The Great Seducer: Episodes 1-2
The Great Seducer, MBC’s new remake of a classic story of love and revenge, pulls no punches when it comes to drama, humor and flat-out sexiness. This version follows three best friends with more money than sense, bigger egos than they’ve earned, and a hefty dose of romantic entitlement. Seduction is the name of the game, and seduction is what we get — when love and revenge get tangled up, there’s no way anyone is getting out with their heart intact.
EPISODE 1 RECAP
In a classroom, a student reads a love poem out loud while the whole class, girls and boys alike, watch him with hearts in their eyes. As he reads, we see him dancing at a club, surrounded by adoring women. He’s introduced as KWON SHI-HYUN (Woo Do-hwan), eldest heir of JK Group.
A girl joins Shi-hyun, dressed to kill, and we’re told that she’s CHOI SOO-JI (Moon Ga-young), student president and the most beautiful girl in school. A third student gets beat up, but even as he’s thrown to the floor, he looks at the camera with a smirk… this is LEE SE-JOO (Kim Min-jae), described as “the living guilty pleasure,” whose only English words are “love” and “sex.”
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Poetry and our cast of characters
The day before, Soo-ji met with a heartbroken woman, Ji-young (cameo by Han Sun-hwa), who’d cried dramatically over Shi-hyun. She’d asked Soo-ji to tell Shi-hyun that she’ll wait for him, and Soo-ji nearly let slip that he’s only in high school before remembering that Ji-young thinks he graduated.
Ji-young wallows in what she sees as their star-crossed romance, and Soo-ji seems a teeny bit jealous. But she’s flustered by the woman’s tears, and she tries in vain to extricate herself from the situation.
Se-joo and Shi-hyun had watched from a distance, though Shi-hyun was more interested in a stray puppy he found. Se-joo asked Shi-hyun why he broke up with Ji-young, and Shi-hyun answered simply, “She laughed. I couldn’t stand it. I had to get rid of her, no matter who she is.”
A flashback shows that he saw Ji-young on a date with another man, laughing happily. Se-joo mutters that it makes sense considering Shi-hyun’s mom.
After class, the Korean Literature teacher gives Shi-hyun a book with a sexy title. Soo-ji marvels that the teacher is brazenly flirting with Shi-hyun, and when the teacher snaps that Soo-ji just doesn’t understand literature, Soo-ji fires back, “I’m top of my class.” LOL.
Shi-hyun tells the teacher that he won’t have time to read the book, throwing an arm around Soo-ji and gazing at her lovingly. Just as he’s about to kiss her, Soo-ji asks the teacher if she plans to watch. The teacher flounces off, and as soon as she’s out of sight, Soo-ji shoves Shi-hyun and exclaims that it’s so gross that the teacher likes him. I think I love them.
Their third friend, Se-joo, joins them and steals Soo-ji’s lollipop. A student delivers the guys’ report cards, and Se-joo tosses his abysmal grades away while Shi-hyun folds his into a paper airplane.
The student tells Shi-hyun to study more because his grades would make his dead mother sad, earning a double dose of eyedaggers from Se-joo and Soo-ji. Se-joo yells at the rude student, but Soo-ji takes action, tossing a trash can over the jerk’s head. Okay, I definitely love her.
When graduation day arrives, one female student, KYUNG-JOO, endures the wandering hands of the homeroom teacher until Soo-ji stabs him with a boutonniere pin. Just to make a point, he tells Soo-ji to obey her mother, since her father went to prison and her mother is running the hospital alone.
While leering at passing female students, the homeroom teacher says that she’ll never be a pianist (Soo-ji: “I play the cello…”), so she should become a teacher. He pulls out his phone, and Shi-hyun sidles up to look over his shoulder at the photo of him and his pregnant wife.
The homeroom teacher jokes that the baby will be cute as long as it doesn’t look like him, and Shi-hyun quips, “It could look nothing like you,” with a cheeky grin in Soo-ji’s direction. Soo-ji tells the homeroom teacher to get in touch with her if he needs a paternity test, hee.
Soo-ji’s face falls when she spots the Art teacher across the room. He’d privately tutored her four years ago, and she’d developed a crush and made a pass at him. Although he’d succumbed easily, he’d yelled at her for chasing adult men when he got caught and was fired.
Se-joo rolls up to the school in a floral-painted stretch limousine (no, I’m not kidding) and wearing a dark blue velour coat. He chats with a young girl in the lobby, but she makes a face at him.
The chairman of the school board approaches to remind Se-joo that she told him not to come, but he says that of course he’s attending his own graduation, since it’s an opportunity to make amazing memories. Ha, that sounds like trouble.
The elevator door opens, and Se-joo says gallantly, “Ladies first!” But he stops the chairman from entering, repeating that he said ladies, and he gets in the elevator with the young girl and shoots the chairman an insolent smirk. PFFT.
As the graduation ceremony commences, we flash back to two months ago. Shi-hyun had told Se-joo and Soo-ji that the Korean Literature and Art teachers are getting married, but that the Korean Lit. teacher (the same teacher who made a pass at him) is secretly dating their homeroom teacher.
They’d set up secret cameras to video the affair, planning revenge on the homeroom teacher for being a cheater and an all-around skeevy guy. During the graduation ceremony, Se-joo sneaks up to the media booth and projects the tapes of the two teachers getting in on in a car, then in the hotel. The teachers are scandalized, and the students clap and cheer.
As the trio of friends leave the ceremony, awkward Kyung-joo runs over to thank them for the video condemning the homeroom teacher. They assume angelic expressions and claim innocence. Kyung-joo asks them to take a picture with her, which they do, then quickly flee.
Shi-hyun asks Soo-ji if she wants to get similar revenge on the Art teacher for the way he treated her, but Se-joo says that they just did — his fiancee’s cheating will show the school that the Art teacher can’t perform in bed.
The boys congratulate themselves, but Soo-ji informs them of what the best revenge looks like: “It’s taking the most cherished treasure from that person. When people are robbed of their treasures, they learn how to take revenge without even realizing.” I feel like those words will come back to bite her later.
Outside, Se-joo watches Shi-hyun and Soo-ji together, then bounces over to chirp that the three of them can never become romantically involved. He does say that they should sleep together just once and get it out of their system, and Soo-ji nearly tears his head off.
She straightens up when she spots her current boyfriend, KI-YOUNG (Lee Jae-kyun). The boys protest her leaving with Ki-young, but she tells them firmly to shut up and behave. HA, I love that the girl is the undisputed alpha of their group.
Kyung-joo and a friend strut into a restaurant and hold out their ID cards, telling the server that they graduated high school today and thus can drink legally. They don’t mention that technically, Kyung-joo’s friend EUN TAE-HEE (Red Velvet’s Joy) is a dropout with a high school equivalency certificate.
Kyung-joo confesses that she told her parents that graduation is next week, because whenever she’s with her mother, people ask if she’s adopted. She mentions the prank that Shi-hyun, Se-joo, and Soo-ji played at the ceremony.
Tae-hee asks suspiciously if Kyung-joo likes one of them. Kyung-joo reveals that she does have a crush on one of them, though she doesn’t say who.
With Soo-ji out with Ki-young for the evening, Shi-hyun and Se-joo hit the club. In a private room, a middle-aged woman sobs to her girlfriends that she’s much prettier than her daughter, guessing that that’s why she lied about her graduation date. Ah, this must be Kyung-joo’s mother, NA-YOON, who seems sweet, if a bit dim.
Irritated, the other ladies start to leave, but they stop dead in their tracks when Shi-hyun and Se-joo enter the room. Shi-hyun immediately claims the tearful Na-yoon, being the prettiest woman in the room, and Se-joo quips that he has a strangely merciful heart. Na-yoon stops crying when Shi-hyun sits next to her, and he notices that she seems left out of the toasts and conversations going on.
Ki-young takes Soo-ji for drinks at a much fancier club, where his friends make backhanded comments about her young age. One guy asks in English why Ki-young is planning to marry Soo-ji when he’s not over his ex yet, but Soo-ji cuts her eyes at him as if she understood every word.
She starts to say something, but Ki-young cuts her off and pulls her away from the group. He tells her condescendingly that her mother asked him to date her as a favor, so he did, because she’s pretty.
But he makes it clear that her family isn’t remotely high-class enough for him to consider her for marriage. Soo-ji asks why he dated her at all, and Ki-young tells her that when her father was arrested, her family tried to hire a lawyer from his family’s firm, but that they refused. He adds that if his family had agreed, then her father would have gotten off.
In the process, her mother decided she wanted Ki-young as her daughter’s boyfriend. He murmurs in Soo-ji’s ear, “Tell her to be more realistic in choosing her future son-in-law. It’ll be good for you, too.” Oh, you smug, self-important ass.
Soo-ji leaves and goes to her family’s hospital, where she finds her mother in her office. Her mom says that she’s glad Soo-ji broke up with Ki-young, because she was going to put a stop to their dating anyway. Soo-ji angrily delivers Ki-young’s message.
She asks if her mom asked his law firm to defend her dad, and whether, if they’d agreed and gotten her father freed, her mom wouldn’t have abandoned him. Her mother says that she didn’t abandon her dad, she just protected the hospital.
At the club, Na-yoon leaves the room for a bit, and her friends call her annoying and dumb behind her back. One woman propositions Shi-hyun, and Na-yoon returns to see him looking mighty cozy with her friend. She starts to sit elsewhere, but Shi-hyun tells her that her seat is by him and orders the other woman to leave. Ouch.
Na-yoon rejoins Shi-hyun, and the woman he rejected cattily mentions that Na-yoon is the oldest of them. She asks how old Shi-hyun is, but he just slings an arm around Na-yoon and croons in banmal that he’s old enough for her.
He’s pretty drunk later when Na-yoon stops him from leaving. He looks annoyed for just a second before turning back to her and pouring on the charm again. She leans in, expecting him to kiss her, but Se-joo pops up and surprise kisses Shi-hyun’s neck, so Na-yoon leaves.
A little while later, Soo-ji shows up, grabs Se-joo’s drink, and downs it in one gulp as the guys yelp in unison that it’s alcoholic. Apparently she can’t hold her liquor, so she’s pretty drunk as they take her home in their limo. She sits between them, and Se-joo offers her his shoulder to lean on. Instead she drops her head on Shi-hyun’s shoulder, and Se-joo takes a sip of champagne to hide his disappointment.
She’s upset that Ki-young insulted her mother, and Shi-hyun idly wonders how they can get him back. Soo-ji asks the boys if they think her mom is weird, and the both insist they don’t, maybe a bit too emphatically.
Soo-ji laces her hands in theirs and ask if they’re on her side, and they chorus obediently, “Of course!” Se-joo mutters that he had a bad feeling about her going with Ki-young, but Shi-hyun just pats Soo-ji’s head, seeming at a loss.
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You guys are on my side, right?
EPISODE 2 RECAP
On the way home, Tae-hee stops to pick up a package, a birthday cake with a card supposedly signed by her mother. Tae-hee knows her aunt sent it to cover for her disinterested mom.
Up in Tae-hee’s room, Kyung-joo tells Tae-hee to take her mother’s money and use it to visit her dad. Tae-hee refuses, saying that she’s glad she doesn’t need them anymore. She shares her birthday wish with Kyung-joo, who wishes for a boyfriend, but Tae-hee keeps her own wish a secret.
Shi-hyun’s father is waiting for him when he arrives home. He tells Shi-hyun that his new place will be ready for him to move in next week. Shi-hyun says that he won’t go to the school his father chose, but Dad just tosses down some paperwork for Shi-hyun to read.
It’s the results of a paternity test proving that Shi-hyun is not his biological son. Damn, that’s cold. His father says that Shi-hyun didn’t turn out the way he wants, so he should move out and live quietly. Shi-hyun guesses that his father has always known the truth, and he marvels that he spent all these years secretly hating him.
His father says that he’ll provide living expenses, and that his only condition is that Shi-hyun show up to any event where they have to pretend to be family. He tells Shi-hyun to ask his dead mother if he has any other questions, and Shi-hyun visibly chokes back tears.
He storms upstairs, stopping to look at a picture of himself with his mother, then leaves the house. He walks the streets until morning, eventually ending up at the same bus stop where Tae-hee is sitting.
Shi-hyun pulls the DNA test results from his pocket, then folds them into a paper airplane. It reminds him of when his mother was sick in the hospital, and she’d done the same with her divorce papers. She’d told Shi-hyun, “when you’re worried, scared, or have a wish, fold a paper plane and throw it into the sky. Then your worry or fear will disappear, and your wish will come true.”
Shi-hyun listlessly launches the paper plane, but it only goes a short distance before landing at Tae-hee’s feet. Tae-hee picks it up and tries to return it, but the buss arrives. Shi-hyun stalls out, unsure what to do when the bus driver asks if he’s paying the student fare.
Tae-hee offers to pay for him, then she follows Shi-hyun to his seat to return his papers. He says morosely that it’s his will, which Tae-hee takes the wrong way. She offers to help, but he says he’s not planning to die. He slips the paper airplane into her book and asks her to throw it away in a few months, and not to read it.
He gets weepy as he thinks about one day when he’d brought a birthday cake to his mother in the hospital. He’d asked why his father is never interested in their birthdays, even though they throw him a birthday party every year.
A thumping noise distracts him from his wallowing, and he turns to see Tae-hee fast asleep, her head bonking loudly against the window. Shi-hyun actually laughs before remembering that he’s supposed to be miserable. Tae-hee wakes with a start and jumps off the bus at her stop, leaving behind an invitation to an exhibition, which Shi-hyun picks up.
Soo-ji lies in bed throwing a tantrum a few mornings later. When Se-joo shows up with a huge barrel of ice cream, she throws her pillow at him, shrieking that she was not dumped, okay?? But no self-respecting girl can resist that much ice cream, so she tucks into it viciously as her maid covers her bare shoulders and shoots side-eye at Se-joo.
Soo-ji tells her that they’re such old friends, nothing would happen even if they were stranded naked on a deserted island. They both wonder where Shi-hyun is, since he’s not here worrying about her and he’s not answering his phone lately.
Se-joo confesses about their clubbing on the night of graduation, and we see that Shi-hyun lost a game of spin-the-bottle, so Na-yoon offered to drink for him. She wants a kiss in return, and at first he balks nervously. Na-yoon shrinks away from him, but Shi-hyun grabs her and kisses her senseless.
Se-joo shows Soo-ji a picture of Shi-hyun with Na-yoon, and she gasps that not only is Na-yoon Kyung-joo’s mother, but she’s a former celebrity supermodel.
Na-yoon is currently hosting tea for a few of the school officials. The main topic of gossip is the shocking video of the teachers canoodling, but Chairwoman Jo, who seems like a tough old battleax, is more concerned about some male students who went clubbing that night and drank with the mother of a new graduate. Gulp.
The rumors are much worse than what really happened, though what really happened was still pretty bad, and Na-yoon looks like she wants to crawl under the table. Chairwoman Jo makes some comments that sound like she knows exactly who the woman was, and Na-yoon asks nervously about the boy’s identity.
She’s further horrified to learn that he’s the heir to JK Group, with a reputation for being so sexy, no woman could resist him. Chairwoman Jo looks straight at Na-yoon as she says that apparently, the mother in question keeps calling the student. She wonders out loud if the woman’s daughter can handle the situation.
After the ladies leave, Na-yoon calls a friend who was there that night to ask about Shi-hyun. Kyung-joo hears Shi-hyun’s name, so she yanks the maid aside to ask what her mother and her guests were discussing.
Tae-hee is in Kyung-joo’s room, flipping through pictures of herself and her friend on Kyung-joo’s phone. She comes across the photo Kyung-joo took with Se-joo, Soo-ji, and Shi-hyun, and she guesses that the handsome one is the guy Kyung-joo likes, not recognizing him from the bus. Interestingly, most of the pictures on Kyung-joo’s phone feature Soo-ji. Hero worship, or something else?
Shi-hyun stays with Se-joo, and he watches as Se-joo gets ready to go out, coincidentally to the same exhibition on Tae-hee’s invitation. Se-joo tells Shi-hyun to stop moping and get dressed, since Soo-ji will kill him if he doesn’t show up.
Tae-hee arrives at the event, and she frowns at an ad for a future exhibit featuring a pottery artist (her mother, I presume). She runs into Ki-young, who lights up to see her — oh no, she’s the ex he can’t get over, isn’t she?
Chairwoman Jo is annoyed that she’s not seated at the VVIP table, having made a large donation to Soo-ji’s mother’s hospital, the hosts of this event. She approaches Soo-ji’s mother to make her displeasure known. Soo-ji’s mother apologizes, explaining that JK Group made a large donation at the last minute, necessitating a change in seating.
Ki-young chats with Tae-hee, and he asks about her father. She says nervously that he’s in Germany, and that she’s living on her own. Ki-young asks Tae-hee to go out with him, but she just laughs at his cheesy pick-up line. Across the room, Soo-ji sees them and assumes that Tae-hee is Ki-young’s first love. There’s a ceremony later, in which Tae-hee is presented with a full scholarship from the hospital foundation.
Soo-ji retreats to a private room to complain to Shi-hyun and Se-joo about Ki-young. She says he never smiles like he’s smiling tonight, and that his parents are considering marrying him to a 19-year-old heiress named HYE-JUNG. Her research revealed that Hye-jung’s parents are overly protective, homeschooling her and never letting her out of the house alone.
Se-joo knows of Hye-jung, as one of his brothers is friends with Hye-jung’s brother, who seems to spend the bulk of his time nagging at his sister. Soo-ji decides to mess with Hye-jung, claiming that she just means to teach her about the real world, though Shi-hyun calls out her true intentions — to ruin Ki-young’s innocent bride.
Soo-ji says she has a second target, and tells them about Tae-hee. She growls that Ki-young’s mind may want Hye-jung, but his heart wants Tae-hee. Shi-hyun says he’s not interested, but Soo-ji reminds him that he promised to help her get revenge on Ki-young.
The air grows icy between them, so Se-joo tries to lighten things up by asking which girl he should seduce. Soo-ji snaps that he’s too much of a player not to get recognized, and Se-joo looks genuinely hurt for a moment. Shi-hyun is called back to the party, but Soo-ji stops him to ask if he got kicked out. She asks if his father found out about Kyung-joo’s mom, but Shi-hyun denies it.
When he sees his father schmoozing at the event, Shi-hyun turns and leaves again. He runs into Na-yoon (ha, the look on his face is priceless), and she takes him somewhere private to talk.
She explains that she’s been calling him because she’s scared he’ll tell Kyung-joo about that night. She starts to cry as she says that Kyung-joo hates her, and that she doesn’t know that Na-yoon isn’t her real mother.
That strikes a chord with Shi-hyun, so he gives Na-yoon his jacket and urges her to stop crying, grumbling that you’d think they were friends. He promises not to tell, and they both laugh as Na-yoon confesses that she sometimes misses him.
When Shi-hyun goes back to the party, it’s obvious that something shocking just happened. The whole room looks stunned, and Soo-ji stands frozen in the middle of the room, stricken. Her mother is at the microphone with Shi-hyun’s father, where they awkwardly announce that they’re engaged.
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That was a solid cliffhanger for an overall solid premiere episode, and I find that I actually liked it more than I anticipated. That’s saying a lot, because I love the original story, and the casting of this remake set my expectations pretty high. I thought that the characters were mostly introduced well and that the pacing was good, giving us all the information we’ll need to know once the primary plotline kicks in, without feeling rushed. Considering that the writer has a significant challenge in converting a traditionally two-hour whirlwind train wreck into a sixteen-hour drama, after such a good start, I feel confident that we’ll still get a the raw, sensational tale we expect, and that the moments between the driving narrative will feel natural to the story.
My only real nitpick is that we didn’t get to see much of Tae-hee in this first hour, but in hindsight, it makes sense that we focused on the three best friends first. Those three are complete asses to pretty much everyone, but I still can’t help but love them. I watch how they treat people outside their circle with complete disdain, and I think they couldn’t possibly be worse people. But when it’s just the three of them, you can feel how much they genuinely love and would do anything for each other. And it’s so sweet how utterly gone both guys are on Soo-ji — Se-joo particularly breaks my heart in this area, because he’s well aware that Soo-ji prefers Shi-hyun, but he can’t help loving her anyway and uses his goofy humor to hide his sadness. Not that Shi-hyun has much of a chance with her either, because Soo-ji only sees him as her best friend. I’m almost looking forward to their revenge plan, because it’s time for something to happen to pull their focus outside of their safe little friendship bubble.
I originally had mixed feelings about the casting for The Great Seducer — while I felt that Woo Do-hwan and Kim Min-jae are just about perfect for their roles, I was unsure what to expect from Moon Ga-young and Joy, who seem to be capable but can still be a bit green. I’m happy to report that Moon Ga-young is frankly killing it as Soo-ji — she turns in an excellent portrayal of a girl who seems to have everything, but who secretly feels insecure and inadequate, causing her to lash out at anyone who crosses her. She turned in a much better performance than I expected of her in this premiere, and I’m excited to see what else she can do as the heat turns up and things start to go horribly wrong.
I adore Kim Min-jae and Woo Do-hwan in their roles, too, and although that was more expected, I’m still impressed with how well they’re doing. I’ve only seen Kim Min-jae playing serious, broody characters, so his bouncy, cheeky Se-joo is a lot of fun, largely for the novelty. He does a great job with his hidden crush on Soo-ji, letting his feelings sneak out just enough for us to see them, then shoving them back deep inside again. And I think that Woo Do-hwan is so far proving that our faith in him to make a great leading man was not misplaced (not to mention, the boy can smolder like nobody’s business). And I love how well he plays Shi-hyun as jaded but not heartless, someone who’s capable of seeing the truth about people that they try to hide. He acts like a disaffected playboy, but in reality, he’s actually very sensitive and observant. And we can see how much he loves Soo-ji but knows that she doesn’t feel the that way, and how much it hurts him. I can’t wait to watch him struggle with his conflicted feelings once Tae-hee enters the picture.
I’m very familiar with the source material, and I’m so gratified to see that so far, the Korean adaptation of Dangerous Liaisons (and the subsequent re-adaptations, Cruel Intentions and Untold Scandal) seems poised to tell the same dramatic story about love, revenge, and betrayal. At the same time, I appreciated the humorous moments, which weren’t too silly and managed to balance out the darker undercurrents quite nicely. My biggest concern was that the darker, sexier moments would be watered down for television, since the story wouldn’t be nearly as compelling without digging deep into some pretty raw issues. But so far, the characters don’t shy away from generally taboo subjects like sex, so I feel like I can trust that we’ll get the story we expect, and not a cleaned-up, much tamer version.