Mad Dog: Episode 1
Mad Dog offers a different approach to criminal cases with a team of insurance investigators who don’t hesitate to bend the law for their own purposes. They cross paths with a mild-mannered accident specialist who’s better at his job than they are, and introduces an element of mystery. Our hero has a tragic past that he can’t escape, but just maybe he’s found someone who can understand his pain.
EPISODE 1: “Rigged Game of Go Stop”
A young man eats lunch by a cafe window and witnesses a car accident on the street. A montage of injury-accidents accompanies a narration that explains that Korea’s population is heavily insured, but as the young man runs to catch a bus, we learn that he’s one of the uninsured minority. The young man boards his bus and looks out a window at a broadcast of a public memorial honoring dozens of victims, his mood suddenly serious.
The narration informs us that insurance fraud follows trends and the latest one is collusion (illegal collaboration). The camera zooms in on a man on a rooftop who uses binoculars to monitor a woman, JANG HA-RI (Ryu Hwa-young), who identifies herself as “Player Jang” as she limps into a hospital.
Inside, her colleague PARK SOON-JUNG (Jo Jae-yoon), aka “Cheetah,” is undercover as a computer technician, which allows the team’s hacker, “Pentium” OHN NOO-RI (Kim Hye-sung) to remotely help him copy files. The man on the roof is the team’s leader, “Mad Dog” CHOI KANG-WOO (Yoo Ji-tae), and he informs everyone that they have ten minutes.
A doctor suggests surgery for Ha-ri’s sprained ankle, which would mean a two-month stay for a generous payout, but she worries that she’ll get out of shape and asks about a gym. When the doctor hesitates, she leans closer and her low cut dress gets her a personal tour of the hospital’s secret gym.
Ha-ri notices a man running on a treadmill and the doctor explains that he received a billion won for angina. Ha-ri’s purse is equipped with a hidden camera and she points it at the man on the treadmill.
Kang-woo informs his team that police officers have arrived at the hospital. An alarm sounds inside and Ha-ri’s hidden camera records the angina patient as he hurries back to his room.
The doctor who was with Ha-ri greets MANAGER PARK MOO-SHIN of Taeyang Insurance with a threat to call the police. Manager Park has a detective serve the doctor with a search warrant in a fraud investigation and Ha-ri calls Kang-woo with the news. At the same time, Soon-jung finishes his mission to copy the digital files just before hospital officials arrive to destroy the hard drives.
Ha-ri escapes to the rooftop where she tears off her fake cast to pull on the leggings hidden underneath. She walks along narrow ledges expertly as Soon-jung drives up in her car below. Ha-ri falls from the roof and grabs a beam as if it’s a parallel bar and then slides down the structure as Kang-woo compliments her skill.
Ha-ri and Soon-jung drive away but Manager Park chases after them and Kang-woo warns, “Puppy got our tail.” Ha-ri keeps her cool as she weaves through traffic while a nervous Soon-jung drops to the passenger floorboards. Manager Park vows, “Those lawbreaking punks. I’ll get you all today,” and his prediction almost comes true when they’re forced to stop at a light, but Ha-ri gets away, leaving Manager Park trapped.
Ha-ri and Soon-jung arrive at the team’s headquarters where Kang-woo and Noo-ri are waiting. When Soon-jung produces the memory stick with the necessary files, Kang-woo announces, “Let’s catch him.”
The angina patient, Lee Han-dong, sits with his wife in a real estate office and is just about to purchase a property for 1.5 billion won when Kang-woo saunters in and exclaims, “Gosh, I finally get to meet you.” He presents a business card that identifies his company as Mad Dog.
When Kang-woo presents evidence that Lee Han-Dong received over a billion won for angina, the man suddenly acts as if he can’t breathe. Kang-woo laughs and holds up his phone as it plays Ha-ri’s video of Lee Han-dong on the treadmill and explains, “Mad Dog is a cure for a man like you. You’re done now.”
The Mad Dog team celebrates in a restaurant where a televised report announces the arrest of the doctors and patients that they exposed for insurance fraud. Ha-ri gets a text that their reward money was deposited into their bank accounts. Kang-woo happily toasts their success but looks away when a glance at his phone shows a photo of his wife and young son.
Manager Park interrupts the celebration, angry that Mad Dog embarrassed his department. The team doesn’t take him seriously when he threatens to expose them for illegally copying hospital files and Kang-woo insists that they’re incapable of such sophisticated tactics, saying that Soon-jung still uses a flip phone and Noo-ri is allergic to sunlight and can’t work in the field.
Frustrated, Manager Park challenges Kang-woo, “Will you keep living all messed up? Aren’t you ashamed to your late wife and son?” Soon-jung drags Manager Park away while Ha-ri glances at Kang-woo in concern.
Kang-woo staggers to his apartment where a newspaper waits with the headline, “Second Anniversary of Juhan Air 801 Accident.” A photo of a public memorial triggers a flashback and we see a plane plummet through the sky while Kang-woo’s wife clutches their young son, both of them wearing oxygen masks. Kang-woo tries to shake the memory just as he receives a text for him to come to the office in the morning.
In the morning, Kang-woo passes by a man with protest signs, his young son nearby with an injured arm. His signs read, “Injured tenants got kicked out. The building owner got the insurance money.”
Kang-woo walks through a well-appointed apartment to tree-filled atrium. An older man greets him pleasantly, “You look much better now,” but Kang-woo wants to know why he was summoned. CHAIRMAN CHA asks him to return to work, but when Kang-woo can’t obtain a promise that he can kill Go Jin-chul if he catches him, he respectfully ends the meeting.
Outside, Kang-woo approaches the young boy with a stuffed toy dog and offers food to the protesting father-son pair. Kang-woo invites them to follow him and promises to hear what they have to say.
As Kang-woo approaches a collapsed building, the father’s voice takes us back to the day of the accident. He was busy with customers in his restaurant on the ground floor while his son played with a toy robot and his wife was busy in the kitchen. Just minutes after the father left to make some deliveries, the light fixtures swayed as if there was an earthquake. Customers ran outside in a panic and someone alerted the wife to the danger. She ran out with their son, Seon-ho, but the robot was left behind.
People spilled from the building onto the sidewalk and watched as a billboard on the roof rocked back and forth. Suddenly, the movement stopped and Seon-ho ran inside for his robot with his mother close behind.
Large cracks tore through the building and sections of concrete fell onto the sidewalk before Seon-ho and his mother could get out. Seon-ho’s mother shielded him with her body as the building collapsed on top of them.
Kang-woo visits the badly injured mother at the hospital as the father explains to Ha-ri that it’s a miracle that Seon-ho wasn’t seriously hurt. When asked, he shares that the landlord insisted that he wasn’t responsible for any damages.
Soon-jung meets a former colleague, Nurse Oh, in one of the hospital’s supply rooms. She wants to know how long he plans to work as an investigator and is told, “Until a post for a nurse opens up in pediatrics.” Nurse Oh hands over the medical chart for Seon-ho’s mother and promises that it’s the last time and gets a finger heart from Soon-jung in return.
In the hospital’s playroom, Kang-woo approaches Seon-ho and when he picks up the robot, the boy breaks down and confesses that his mother was hurt because of him. Kang-woo calms Seon-ho with a promise to find and punish the man responsible for the accident.
Ha-ri works on a television set where the landlord, architect Ahn Chi-hoon, tapes an episode for a show that builds low-income houses for the community. Soon-jung places a tracking device on Ahn Chi-hoon’s car and learns that at night he runs questionable errands for the son of a high-ranking official with a serious drug problem.
Ha-ri and Soon-jung go undercover at a club that Ahn Chi-hoon frequents. Posing as the valet, Ha-ri downloads the data from his dash camera while Kang-woo goes inside and glimpses Ahn Chi-hoon on his way to interview a manager at the club. The manager confirms that Ahn Chi-hoon insists that he’s not responsible for the building’s collapse.
Kang-woo pays a visit to Ahn Chi-hoon’s office accompanied by Ha-ri, who poses as a client, and Soon-jung as a water deliveryman. Kang-woo meets with Ahn Chi-hoon and informs him that his client is the six-year-old from the restaurant on the ground floor of his collapsed building.
When Ahn Chi-hoon realizes that Kang-woo wants a settlement for Seon-ho, he complains that when people want money, they bite and never let go. Kang-woo agrees, “You’re right. A mad dog is onto you.” When Ahn Chi-hoon insists that the building wasn’t poorly constructed, Kang-woo promises a thorough investigation.
Soon-jung places a bottle of water in the cooler under the supervision of a female employee. A wink sends her scurrying away as Noo-ri notes how well that works to make women flee. Haha. Soon-jung hides a microphone on the back of the water tank.
Ha-ri is left alone in the conference room while an assistant fetches more house plans for her to review. Noo-ri suggests the ceiling for the camera that Ha-ri pulls from her purse, so she stands on the table. Just as she attaches it, Ha-ri notices the uninsured young man from the beginning of the episode eyeing her curiously from the hallway.
The man runs in when Ha-ri steps onto a chair and loses her balance and they both fall onto the table. Ha-ri explains, “I was afraid of a cockroach on the floor,” and the man throws her off of him and jumps up in panic. He shoves a box of kleenex at her to catch the cockroach before he runs out of the room. Impressive.
Kang-woo and the young man run into each other at his desk. The young man logs in to his computer to retrieve the collapsed building’s documents for Kang-woo, who notices that he has a high security clearance.
Kang-woo looks at the man quizzically when he occupies himself with a finger exercise, so he explains that it’s designed to prevent dementia. Kang-woo gives it a try and a glance at a business card reveals that the young man’s name is KIM MIN-JOON (Woo Do-hwan).
At the office, Kang-woo learns from Ha-ri that Ahn Chi-hoon’s dash cam was erased. Noo-ri has identified a car that had a good view of the building’s collapse, but needs to find the owner to get the video of the accident. That prompts Kang-woo to call a contact, but when he can’t get through, he sends Ha-ri on an errand.
Ha-ri enters the police station and walks right into DETECTIVE JO HAN-WOO, who makes it clear that he has no intention of helping her. He’s confused when she unzips her jacket and advances in a revealing top. Ha-ri causes a scene when she loudly explains, “Oppa! I know you’re a cop, but you can’t leave without paying your tab!” Flustered, Detective Jo agrees to help Ha-ri locate the owner of the car and mutters, “How does Kang-woo call himself my friend?”
Kang-woo is defeated at chess by an old friend who asks about the reason for his visit. When he hears that Kang-woo is in the middle of an investigation into the collapsed building, he sends him the contact information for a friend who was the former manager of the architecture institute.
Kang-woo finds that friend, Manager Hyun, at his ping pong club just as Min-joon walks up to the man. Manager Hyun studies the blueprints of the building and clarifies that Min-joon doesn’t want to find evidence of bad construction while Kang-woo does. Manager Hyun determines that the building’s plans are sound and asks for video of the collapse, but Kang-woo explains that he doesn’t have that yet.
Min-joon concludes that his boss can’t be responsible if the builders made changes to his plans, but Kang-woo points out that he could have been part of a conspiracy. Min-joon argues that Kang-woo can’t prove that his boss did anything wrong, and Kang-woo argues that Min-joon can’t prove that he didn’t.
As he drives away from his meeting, an exasperated Kang-woo speaks with his team. He learns that Ha-ri has a lead on the dash cam and he asks Soon-jung to check on Ahn Chi-hoon’s latest construction site.
Wearing a hard hat trimmed with cheetah print, Soon-jung takes photos of some large cracks and substandard rebar at the construction site for a luxury villa. Kang-woo warns Soon-jung as someone approaches and he hides until the guard on duty passes by. Noo-ri and Kang-woo have Soon-jung retake some photos that were too dark, but the flash catches the attention of some thieves and their shouts bring the guard back.
Soon-jung tells himself that he can’t get caught at a crime scene as Kang-woo orders, “Cheetah, exit.” Soon-jung tries to ignore the guard’s cry for help when the thieves jump him and Noo-ri reminds him, “Ex-con Park Soon-jung. If you’re caught, you’ll get aggravated punishment.”
But Soon-jung can’t abandon the helpless guard and interrupts the thieves, while Kang-woo laughs and suggests that he go easy on the thugs. Armed with nothing but a telescopic pointer, Soon-jung identifies himself, “I’m Cheetah,” and then skillfully takes out the thieves on his own and rescues the guard.
Soon-jung treats the guard’s injuries and informs him that he’s a nurse. The grateful man provides Soon-jung with information—Ahn Construction repeatedly moved up the construction due dates and used poor-quality materials.
Ha-ri and Soon-jung find the owner of the car with the footage that they need just as he hands a memory chip over to a grateful Min-joon. Ha-ri recognizes him and mutters, “That cockroach.” She sends Soon-jung to retrieve the memory chip since Min-joon has seen her before.
Soon-jung walks towards Min-joon intending to pick his pocket, but Min-joon expertly swerves out of the way before they collide. With a big smile, Min-joon asks Soon-jung if he’s from Mad Dog and explains that the car owner was expecting him. Min-joon introduces himself and produces the memory chip as he explains that he’s also collecting evidence. When Soon-jung grabs for the chip and explains, “I’ll take that,” Min-joon holds it out of reach as he asks, “For free?”
Ha-ri hides in a storage room during Min-joon’s visit to Mad Dog. Min-joon claims to be interested in detective agencies and wonders if they can handle the case, but Noo-ri informs him that Mad Dog is the Messi among agencies as he downloads the dash cam footage.
Noo-ri plays the video and everyone watches the building shake before its collapse. Min-joon exclaims, “I knew it. The billboard fell and hit the building,” but Kang-woo declares, “The building shook first. That’s why it fell.” Min-joon dismisses his conclusion as the opinion of a layman.
Min-joon quotes Heinrich’s Law, well known in the field of industrial accidents, “For every accident that causes a major injury, there are twenty-nine accidents that cause minor injuries and three hundred accidents that cause no injuries.” Kang-woo angrily explains that the medical costs of the injured tenant mount while Min-joon investigates the hundreds of accidents that preceded the collapse. Min-joon urges Kang-woo to remain rational and focus on why the building collapsed.
Min-joon bets that poor construction wasn’t the cause of the collapse and Kang-woo takes the wager. Min-joon wants Mad Dog if he’s right and Kang-woo agrees, as long as Min-joon hands over evidence that proves Ahn Construction’s corruption if he’s wrong. The men agree to the terms and shake hands.
Before he departs, Min-joon explains that Heinrich was an insurance inspector, just like Kang-woo. Ha-ri confronts Kang-woo, who asks her, “What? Are you not confident?” He wants Min-joon’s high-level security clearance to get access to Ahn Construction’s records and urges the team to get to work.
Soon-jung presents Ahn Chi-hoon’s 2.3-billion-won policy for the collapsed building, a sharp increase from his previous projects. Kang-woo remembers Heinrich’s Law and asks Noo-ri to replay the dash cam footage in its entirety. The team watches as the billboard rocks back and forth two days before the collapse, certain that they’ve proven that the building was built to collapse.
A tracking device hidden in Min-joon’s briefcase allows Kang-woo to find the quirky specialist at a cafe where he’s practicing his finger exercise. Min-joon good-naturedly shares his snack with Kang-woo and seems clueless when he’s invited back to Mad Dog.
Ha-ri spreads some reports on the table in front of Min-joon, who recognizes her and inquires, “Cockroach?” She acknowledges him simply, “We meet again,” and sits down.
Each member of the team presents evidence to support their belief that the building collapsed due to shoddy construction so that Ahn Chi-hoon can collect on the insurance. The team is confident that they’ve made their case, but Min-joon protests that they haven’t.
Kang-woo has Noo-ri play the dash cam video that shows that the building shook days before the collapse. Seemingly cornered, Min-joon jabs the straw into his yogurt and takes a drink before he looks up calmly and asks, “Is this all?” As the Mad Dog team deflates, Min-joon asks, “Shall I begin now?”
The Mad Dog team joins Min-joon on the roof where a group led by Kang-woo’s retired chess partner is assembled. Ha-ri addresses him as “Professor,” and he points to Min-joon who stands near a large glass tank filled with water and explains, “Our newbie asked us for a little help.” Kang-woo approaches Min-joon for an explanation but is told, “You’ll get wet if you stand here.”
When Min-joon asks the professor to begin, the members of the group pair off as Min-joon stands behind the large tank. At his signal, lively music plays and the members begin an energetic dance. While they twirl and stomp, the water in the tank begins to vibrate and the more the dancers jump up and down, the more the water moves, sloshing around violently. The glass eventually shatters and the water floods the roof.
Shocked, Kang-woo stares at a calm Min-joon, who explains in voiceover that the cause of the building’s collapse was resonance. He explains that buildings are constructed with a frequency limit and if it’s exceeded, vibrations are the result. That’s what happened a few days before the collapse when some sports dancers rented a yoga studio in the building for practice.
The large steel-framed billboard was especially sensitive to the increased vibrations and the bolts keeping it in place came loose. Inside the Mad Dog offices, Min-joon explains that if the cause of the collapse was poor construction, the entire building would have gone down.
Kang-woo argues that his boss has claimed a lot of insurance money by faking accidents due to poor construction, but Min-joon points out that this isn’t the reason in this particular case. A certificate shows that the 2.3 billion in insurance money was paid out for the collapsed building.
A defeated Kang-woo visits Seon-ho’s mother in the hospital and finds the boy asleep on a cot next to her bed. Just as he returns the robot to the boy with the broken arm fixed, Kang-woo gets a call. Detective Jo scolds Kang-woo for breaking into his station locker to deliver documents that prove Ahn Chi-hoon’s corruption and bribery. He adds that a few high-level officials will be sure to lose their jobs.
Kang-woo visits Ahn Chi-hoon in his holding cell at the police station and is accused of working with Min-joon. A flashback to the night at the club shows that Min-joon met with his boss and offered to prove the building didn’t collapse due to poor construction—in exchange for the 2.3 billion settlement.
Kang-woo returns to Mad Dog where Seon-ho’s father wants to pay him for his help. Kang-woo refuses the money and the team is surprised when Seon-ho’s father explains that Ahn Chi-hoon distributed his insurance settlement to his tenants.
In flashback, we see that Min-joon had distributed the funds to the tenants while ordering drinks at a cafe, and then called the police department to report the location where Ahn Chi-hoon was gambling illegally, which he witnessed while posing as room service.
Detective Jo led the team that raided the gambling location and caught Ahn Chi-hoon. Min-joon entered the police station posing as a deliveryman with coffee just as the remaining officers were called out, which gave him a chance to plant the evidence in Detective Jo’s locker.
At Mad Dog, Noo-ri calls Min-joon a modern day Robin Hood, but Ha-ri points out, “A con man is just a con man.” When Kang-woo asks for Min-joon’s location, the tracking device shows that he’s in their building, so Noo-ri guesses that he found it and left it behind.
Kang-woo has an idea and looks up at the floor above him where the tracking device sits on a desk. Kang-woo’s phone rings just as Min-joon walks into Mad Dog. Soon-jung greets him, “You jerk,” but Min-joon pleasantly replies, “So this is how I get to meet my tenants.” Min-joon explains that no landlord would allow him to bring in a tank and shake the building, so he bought the building.
Min-joon admits that he’s come to claim Mad Dog. When Soon-jung calls him crazy, Min-joon reminds them that Manager Park has been after Pentium, Cheetah, Player Jang, and Mad Dog, and he can provide proof of their illegal deeds. Kang-woo accuses Min-joon of bluffing but he laughs, “Let’s bet the most precious thing in life. Something you can’t change even if you die—family. This time, let’s bet our families.”
The suggestion causes Kang-woo to recall the day that his wife and son died. He had sobbed as a sheet was pulled back to reveal their soot-covered bodies, his son’s hand still held by his mother’s. Kang-woo’s cries filled the room as he mourned the loss of his family.
Mad Dog does a good job of balancing strong character dynamics with the element of tragedy that overshadows the hero, Choi Kang-woo. His smile hides his broken heart and it’s clear that he’s driven by the desire for revenge for the deaths of his wife and young son. He’s assembled an interesting team—ex-con/nurse Soon-jung, computer whiz Noo-ri who can’t go outside without taking extreme measures to avoid the sun, and the sexy but detached Ha-ri, who is protective of her damaged boss. I can’t wait to learn how this motley crew came together.
That mix just got a whole lot more interesting with the introduction of Kim Min-joon, who is scary smart, shrewd, patient, and up to something. Even though he didn’t show up until halfway through the episode, he had a huge impact. I don’t think for a second that he crossed paths with Kang-woo by chance—he’s too interested in the Mad Dog agency for that to be a possibility. No, he’s like a spider who has spun an intricate web and Kang-woo and his team were too confident in their conclusions and abilities to notice that they were falling into a trap.
I just loved how Min-joon hid behind his mild mannered persona and played team Mad Dog like a master. By the time Kang-woo wised up during that demonstration on the roof, it was too late, he was in over his head. The smiles, nerdy finger exercise, and round glasses were the perfect camouflage against a team that doesn’t show any respect to their competitors. Now they find themselves in an uncomfortable predicament—work for Min-joon or get turned in for their illegal antics. After seeing how he handled his boss, they can appreciate what Min-joon is capable of, all by himself.
But all is not lost, because it looks as if the plane crash that took the lives of Kang-woo’s family is of interest to Min-joon. With his suggestion that he and Kang-woo should bet their families, is it possible that he lost a family member in that crash as well? If that’s the case, it would make sense for Min-joon to seek out Kang-woo, who has experience with the science of accidents. With his background in insurance investigations, they can join forces to determine the truth about the crash and find justice for the victims. It looks like Min-joon doesn’t break the law like the Mad Dog team is willing to do and perhaps that’s why he’s interested in them. They certainly offer a unique skill set.
This week’s case had everything to do with Kang-woo’s inability to ignore a family’s pain and the power of a mother’s love. He may have been wrong about the cause of the accident, but he did for that family what he couldn’t do for his own wife and son by giving them hope for a future together. Even though Min-joon was responsible for sending them much needed money, it was Kang-woo who took notice of them and listened to their story. It’s this kind of sensitivity that gives weight to the story and the characters. Kang-woo is definitely a damaged person, but it’s what makes him notice what everyone else ignores.
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