Strong Woman Do Bong-soon: Episode 1
JTBC’s new Friday-Saturday drama Strong Woman Do Bong-soon premiered this week, and it seems that many people wanted to see Park Bo-young take on bad guys and deliver justice, because it achieved an impressive 3.8% viewership for its first episode. The episode does run slightly long, but I enjoyed every little morsel, and by the end I was completely won over by this adorable Hercules and her quirky boss.
Episode 1: “Ridiculous Punks”
On a dreary afternoon, high school student AHN MIN-HYUK (Park Hyung-shik) sits in the back of a bus holding a bouquet of flowers. Suddenly, one of the tires bursts and soon the bus careens down a hill. The driver desperately tries to regain control only to discover that the brakes are broken.
He swerves to the right, barely avoiding an oncoming car, but then redirects into the path of two pedestrians standing to the side of the road.
Panicking, he stomps down on the brakes as they barrel forward, then closes his eyes, unable to witness the certain horror to come. However, when he opens his eyes again, the bus has stopped in its tracks, and all remain unharmed.
Out the back window, Min-hyuk notices a girl wearing a pink hoodie back away from the rear end of the bus. She turns around without revealing her face, and begins walking up the road.
Min-hyuk watches the girl as she leaves, fascinated. And as if sensing his curiosity, she stops in her tracks and turns back slightly toward him, when a breeze catches the hood of her sweater and begins to peel it away from her head.
Right before the hood falls away, a ringtone blares in the background, snatching grown-up Min-hyuk from his dream. He struggles to wake, and grumbles about being unable to see the girl’s face.
Still half-asleep, Min-hyuk answers the call, introducing himself as the CEO of AinSoft. A disguised, menacing voice reminds Min-hyuk that they warned him to delete his RPG game called “Albertine Chronicle,” or Min-hyuk would die.
Cranky to be roused in the middle of the night, Min-hyuk barks back that the man’s threats would be more terrifying during the daytime when he’s awake and could properly feel fear. Undeterred, the voice continues with his ominous warning, until Min-hyuk hangs up in annoyance.
That morning, DO BONG-SOON (Park Bo-young) slurps up a mouthful of ramyun. She receives a notification on her phone, informing her of her failure to be selected for a job.
Bong-soon isn’t surprised by the rejection, and immediately she studies her resume, (which is noticeably sparse), rewriting her self-introduction. She introduces herself as Do Bong-soon who lives in the Do Bong neighborhood of the Do Bong district, adding that she’s rather unique.
Bong-soon narrates her family’s unusual history, and explains firstly that she’s SUPER strong. Her strength is a hereditary trait that has been passed down to the women in her family, starting from her ancestor Park Gae-boon, who, legend has it, used boulders to crush enemy soldiers during the Siege of Haengju back in the Joseon Period. Love this.
Bong-soon cryptically adds that there is a secret that accompanies her inherited strength.
She explains that in 1862 during a rebellion, another one of Bong-soon’s ancestors used her super strength to enforce imperial rule against the people in exchange for large sums of money.
As punishment for her greed, she lost her powers and lived the rest of her life afflicted with leprosy. Should the women in Bong-soon’s family use their powers for evil and/or personal gain, then they would be punished and cursed for the remainder of their lifetimes.
Generations later, Bong-soon’s mother HWANG JIN-YI (Shim Hye-jin) ignored the warnings, and used her abilities to become a world champion weightlifter. Initially, it seemed as though the gods would not punish her since she had brought pride to her country.
However, soon Jin-yi’s success made her arrogant and selfish, and she began bullying the weak. And while her punishment was not dealt to her swiftly, eventually she lost her strength.
At her lowest point, Jin-yi met her husband, DO CHIL-GOO (Yoo Jae-myung), who was an average wrestler, and soon gave birth to Bong-soon and her twin brother DO BONG-KI (Ahn Woo-yeon).
Born minutes before her twin, Bong-soon’s first act in the world was to knock out one of the hospital staff using her abnormally strong fist.
As she grew, Bong-soon struggled with her desire to conceal her strength and her urge to fight the injustices she saw in the world. At times, she explains, she held herself back from intervening on wrongdoings because she wanted to live a normal life.
One time, Bong-soon recalls, she witnessed a creepy guy inappropriately touching a woman in a crowded subway, and instead of stepping in, she shamefully got off the train.
Evidently, life as a secret Hercules doesn’t really translate well in modern society, and so Bong-soon found herself drifting from job to job, never really fitting in.
Under her mother’s advisement, she took up farming, while her brother headed off to medical school. Unfortunately, given the physicality involved, Bong-soon found it difficult to abstain from using her strength and subsequently frightened the neighbors (and livestock).
After a series of failures, Bong-soon finally stumbled upon a job that suited her, and where she could still express her strength—being a gamer. Thus, she tells us, her current dream is to become a game developer, where she can be the main character.
Elsewhere, in a totally different income bracket, Min-hyuk flaunts his riches and free time by rolling through a park on a hoverboard. Nearby, a masked man trails him. When he notices the suspicious man, Min-hyuk abandons his board, and begins chase.
The man gets away despite Min-hyuk’s efforts, and the incident prompts him to seriously contemplate employing a bodyguard.
Nearby, an old man drives a bus full of school children, but is forced to stop because of a truck parked in the middle of the road, blocking all access.
The bus driver gets out to confront the truck driver, who is missing from the scene, when a mean-looking man HWANG HYUN-DONG tells the bus driver to disappear, while he’s still being nice.
The bus driver appears to oblige, but then tries to sneak a photo of the truck to report it. Hyun-dong catches him in the act, then proceeds to beat the bus driver in retaliation.
Bong-soon happens upon the scene and instead of dealing with Hyun-dong herself, she calls the police to report the incident. Before she can finish making her complaint, yet another suspicious man, KIM KWANG-BOK snatches her phone away and begins trying to intimidate her.
Kwang-bok chucks her phone to the ground, and subsequently breaks her screen. Bong-soon demands that he pay for the damage, but he laughs in her face. She takes a breath and asks again nicely for him to make the situation right. His reaction is pretty much what you’d expect, and so Bong-soon lets out an impatient breath of air.
At that moment, Min-hyuk turns onto that same road. He gets out of his car to get a closer look at the two gangsters harassing an old man and a young woman. Min-hyuk calls the police as well, but makes no moves to come to anyone’s aid.
Of course, Bong-soon doesn’t need any aid, just the right motivation, which comes in the form of a slap across her face. In return, she slaps Kwang-bok, sending several teeth popping out of his mouth, then tosses him effortlessly through the air.
Hyun-dong comes over after hearing the commotion, and at first ignores Bong-soon, but stops after she begins pestering for him to pay for her damaged phone. Kwang-bok tries to warn Hyun-dong of the danger, but he doesn’t understand and moves to swat Bong-soon out of the way.
Which, is the last thing he should have done, so in self-defense, Bong-soon breaks all his fingers backwards, then tries to “fix” his hand by bringing them forward again. More gangsters dressed as construction workers come out of the woodwork, so Bong-soon has to hurt them too and sends them flying into each other, but is also annoyed with how out of hand the situation has gotten.
Meanwhile, the kids on the bus have a front row seat to the entire show and begin cheering enthusiastically for what they view as justice being served. Min-hyuk watches the unbelievable scene before him in disbelief.
Later at the police station, all parties (including the kids) pile into the same room as the cops try to sort out the mess. Out in the hall, Bong-soon frets to herself, agonizing over what she will say to “him.”
Gathering her courage, she enters the room but immediately upon seeing a young detective, or more precisely, IN GOOK-DOO (Ji Soo), she loses her nerve and closes the door. She readies herself again by freshening her breath and practicing several greetings, which Min-hyuk witnesses from behind.
Bong-soon enters again and timidly walks across the room unnoticed until Gook-doo calls her over, making the gangsters recoil in fright.
With hearts in her eyes, she dreamily stares as Gook-doo as he enters her information into the system. He’s terse with her, and seems immune to her moony eyes (and heart beams), but they’re clearly close since he knows her address from memory.
He reads to her the story he’s compiled of the incident, including a full summary of each of the gangster’s injuries. The more Gook-doo reads, the more depressed Bong-soon gets, and he concludes his retelling by asking her if what he said makes any sense at all.
Bong-soon tries to explain herself, but she struggles to find the words. Gook-doo adds that the testimonies of kindergarteners aren’t going to help her avoid prosecution for excessive use of force, especially since nothing they have told him makes any sense either, so she’ll need a more credible witness.
On cue, Min-hyuk walks in to refute the entire narrative, and chides the schoolchildren for making up stories. He attributes their imaginative storytelling to watching too many superhero movies and dismisses them.
Gook-doo warns Min-hyuk of the consequences for lying to the police, and then asks Min-hyuk as an eyewitness to explain how the gangsters got injured.
After a pause, Min-hyuk reveals that the gangsters beat each other up. At that, the entire room erupts in outrage, and one of the kids reaffirms that Bong-soon caused all their injuries.
Thwarted, Min-hyuk moves to discredit the boy by showing him a book, and asks him to read the title. When the child can’t, Min-hyuk restates his argument that children are filled with fanciful ideas implanted into them by unrealistic movies, and cannot be trusted since they can’t even read.
Min-hyuk’s reasoning convinces one of the detectives, and though Gook-doo wants to know the full truth, his colleague suggests that he let Bong-soon go since her involvement in the current story is preposterous anyway.
Min-hyuk leaves the police station with his secretary, SECRETARY GONG, and calls out to Bong-soon who is also on her way out. When she glares at him, he wonders aloud why she isn’t expressing her gratitude for his help.
Instead, he’s dumbfounded when she asks him why he lied to the police. He argues that he helped her avoid prison, but she shoots back that as a man he should not have sat back while a woman was taking action. She asserts that he should feel embarrassed for the way he acted.
As she walks away, Min-hyuk’s eyes follows her steps with an incredulous glare. Secretary Gong offers that she has an unusual way of thinking, while Min-hyuk groans to himself, but then suddenly remarks that she’s “super sexy.” OH MY. This is the best.
From the car, Min-hyuk watches Bong-soon ride off on her bicycle, the wind catching in her bouncy hair, and the memory of her strength makes his heart pound (probably).
At her parents’ walnut shop, Bong-soon arrives after hours of delay. Her mom asks where she’s been, but when Bong-soon answers vaguely, she takes it as an opportunity to grumble about her daughter’s failures at being employed.
In a hospital, a class of medical students gather around to marvel at an X-ray of a hand. Their professor explains that all the patient’s fingers were dislocated, then put back in one motion, which could only have been done with great strength. Bong-ki, who is in the group, listens uneasily, seeing his sister’s tracks all over the X-ray.
We flash back in time to 1997, to an incident where the twins were kidnapped. Little Bong-soon tried to get the man to release them, but when he refused, she kicked open the car door for them to escape.
The man chased the twins down with his car, but Little Bong-soon used her strength to stop the car in its place, wrecking it in the process.
Back in the present, Bong-soon crushes walnuts one by one between her fingers. She warns Bong-ki not to breathe a word about the gangsters to their mother, but he’s only worried that she may lose her powers.
Bong-soon dismisses his concerns, since she reasons that those guys were bad, but she escapes to her room where she can be alone with her anxiety.
The next morning, as soon as she wakes, she hurries to check her appearance for signs of decay, and is relieved when she looks the same. She then tests out her strength on a spoon, just to be certain.
Min-hyuk rolls through his office on his hoverboard, then sits down to read resumes for his new bodyguard. He flips through a few before Bong-soon’s image invades his mind, and he tells his secretary to find her.
However, they encounter an obstacle in the form of Gook-doo, who refuses Secretary Gong’s request for Bong-soon’s contact info, because it’s not allowed. Apparently, Gook-doo’s commitment to doing things by the book and upholding justice runs deeply within him. On one of his cases, he arrested a sleazy assemblyman (by dressing up as a prostitute), only for a prosecutor to ask Gook-doo to let the man off the hook as a favor.
Once Gook-doo declined, he was reassigned to his current precinct in the quiet town of Do Bong, working as a detective in the violent crimes department in unit 3.
Min-hyuk visits the police chief to get Bong-soon’s phone number and to get the skinny on Gook-doo. The police chief is close with Min-hyuk’s father, and the implication is that the reasons for their relationship aren’t exactly noble.
The chief warns Min-hyuk that while it is impressive that he was able to build a successful business on his own, having useful connections is necessary at a certain level.
Later, Secretary Gong meets with Bong-soon to interview her for the bodyguard position. He explains to Bong-soon that Min-hyuk personally recommended her. She interrupts Secretary Gong in order to lay out all the reasons she won’t be working for Min-hyuk: One, she thinks he seems shady and/or unstable, two, she’s more of a cerebral type (lol), rather than a physical person, and finally, she has another company in mind that she wants to work for.
Bong-soon swiftly concludes the meeting and gets up to leave, when Secretary Gong blurts out the details of her compensation package. The numbers are enough to make her stick around to ask more questions. She’s immediately suspicious of the offer, wondering why Min-hyuk would want to pay her so much.
Her mind speeds through several scenarios and even guesses that Min-hyuk likes her, or worse, is stalking her. She tells Secretary Gong that she finds the fact that Min-hyuk prefers a female bodyguard over a male bodyguard to be the strangest aspect of all.
To assuage her, Secretary Gong whispers something about Min-hyuk into her ear, but unfortunately we are excluded from the secret thanks to a loud car horn.
Almost as an afterthought, Bong-soon asks for the name of the company. When she learns it is AinSoft, her demeanor changes entirely and suddenly she’s eager to meet Min-hyuk.
At the walnut shop, Mom and her friends discuss their intentions to protest a planned redevelopment in their neighborhood, when a stylish woman enters the shop, whom the women identify as Gook-doo’s mother, JUNG MI-HWA, a writer.
Mi-hwa orders a few pastries from the register, and Bong-soon’s father compliments her latest book, while Mom and her crew mock Mi-hwa’s posh attitude from behind. Mi-hwa smiles appreciatively, then reveals that she heard from Gook-doo that Bong-soon was down at the police station the other day.
Mom races home to confront her daughter and accuses her of being a thug. Bong-soon tries to defend herself, but her mother jumps in to remind her of a time when Bong-soon’s grandmother had beaten up a person, then was punished with terrible diarrhea for a month. This world’s karmic law is cracking me up.
Bong-soon promises that she’s totally fine, and shares the fact that she’s finally been blessed with a job. Mom eyes her unconvinced, but says nothing more on the topic.
During dinner, Bong-soon receives a call from Gook-doo, who tries to warn her to be careful of those gangsters. He brusquely lectures her on getting home early, but when she tries to tell him about her job, he hangs up before hearing.
Floating on cloud nine, she giggles to herself as she thinks of Gook-doo. She’s so caught up in her happiness that she rolls off the bed, causing the entire house to shake.
In the morning, Bong-soon arrives at AinSoft to meet with Min-hyuk. He eyes her resume and is amazed by its emptiness. He asks why she wants to work at his company, and she simply replies that she heard it’s a good company.
They seem to be the words he wants to hear, and he immediately welcomes her aboard.
She broaches the topic of most importance, which is why he needs a bodyguard in the first place. He doesn’t beat around the bush, and says that he has “many enemies,” but promises that he’s not a bad guy. She smiles and pretends to believe him, but her eyes are hard.
Bong-soon moves onto the second most important topic, which is her benefits package and company perks. She’s disappointed when she learns that they don’t offer free yoga, but he promises her that as his bodyguard she’ll get things others won’t.
She asks if she’ll get “stop motion,” and they exchange several wide-eyed, meaningful blinks before Min-hyuk realizes she meant “stock options.” He’s unprepared, and admits that he hasn’t considered that as part of her compensation, so she expresses her disappointment.
The meeting isn’t going quite the way Min-hyuk had imagined, so suddenly he drops to the floor, puts his elbow on the coffee table, and requests an arm wrestling match to measure how much Bong-soon should be paid.
They assume the position, and Min-hyuk is initially insulted with how much she looks down on him, but then immediately takes up her offer to use both his hands and his entire body. He turns red in the face trying to use all of his strength, but she won’t budge an inch.
She ends the bout after a few attempts, and Min-hyuk retreats to a corner to nurse his convulsing hand and contain his whimpering. Bong-soon comes over to comfort his ego and asks that he keep her secret, but overall he’s pleased (albeit embarrassed) by the results.
Secretary Gong joins the two in Min-hyuk’s office as Bong-soon signs her contract. Between words, Secretary Gong makes disbelieving faces at Min-hyuk for what he considers a crazy arrangement. Therefore, Min-hyuk suggests that the two chicken fight, and he’ll give his car to Secretary Gong if he wins. HA.
The deal is too enticing to turn down, so the players face off and stand on one leg, with the other leg bent across their pelvis. Before they begin, Bong-soon requests head protection so that Secretary Gong doesn’t die. Thinking quickly, Min-hyuk orders jajangmyun for them and pays the deliveryman extra to keep his helmet.
Wearing his helmet, Secretary Gong reconfirms that he’s getting a car for enduring the humiliation of competing against a girl. With gusto, he charges at Bong-soon, who then reluctantly raises her knee ever so slightly. The movement is enough to send the secretary hurling across the room until he slams against the wall, creating a tiny crater with his helmet.
After a few seconds of shock, the secretary begins crying, and is eventually sent to the ER on a stretcher.
Alone with Min-hyuk, Bong-soon tries to iron out the specifics of their arrangement. She cautiously asks if she could one day be transferred to another department, if she does well.
Min-hyuk argues that he doesn’t know if she qualifies in other areas, but he supposes he could give her a chance. For the meantime, she’ll also act as his secretary since, well, Secretary Gong is otherwise occupied. When he’s out of sight, she practically waves her fists at him for his rude attitude, but keeps her eyes on the prize.
That night, as she walks home alone, she senses a presence following closely behind her, but when she turns there isn’t anyone there.
Later in the night, Gook-doo drops by to give her a taser to use in case of an emergency. He keeps the exchange brief, but Bong-soon tries to extend it by asking how things are going with his girlfriend. Before he can answer, his girlfriend calls, so he waves goodbye to Bong-soon.
Elsewhere, a young woman walks through Bong-soon’s neighborhood at night, where a hooded man follows after her. Unlike with Bong-soon, the footsteps grow louder, and soon the man chases her down the narrow paths, until finally he grabs her.
The next morning, Gook-doo and his team learn of the woman’s murder.
Meanwhile, Bong-soon meets Min-hyuk in his office, and is surprised to see a creepy image flashing on his computer screen with a bloodied skull, and the word “KILL” written in red. Min-hyuk explains that it’s a common method of attack from his IT enemies.
Finally, he’s ready to tell Bong-soon what has been happening lately that leads him to believe his safety is at risk. He explains that he’s been followed by various people, and received threats.
He adds that he wants to catch the perpetrators himself because he doesn’t trust police officers, and asks for her help. He offers that if they can catch them, then he’ll let her move departments and develop any game she wants, which she agrees readily to.
From the news, they learn of the woman’s murder, and then Min-hyuk’s phone rings. He puts the call on speaker for Bong-soon to hear. It’s the same distorted voice that threatened him earlier in the episode, and so Bong-soon listens as her new job begins. The voice says, “Don’t ignore my warnings. You can look forward to what will happen next…”
Honestly, my expectations for this show were sky high. However, since we’ve all been burned by promising shows before, I tried to rein in my hopes. But after a wonderfully wacky opening episode like that, how am I supposed to be reasonable now?
The pint-sized, female Hercules paired with the physically unimpressive, baby chaebol was the premise we were promised, but the show managed to dig a bit deeper into that setup and give more layers to otherwise familiar archetypes. I was enthralled by Bong-soon’s family gift/curse, and thought the show created such fascinating lore to explore. I’m already itching to know more about the rules.
Speaking of those rules, from what we’ve been told thus far, it seems like the women (even with generations of examples) struggle daily to accurately define what is and isn’t acceptable behavior according to the higher powers than gave them this ability. Conversely, those gods appear themselves to be somewhat capricious in how and when they administer their judgment. Like does arm wrestling with Min-hyuk count as using her powers for personal gain? Or does she need to be more flagrant about it, and the act needs to be self-initiated? Like will karmic punishment only be enacted when the person displays a corrosion of their morals, rather than say, like isolated slip-ups that end up hurting people, as with Bong-soon’s grandmother and the diarrhea incident? I’m thinking that the curse concept is a method to keep the women honest rather than altruistic. Because clearly Bong-soon isn’t punished if she ignores wrongful acts committed in her presence, like with the case of the molester on the train.
But then, will Bong-soon receive punishment for hurting Secretary Gong, or is that considered an accident since she did try to restrain her strength? I didn’t realize the potential for how hilarious those punishments could be until hearing about grandma’s diarrhea, and I have no doubt that there will be many more. Bong-soon’s fear of her curse will likely result in some interesting clashes between her and Min-hyuk, when deciding what she will and will not do as his bodyguard, for the sake of his safety.
I already love Min-hyuk as a character, but I also I have no idea what to make of him. He’s so weirddddd. Like delightfully (and hilariously) eccentric, but also a profoundly strange individual. He recognizes that he’s no match for Bong-soon, but that doesn’t stop him from wanting to take her on anyway, if only to test her unbelievable strength and unrivaled cheekiness. I expected Park Bo-young to be all kinds of charming, but Park Hyung-shik really snuck up on me, and his portrayal of Min-hyuk is an unexpected delight, especially since I hadn’t seen anything of his since Heirs… That said, I like being wrong about actors because that just means I can get back more than I invested.
Regarding Min-hyuk’s interest in Bong-soon, it’s probably safe to say that he finds her intriguing and wants to know more, but I doubt that interest translates to romantic love just yet, or even lust. He probably thinks she’s fascinating, and how could you not? However, I do expect him to fall for her first, and while she’s still in love with Gook-doo—I already can’t want to see what he does.
The tone of the show is something I do (just a teensy bit) worry about. It’s clear the show understands where its bread and butter is, which is of course comedy, but with the murder-mystery and cyberthreat plotlines ramping up, I hope the show retains its off-kilter vibe and doesn’t try to take itself too seriously. I’m all for character arcs and development (and actual plot!), but I already love these characters and this world, so I want to stay in this tone and hope it’s not a bait-and-switch.
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