one-dimensional villainy to the way the show has been treating Yul’s intelligence and elitist attitude, Yul gives the sense of a more interesting backstory.
Admittedly, I may be putting more faith into this villain basket than can be justified, but I really do have strong expectations for Yul. I do think it has to do with Junho’s unexpectedly strong performance, which clearly tends to put a more deliciously serpentine bite to each of Yul’s actions. I can’t wait to see how his simultaneous coolness and corruption, particularly in light of his prosecutor background, will feed into his character development.
Will be become further and further unhinged and power-hungry, or will he see the error of his ways? In a sense, Sung-ryong and Yul are facing opposite tracks at the moment: Sung-ryong, against all odds as the accounting criminal, is starting to remember his goodness and the virtues taught to him by his honest father. Yul, meanwhile, has almost been forced to turn away from justice due to the sheer amount of evil and high-scale corruption in the world. There’s nothing I love more than a reconciled paradox… and whether or not Chief Kim pulls through, at least we’ll have a hilarious Namgoong Min to take us there.
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