Manhole: Episode 3
The magical manhole quickly turns Pil’s world upside down, but unfortunately it doesn’t come with a rulebook, which means Pil must figure things out on his own through mishaps, misunderstandings, and in this case, lots of fisticuffs. Luckily, he puts up a mean fight, but in the quest for love, the ability to throw a punch may not count for much.
Episode 3: “The Past Creates The Present”
The manhole lid pops open, and Pil crawls out. He looks around and realizes that he’s back in his neighborhood when the manhole cover suddenly drops back into place and startles him. An elderly worker walks by with a radio, and Pil overhears on the news report that it’s currently 12 noon and that the police arrested a group of gangsters connected to an illegal gambling site.
Pil happens upon a cracked mirror and sees his reflection for the first time, and his new look baffles him. “Who is this?” he wonders aloud. He notices the gold chain around his neck and the large tattoos on his arms and is puzzled by his getup, as well as the shabby, cluttered state of his neighborhood.
Two young men who look like minions bow deeply to him, and although Pil doesn’t recognize them, he somehow acknowledges them instinctively like he’s their boss, which freaks him out. He rummages his pockets to find out today’s date and finds a promissory note for a debt. He checks his cell phone and learns that it’s 2017, meaning he’s back in the present, but he’s completely bewildered because he’s not the person he remembered himself to be.
It dawns on him that his conversation with Soo-jin pre-manhole descent and his fight with Church Boy only recently took place, but that ten years have already passed. As if he’s not frustrated enough, he finds that his tattoos are real. Then his parents walk right past him as if he weren’t there.
Pil runs up to them, and Mom and Dad remind him that they decided to forget they were related, LOL. His mom orders him not to call them even if he gets arrested because she’s frequented the police station so often that she knows the place by heart.
After they leave, Pil walks through his trash-strewn, dilapidated neighborhood with petty thievery to boot, and doesn’t understand how it became this way. He almost walks past Dal-soo’s DVD store without recognizing it because it looks so uncared for.
He steps inside, and the store is filled with dust and old bottles of soju. He’s startled by the sudden appearance of a bum with long, unkempt hair, but takes a closer look and sees that the bum is Dal-soo! Dal-soo glumly says he’s not sure when things took a wrong turn, but had he known, he would’ve changed his life so he wouldn’t be living like this.
Pil explains that something’s off and describes his uncanny ability to dodge blows, his parents’ strange behavior, and his fear of police sirens. But Dal-soo wonders why Pil’s asking him for an explanation when Pil’s been MIA for 3 years. Surprised by this extended absence, Pil then asks where his home is, and Dal-soo says he probably lives near the red district, which is what Seok-tae one said.
Pil asks Dal-soo to explain how exactly he became this way, and Dal-soo proceeds to tell the story of his past with dramatic flourish. Dal-soo narrates that after the church fight, Pil was suspended from school and kicked off the track team. In a black and white dramatic sequence (very cool!) fighters come after Pil repeatedly, but he knocks them out with ease.
Dal-soo continues that Pil became very conceited and went after other fighters in the area. Pretty soon, people felt threatened by him and gangsters gathered to take him down. But he beat them too, and soon became the center of trouble and the most wanted man by local police.
In another cinematic scene, Pil runs away from cop cars in slow motion as snow falls. Dal-soo narrates that Pil became a public enemy.
Back in the present, Pil is in utter disbelief that he’s actually an ex-convict and a thug. He asks Dal-soo about Soo-jin, and Dal-soo says she’s getting married next weekend, but finds his curiosity nonsensical. Pil reminds Dal-soo that he’s always had a crush on her, but Dal-soo says Pil and Soo-jin haven’t hung out since high school.
Pil can’t believe what he’s hearing and concludes that everything changed, all because he beat up Church Boy when he went back to the past.
Pil rushes to the study hall looking for Seok-tae, but finds Church Boy there instead. Pil wonders why Church Boy is studying instead of throwing punches, and Church Boy says he had an epiphany after their fight and decided to study to become a decent human being. Pil then notices that Church Boy is sitting in his cubicle and studying to become a police officer, and Pil realizes that they’ve swapped lives.
Soo-jin plops onto the couch of her parents’ real estate office after an unfruitful search for budget-friendly furniture for her newlywed home. Her mom complains that her in-laws acquired too large an apartment for Soo-jin and her fiance, which makes filling it up with furniture a burden. She scolds her husband for losing all their money by opening up an auction business.
Soo-jin goes to the pharmacy, and she and her fiance Jae-hyun act like they don’t know each other. She complains of a headache, and he adorably asks her where the pain is, but his boss, the bald pharmacist, yells at them to stop the PDA and have some consideration for the old bachelor. Heh.
Dal-soo informs his crew that Pil has returned, which comes as a surprise to everyone. Seok-tae thinks the police aren’t doing enough, but Jin-sook chides him for saying that since Pil used to be their dear friend and isn’t a bad guy. She’s surprised when Dal-soo mentions Pil’s crush on Soo-jin who’s already engaged, but Seok-tae says Pil really is a thug and points to the church fight as proof.
And speak of the devil, Pil shows up right behind him while Seok-tae is badmouthing him, and takes a seat at their table. Pil brings up Gu-gil’s billiards business, and Gu-gil says he plans on shuttering it and starting something new, which surprises Pil since Gu-gil said he wanted to keep it until death because it was a gift from his father. Jung-ae snaps at Pil for prying, and Pil realizes that she and Gu-gil are now a couple and business partners, which explains why Dal-soo is such a wreck.
Pil asks Jung-ae how she could leave Dal-soo like that after they started a business together, but she has no idea what Pil is talking about. Jin-sook tells everyone that this strange feeling she has now also took place ten years ago in high school, and we flash back to when Pil asked Jin-sook if she believed in time travel and told her he came from the future.
Back in the present at Jin-sook’s rooftop, Pil tells her that her memory didn’t take place ten years ago, but yesterday. Naturally, she has trouble believing that he came from the past via manhole and that his life became a mess just because of that church fight. Pil jumps at the sound of sirens and wonders why their neighborhood became this way, and Jin-sook answers that it’s because of the development of bars and motels nearby, which is also where Pil lives.
Pil says he doesn’t even know where he lives since he just arrived from the past, and Jin-sook asks if he’s on drugs, heh. She’s puzzled because his eyes aren’t lying, and mentions that Soo-jin struggled after Pil got kicked off the track team since she felt responsible for his downward spiral.
He stops by Soo-jin’s studio and remarks that her space hasn’t changed, but Soo-jin notes that this is his first visit. Pil decides not to explain further and tells her she should’ve taken better care of him if she felt guilty, and Soo-jin sheepishly agrees that she could have led him to a better life.
She admits that she thought he was a tiny bit cool for the first time ever when she broke a mirror in high school and he took the fall for it. Pil lovingly stares at her for a beat, then tells her that the real reason he came was to assure her that she didn’t ruin his life; the church fight and track team had nothing to do with each other, and he was never going to continue with track since his starts were terrible. “You don’t have to feel bad or sorry. I just wasn’t competent,” he says to her.
He bumps into her broken fan on his way out and stops to fix it for her with duct tape. He watches her from a distance and sighs in regret for losing her to someone else after loving her for so long.
Suddenly, a strange man in a black suit approaches Pil and says his boss sent him. Pil’s first instinct is to run, and he’s out of breath as he tries to escape from Black Suit, who’s bent on capturing him. Black Suit throws punches, but Pil dodges every one of them without breaking a sweat.
He’s amazed by his own fighting skills, and Black Suit clearly is no match for Pil since he manages to break Black Suit’s weapon of choice—a brick—with a single punch. He defeats Black Suit in mere minutes.
As Pil marvels at having discovered his fighting talent, Seok-tae, who witnessed the whole scene, stealthily calls the police and reports that a thug has gone berserk and asks for assistance. Ugh, I’m really not liking this weasel.
Pil stops by Gu-gil’s billiards room and finds Jung-ae and Gu-gil bickering over their business and Dal-soo just there, quivering with his trusty soju bottle. Jung-ae tries to dispose of her boyfriend’s billiards equipment to make room for the cosmetics store, but Gu-gil stops her since he thinks customers can shop and play. Pil is annoyed by his friends’ lousy lives and wonders how they ended up this way, and Jung-ae asserts that she became stupidly smitten with Gu-gil when he shielded her during the church fight.
Pil wonders how life can change so much all because of one blow, while Gu-gil maintains that he still loves Jung-ae. Pil wonders why Jung-ae lives with Gu-gil when she liked Dal-soo, and she pouts, knowing that he’s right and regretting her own choice.
Pil walks through the tunnel and finds wanted posters featuring his face plastered on the wall. He furiously rips them off and yells in frustration. Internally, he frantically wonders if it’s his fault that his neighborhood and his friends ended up this way. “All I did was get into a fight. This isn’t what I wanted. Can I get back in that manhole? No, even if I go back, can I change Soo-jin’s mind?” he wonders. He walks out of the tunnel, looking utterly defeated.
Nearby, two burly men with gold chains around their necks step out of their car. Meanwhile, Pil throws a fit by the manhole because the cover won’t budge. He figures that all he needs to do to turn his life back is to return to high school and get beat up by Church Boy. Mmm… something tells me that isn’t the solution.
The two burly men find him by the manhole and try to grab him, but Pil fends them off easily. One of them has a taser but Pil gets the upper hand and makes the man taser himself as he recites Miranda rights… which is how Pil learns that they’re actually cops, haha.
He manages to elude two police cars hot on his tail by running like the wind and catches his breath at a park where he spots Soo-jin’s fiance Jae-hyun holding hands with a woman who’s clearly not Soo-jin. He spies on them, and while the woman is affectionate to Jae-hyun, Jae-hyun seems uneasy, and Pil overhears their plans to meet at a hotel.
Pil runs to Soo-jin and shares the alarming news, but Soo-jin doesn’t believe him. He moves close to Soo-jin to illustrate Jae-hyun’s proximity to the other woman, but Soo-jin still isn’t convinced, and he regrets that she wasn’t there to witness the scene. Soo-jin feels uncomfortable by how close Pil is, so she pushes him off by hitting him on the head with her bag, which sends Pil to the ground.
As he’s slipping out of consciousness, it finally strikes him that midnight was the time when things went awry; he left the past at midnight and returned to the present at noon.
To Soo-jin’s relief, Pil wakes up. He realizes that he spent 12 hours in the past, and Soo-jin learns that she broke her camera when she struck Pil in the head. He apologizes and says the camera wouldn’t have broken if he had relaxed and taken the hit well, which makes Soo-jin laugh.
Pil smiles and wonders why she isn’t afraid of him like the others, and she answers that when she looks in his eyes, she can tell he won’t harm her. Pil warns her that Jae-hyun was with another woman, but Soo-jin says Jae-hyun isn’t like that and finds it odd that he knows her fiance when Pil hasn’t been around for three years. Behind Pil and Soo-jin, a shady gangster calls his boss and reports that they’ll need a change of plans.
As Pil walks with Soo-jin, he hesitates to move his hand to her shoulder. He suggests they go for an evening stroll, but Soo-jin says she has to go home and reminds him that he needn’t walk her home since she’s engaged, and holds up her ringed hand. Before she leaves, she requests that he attend her wedding if he’s available.
He watches her leave and is bummed that she doesn’t turn around for one last glance. As he walks away though, Soo-jin runs back wanting to take him up on his offer for an evening stroll, but he’s already too far ahead, and she regrets that their timing is off.
At the pharmacy, Pil drinks all the “free”—the sign clearly says nothing is free or discounted at the pharmacy, heh—energy drinks in front of a timid-looking Jae-hyun. Pil asks him if he dates two or three women at a time, but Jae-hyun stutters a “no.” Just then, Pil hears police sirens so he cuts their conversation short, but warns Jae-hyun that they’ll be seeing each other more often.
Soo-jin walks through the tunnel, but repeatedly turns back, distracted by the flickering lamppost by the manhole. Suddenly, a few men grab her and take her away.
Pil pounds on Jin-sook’s door, but instead of Jin-sook, Seok-tae steps out. Seok-tae asks if the police are looking for him, and Pil says that’s why he’s here, hoping to seek refuge at Jin-sook’s place until midnight. Jin-sook emerges—Seok-tae, I see you trying to block that door!—and she and Pil find it curious that Seok-tae knew the police were after him.
Just then, the gangster who spied on Pil and Soo-jin arrives and holds up his phone, ordering Pil to take the call since it’s regarding “his woman.” Pil picks up and speaks to a man dressed in a white suit who claims to be Pil’s boss. Pil says he doesn’t have one, but Boss grows angry and reminds him that he invested tons of money in Pil so he’s not allowed to leave this life.
He warns that if Pil doesn’t listen to him, his “bride” Soo-jin will get hurt and orders Pil to attend their party at BongBong Pub or else.
Pil angrily flings the phone to the ground and punches the gangster unconscious before dashing out to rescue Soo-jin. With an unconscious gangster on her rooftop, Jin-sook tries to wake him and orders Seok-tae to call the police.
Back at home, Pil’s parents are startled by the drastic shift in weather and remark that it’s as if something bad is about to ensue.
It starts to pour heavily outside and Pil sprints through the tunnel en route to rescue Soo-jin. A time stamp appears: it’s currently 11:15 P.M., and Pil says he’s short on time.
He arrives at BongBong Pub and Boss greets him brightly, but Pil is livid when he spots Soo-jin gagged and tied to a chair. He orders Boss to let her go since Soo-jin has nothing to do with him, and Boss chides his henchmen for kidnapping her when she’s not even his girlfriend, lol. Pil warns them not to lay a finger on her or else they’re in for major trouble since he has somewhere to be at midnight.
But Boss insists that Pil return the money he borrowed first. His patience clearly tested, Pil starts knocking down Boss’s men one by one, throwing vicious punches and kicks. He socks Boss in the face while he’s in the middle of reporting Pil to the police.
Meanwhile, the two cops that Pil mistook for thugs arrive at Jin-sook’s place to confirm that Pil beat up the gangster, but the gangster changes his story and insists that he merely fainted. Quick on the uptake, Jin-sook attests to the gangster’s account, hushing Seok-tae up when he tries to say otherwise. The cops receive a call about mob violence, but are surprised that one man beat up a mob and not the other way around, so they head out to investigate.
After freeing Soo-jin, Pil runs with her hand-in-hand, as the police try to capture him. They manage to find cover, and Pil tells her he has to leave, but Soo-jin insists he turn himself in and that she’ll explain everything to the authorities. Pil asks if she trusts him, and she tearfully nods. He vows to return before leaving.
Pil strides through the tunnel, determined to return to the past, get beat up by Church Boy, and bring everything back to the way it was, certain that this will resolve everything. Suddenly, two police cars arrive, blocking both ends of the tunnel and trapping Pil inside. Pil fends off the cops and jumps over a car to get to the manhole before it’s too late.
A cop fires his gun at Pil, but luckily, time is on Pil’s side; midnight strikes, time freezes, and the bullet is suspended in midair right behind Pil’s head. Pil shrieks at the sight of the bullet and desperately asks for one last chance to return to the past. Just then, he has another out of body experience and disappears.
Time unfreezes and the cops wonder where he went, unaware that he’s right below their feet. After they leave, the manhole burps, and Pil rejoices as he travels down the manhole again, thrilled that he made it just in the nick of time.
But… it doesn’t appear that he returns to high school. We’re now at… the beach. Huh? There’s no one there except Pil, and he’s sleeping on a lounge chair in shorts and a t-shirt. The tattoos, gold chains, bouffant hair… are all gone.
Behind him is a small store called “Marine’s Cafeteria” with an awning that reads, “Once a marine, always a marine.” Pil finally wakes up and panics wondering where the hell he ended up. He stumbles across the sand and yells, “Where on earth am I? Where did you take me to, you darn Manhole!”
For fans of Jaejoong, this episode was definitely a feast for the eyes. Closeups of his pretty face? Check. Slick shots of him running (and running and running…) and kicking ass? Check. A slo-mo scene of him getting drenched by rain and running his fingers through his wet hair? Check and check. And while there’s nothing wrong with gratuitous footage of pretty, bad boy thug Pil, this episode did feel lacking in the narrative sense. Pil spent most of this episode trying to grasp the time travel rules and reorient himself, and I get that it’s not something he would instantly understand, but I wish he had changed for the better or taken initiative even a just a smidge as a gangster. After all, he was more or less the same Pil we saw, just in a different getup, and he wasn’t able to profess his love to Soo-jin or try things differently. And it’s not like he wouldn’t have tried to save Soo-jin if he weren’t a gangster.
The gangster storyline was so silly, but I didn’t find it very humorous, and there wasn’t much comedy to be had in Pil’s friends either since none of them (except maybe Jin-sook) are faring well. The stakes didn’t feel very high because Pil’s life as a gangster was so short-lived and he was never in real danger. I still like Soo-jin—even though she seems rather vanilla and average—but I’m not sure why Pil loves her so much apart from the fact that she’s pretty and that they’ve known each other since they were little. I’d like to see more moments that the two shared together and learn how they grew closer, but currently, it just seems like Pil has a one-sided crush on her that’s mostly based on physical beauty.
Manhole just started so it’s hard to guess which direction it’s headed in, but Pil’s constant shifts in persona have the potential to either be immensely entertaining (if done properly) or exhausting. Jaejoong’s stamina is impressive given that he’s always running, panting, yelling, or freaking out, but his manic energy is starting to get old very fast because his frenetic, hyper self isn’t particularly funny or endearing; it actually makes for a tiring viewing experience! If he can take it down a notch (or two), breathe, and use every manhole trip for self-improvement to show Soo-jin his best self, he’ll probably grow on me. Naturally, I’m rooting for Pil since Jae-hyun seems to have unfinished business with an ex, but Pil really needs to man up if he doesn’t want to lose his woman!
- Manhole: Episode 1
- Premiere Watch: Manhole, Live Up to Your Name
- Jaejoong goes back to high school for Manhole
- Manhole gang’s funky new character posters
- Manhole goes retro for the ultimate beach holiday
- UEE and Jaejoong cozy up under the sun in new Manhole stills
- Cast of Manhole throws dignity out the window for new dance teaser
- First look at Jaejoong’s time-slip rom-com Manhole
- News bites: July 1, 2017
- Baro up for Jaejoong and UEE’s time-slip rom-com Manhole