Suits: Episode 1
I was halfway expecting a show about lawyers to be somewhat slow-moving and serious, but KBS2’s new drama Suits (a remake of the American TV show of the same name) looks to be a fast and furious ride, full of witty dialogue, intriguing characters, and unexpected plot twists. The premiere episode is mostly an introduction to the characters and the law firm where they work, and I was drawn to the bright, simple introduction, which gave me just enough to hook me in without weighing me down with too much information.
EPISODE 1: “Fate is determined by the choices you make, not coincidence.”
On a dreary, rainy day, a lawyer visits a young man in prison. We hear the young man’s voice narrate: “Fate is determined by the choices you make, not coincidence.” Suddenly, time begins flowing backwards, pulling the raindrops slowly back into the sky.
After grinning at a room full of arguing people, a man, lawyer CHAE GEUN-SHIK (Choi Gwi-hwa) struts into an office to gloat to his boss, lawyer KANG HA-YEON (Jin Hee-kyung). He says his prediction came true… the merger between two companies will never happen, because the two men who run the companies are old schoolmates who are more concerned with their pride than what’s best for the businesses.
She asks about someone named Kang-seok, which makes Geun-shik lose a bit of his bravado. He wants this case, but Ha-yeon insists — she wants Kang-seok on it.
CHOI KANG-SEOK (Jang Dong-gun) shows off his shuffling skills as he tells a man that his father once laid out a deck of cards and asked him which card he wanted to be. He’d answered that he didn’t want to be a card held in someone’s hand — he wanted to be the person playing the game with those cards.
As he talks, he deals the cards into four equal stacks. The man, Congressman Jo, chooses a stack, and Kang-seok turns over an ace of spades. Happy with his card, Congressman Jo chuckles that Kang-seok won’t win tonight, but Kang-seok points out that he hasn’t chosen his card yet.
He asks Congressman Jo to become a client of Kang & Ham (the top corporate firm he works for) if he wins. Congressman Jo says that instead, if he loses, he’ll set up a scholarship under Kang & Ham’s name.
Kang-seok chooses a card, turning over the Joker and winning the bet. He says he likes the Joker because it doesn’t have a significant role, but it can change into anything. Assemblyman Jo says without malice that that was a petty trick, and Kang-seok quips that he can’t be the boss of the game without knowing a few tricks.
Ha-yeon tries to talk President Park of Joseung Group, which is acquiring Taejin Enterprise, into allowing CEO Oh from Taejin to retain his title for a year after the merger. She says that it will contribute to the Taejin employees’ morale as well as make President Park look good.
She appeals to his pride, reminding him that he’s already hunted down his prey, and it won’t hurt anything to allow CEO Oh to be a temporary figurehead. But he refuses to back down, determined to win a complete victory over his nemesis.
Kang-seok finally shows up, and he saunters into the office where Ha-yeon introduces him as Kang & Ham’s ace lawyer. President Park just wonders why he’s only showing up now if he’s such an ace. He even shoots an insult to Ha-yeon, guessing that she can’t handle the company alone without Lawyer Ham.
Interrupting, Kang-seok calmly tells President Park that he’s being greedy. He points out that President Park calls this merger a hunt, but good hunters show respect to the animals they kill. He says that the Taejin employees only want to show respect to their CEO, but if President Park won’t give them that, then he’s not a good hunter.
Unmoved, President Park threatens to take his business to another law firm. Kang-seok pulls up the firm’s bank account on his phone and shows President Park that their fee has already been paid. He invites him to sue Kang & Ham if he doesn’t like their results, but reminds him that no other firm would dare take a lawsuit that would pit them against him.
Stammering, President Park orders Ha-yeon to collar her dog, but she backs up Kang-seok completely. Kang-seok tells him to go close the deal while he still can, and once he’s gone, he tells Ha-yeon that it doesn’t matter how the client feels so long as they closed the deal.
She asks how they were paid already, and he reveals that the transfer was really Congressman Jo’s donation to the scholarship. HA, love it.
Elsewhere, the young man we previously saw in jail parks a fancy sports car at an upscale club, where he’s escorted by the club manager into a private room. His name is GO YEON-WOO (Park Hyung-shik), and he looks bored as he’s introduced as having a perfect memory.
The smarmy chaebol, whose name is JOON-PYO (cameo by Lee Yi-kyung), asks if Yeon-woo remembers him. Yeon-woo rattles off Joon-pyo’s last three license plate numbers, impressing the guy.
He throws down a wad of cash and tells Yeon-woo that he gets money for every correct answer, and has to take a shot every time he’s wrong. He finds obscure questions on the internet (like explaining the Inflation Theory), and Yeon-woo recites the answers word-for-word without even thinking.
Joon-pyo finally concedes, admitting respect for Yeon-woo’s sexy brain. Yeon-woo notices that he adds a few drops of liquid to his drink before downing it, and he turns to leave, snapping angrily at his friend for bringing him here.
Offended, Joon-pyo offers Yeon-woo one last bet — double the amount of money he’s already won if he drinks an ice bucket full of wine in one sitting. Despite his disdain for this entire thing, Yeon-woo can’t resist the bait, but when Joon-pyo offers him a vial of the drug he put into his own drink, Yeon-woo crushes it into the wine, saying that he may be a dog but at least he doesn’t need drugs.
Joon-pyo gets angry again at the suggestion that he and Yeon-woo are on the same level. Yeon-woo flings the bucket of wine at him, growling, “A dog doesn’t bite its owner, but it does bite other dogs. Especially when that dog cares about nothing but money. ” He storms out of the room, tossing the money he already won in the air as he goes.
The club manager, Yeon-woo’s friend CHUL-SOON, is contrite when he finds him later. He apologizes for trapping him in an uncomfortable situation, though he also chides Yeon-woo for his rude behavior. He says it’s worth the humiliation to earn so much money, but Yeon-woo disagrees.
They’re joined by Chul-soon’s girlfriend, SE-HEE, who seems a lot more level-headed than her boyfriend. When he scuttles off to take a call, she asks Yeon-woo what happened to upset him, and she knows he’s lying when he says it’s nothing.
Chul-soon’s call is from Joon-pyo, who asks if he can get him a certain difficult-to-procure drug. Chul-soon promises to get it for him, but the chaebol has a condition — he wants Yeon-woo to deliver it.
When he learns about Joon-pyo’s demand, Yeon-woo is upset, but Chul-soon reminds him that he needs the money. He says that Joon-pyo is actually a pretty nice guy, but Yeon-woo flat-out refuses to do the delivery.
Over at Kang & Ham, Geun-shik recites terrible poetry into his phone as he stares at Ha-yeon. He tells himself to be brave and enters her office, where he announces dramatically that he sleeps even less now than when he was studying for the bar, and works over a hundred hours per week.
He says he could have handled President Park himself, and he asks Ha-yeon why she always chooses Kang-seok over him. Kang-seok enters the office right on cue and quips that it’s because he works reasonable hours and always gets a good night’s sleep, lol.
Ha-yeon interrupts their argument and reminds Kang-seok that they’re interviewing law students tomorrow for potential hire as a new associate. Kang-seok doesn’t want to be there, whining that they exclusively interview students from elite schools as if they’re the only ones who will make good lawyers, and he decides he doesn’t want an associate, anyway.
Ha-yeon says they can’t have a senior partner without an associate, and Geun-shik stammers to hear that Kang-seok has been promoted. Kang-seok can’t help but grin, silently daring Geun-shik to say a word. Ha-yeon tells Kang-seok to choose his own associate, and he jokes that it won’t be easy to find someone who matches his talent.
With obvious affection, Ha-yeon gives Kang-seok a tie to wear tomorrow for luck. She tells him to choose his new associate wisely, because “as soon as a senior partner makes a mistake, he’s out.”
The nameplate on Kang-seok’s office door has already been changed to reflect his new status, though he notes that he got the promotion six months later than he expected. His jealous secretary, HONG DA-HAM (Chae Jung-ahn), complains that she has no luck with men or money, and Kang-seok jokingly accuses her of praying for him not to get his promotion. Hilariously, Da-ham can’t meet his eyes, HA.
They start throwing out numbers, but Da-ham won’t go lower than eighteen. Kang-seok reluctantly offers her an eighteen percent bonus increase and contract renewal, holding out a hand for her to “sign” on his palm. Okay, I love them together.
Yeon-woo goes to the hospital to visit his grandmother, who’s evidently been there a while. She may be sick, but she’s still feisty, and she warns him not to dirty himself by hanging out with Chul-soon. Yeon-woo offers to pay her hospital bill, which just makes his grandmother laugh and accuse him of lying, knowing that he has no money.
A nurse tells Yeon-woo that his grandmother has to move out by the end of the month, due to her unpaid bill. She fusses at him to apologize to his grandmother for squandering the opportunities that his youth affords him. He sighs wearily, “I may be young, but there aren’t that many opportunities.”
He goes back to see Chul-soon and tells him that he’ll make the delivery to the chaebol Joon-pyo. Chul-soon is excited about the amount of money he’ll make, but Yeon-woo just looks defeated.
At the end of the work day Da-ham reminds Kang-seok about the associate interviews tomorrow. She calls him “Senior Partner Choi,” which he makes her repeat just to savor the sound of it, heh. Geun-shik feeds the goldfish who lives in a bowl on his desk and promises it that he’ll become like Kang-seok, working reasonable hours and getting plenty of sleep.
In the morning, Se-hee helps Yeon-woo into a suit borrowed from Chul-soon, thinking that his delivery errand is an interview. Yeon-woo starts to correct her, but he chickens out (and he’s very nervous around her, which makes me think he has feelings for her). She gives him a briefcase, and he takes a deep, nervous breath.
Meanwhile Kang-seok arrives at work to find the office halls filled with hopeful applicants. He plops a small statue on Da-ham’s desk and tells her to screen the candidates with it, saying that he wants someone like him, but also different.
Yeon-woo’s delivery happens to be in the same hotel where Kang & Ham offices are located. He makes his way up to the room where he’s to deliver the briefcase, but when he gets there, a couple of hotel employees are standing awkwardly in the open doorway.
With a few quick glances, Yeon-woo makes mental notes of the employees’ names and faces. He recalls seeing those names on an Employees of the Month sign, but the faces were different. Sure that these two aren’t really employees, he keeps walking and takes the stairwell.
His phone rings with a call from Joon-pyo, who crows that he set this up to teach Yeon-woo a lesson about messing with someone with money. A few flights up, the undercover cops dressed as hotel employees call out to Yeon-woo, and he hangs up the phone and flies down the stairs.
At the law office, Da-ham asks each candidate to name the subject of the statue, and she signals to Kang-seok when each of them gets it wrong. At one point she calls a candidate’s name over and over, getting no answer. Suddenly Yeon-woo rushes in, out of breath and looking frantic, and Da-ham assumes he’s her candidate who was just running late.
Yeon-woo goes along with it, and he correctly identifies the statue on her desk as Kairos, Greek god of opportunity. Impressed, Da-ham signals to Kang-seok and sends Yeon-woo in, where Kang-seok asks Yeon-woo to explain how he knew who the statue is. Yeon-woo says that it looks like Dike (Lady Justice), but the hair gave it away — Kairos has a lot of hair on the front of his head to allow people to seize opportunity, but none in back to warn that you can’t seize an opportunity once it’s passed.
Kang-seok’s keen eyes don’t miss Yeon-woo’s broken watch face and the popped latch on his briefcase. He invites him to have a seat, and as Yeon-woo moves towards the sofa, the briefcase falls open, spilling out the bags of drugs. He frantically shoves them back in, but Kang-seok snatches one and eyeballs it suspiciously.
While the narcotics detectives ask Da-ham if she’s seen a young man in a suit carrying a briefcase (which describes every single candidate in the office, ha), Yeon-woo confesses to Kang-seok that he’s never even been to college. He tells him how he was set up, but Kang-seok is skeptical that someone smart enough to know the difference between Dike and Kairos would fall for such an obvious trap.
He starts to reference the Narcotics Control Act, but after only two words, Yeon-woo takes over and recites the entire thing perfectly. He says that he never forgets anything he reads or sees, and that once he was determined to become a lawyer, so he memorized the entire law manual. Wow.
Da-ham interrupts to tell Kang-seok that the detectives want to speak with him. He goes to the door and invites them in after checking their ID. They confirm that Yeon-woo matches the description of a drug dealer from a report they received, and Kang-seok tells Yeon-woo, “Well, get started. Aren’t you here to be a lawyer? Defend your client — yourself.”
After just a moment’s pause, Yeon-woo says that although they got a report, it’s illegal to arrest someone without evidence. He clocks Kang-seok’s eyeroll and changes tacks, saying that a report could be a deliberate false accusation, which is a crime in itself. This time Kang-seok nods with satisfaction.
When the cops threaten to take Yeon-woo to the police station to confirm his identity, Kang-seok asks Yeon-woo if he has anything else to say. Yeon-woo flips through the files of information in his head, and in seconds he says that according to the law, the officers can ask him to accompany them to the station — but but he can decline.
Further, he recites that the police are required to inform a suspect that they can refuse. The detectives threatened to take him to the police station, but they never informed him of his right to refuse, so they’ve violated due process.
As the detectives gape, Kang-seok says, “Good. Pass,” and he asks the detectives if they have any more questions for Kang & Ham’s newest lawyer. Unfortunately, they ask to check his briefcase. Yeon-woo glances at Kang-seok, who just looks at him like, “Well?” Yeon-woo goes to the briefcase and slowly opens it to reveal… law books.
A quick flashback shows us that when Kang-seok met the detectives at his office door, he deliberately blocked their view into the room, giving Yeon-woo enough time to stuff the bags of drugs under the sofa and grab some of his law books to stash in the briefcase. Once the detectives are gone, he asks Yeon-woo how he knew they would check his briefcase.
Yeon-woo says that evidence is crucial in cases like this, plus, when Kang-seok was talking to the detectives at the door, he specifically mentioned that they thought his suitcase was filled with drugs (ha, I thought that sounded unnecessarily expositional!). Kang-seok huffs at getting caught helping.
He tells Yeon-woo to go to law school and take the bar exam if he wants to be a lawyer, but Yeon-woo admits that he’s already taken the bar under someone else’s name. Chul-soon had arranged it, arguing that Yeon-woo will never be able to afford law school, so he could at least do this. Yeon-woo tells Kang-seok that his parents died in a drunk hit-and-run, and that he needed the money.
Kang-seok admits that Yeon-woo did a great job defending himself, but he sighs that Kang & Ham only hires elites. He asks Yeon-woo how he did on the bar exam, and Yeon-woo confesses that he felt weird about getting a perfect score, so he purposely got one question wrong.
Intrigued, Kang-seok asks if Yeon-woo feels like it was money or coincidence that decided his fate, but Yeon-woo says that actually, it was his own wrong choices. Kang-seok asks if he could make up for those mistakes if he gave him the chance, and Yeon-woo replies that he’d like to redeem himself.
Kang-seok is curious if he plans to use his prodigious memory to do that, but Yeon-woo says that in fact, it’s desperation caused by the harsh consequence of a mistake: “I’m more desperate than anyone to make up for the mistakes I made.”
This time, Kang-seok’s “Pass” is sincere. He says that while Yeon-woo can memorize law books, his skill is reading people. He tells Yeon-woo that this is his chance to be a lawyer and redeem himself, and he gives him a Joker card, saying, “This card… is you. Depending on your choices and effort, your card can turn into an ace, or some meaningless number. Get rid of that briefcase first. You’ll start from there.”
Yeon-woo hurries to the restroom to flush what must be a fortune in drugs down the toilet. As he walks home, he stops on a bridge and pulls out the Joker. We see someone fan a deck of cards out in front of a young boy, asking him which he would choose if he could only pick one to win. The boy chooses the Joker, explaining that it’s nothing now, but later, it can become anything.
Yeon-woo stashes the briefcase in a subway locker, then goes home and immediately starts studying. He stays up all night, and in the morning he dresses in the suit again. He pauses to look at the Joker again before he leaves, remembering his grandmother’s wise words: “When a man leaves his home to go on a journey, he takes a pair of shoes and at least one lie.”
He rides his bike to the subway station, and when he exits the underground passage, he finds that it’s begun to rain. He stops to watch the sudden storm next to a woman who also pauses for the unexpected weather, though they don’t notice each other.
We hear the same voiceover from earlier, saying that Fate is decided by the choices you make, not by coincidence. Yeon-woo steps out into the downpour and mounts his bike, spraying the woman with muddy water as he rides away. She shrieks indignantly, but Yeon-woo doesn’t hear her.
He goes back to the Kang & Ham building and nervously fidgets as he waits in Ha-yeon’s office. He’s confused when Kang-seok finally enters the room and orders him to leave. Yeon-woo asks where he’s supposed to go, and Kang-seok tells him, “Go home. You’re fired.”
I’ll be honest — that was a lot more fun than I expected! I’ve never seen the American version of Suits, but I actually prefer not to be familiar with the original source material when recapping
a drama. Freedom from expectations set up by another show allows me to evaluate this show based on its own merit, without constantly comparing the two. So in these recaps, I may make predictions and ask questions whose answers are obvious to those who have seen the original series, but let’s try not to give away any spoilers. I’d like to keep the discussions to what’s happened in this version, and not ruin things for those of us who are seeing all this for the first time!
I suppose I was expecting something more dry and straight-laced from this show, and to be fair, lawyer shows aren’t really a genre that usually interests me much simply because they are so often dry and straight-laced. So I was very pleasantly surprised that Suits turns out to be bright and fun, with quirky characters and twisty-turny scenes that kept my attention simply for the fact that I never knew what the characters were going to say or do. Even the side characters like jealous lawyer Geun-shik and Yeon-woo’s smarmy friend Chul-soon seem fully-realized and important, and I have no doubt they’ll both be back to cause problems for Kang-seok and Yeon-woo later.
For me, the main draw of Suits is definitely Park Hyung-shik. He’s been making me sit up and pay attention he played Lee Jin-wook’s younger counterpart in Nine, way back when I first started watching dramas. I have always thought he has the potential to play really complex roles — he just seems capable of handling anything a character can throw at him, from comedy to drama (not to mention, he ain’t half bad to look at). He reliably chooses roles that fit him well, but I’ve always thought he could do more, and I believe that this show could be the one that really showcases his true talent.
And I like what he’s doing with the role of Yeon-woo so far. We know that Park Hyung-shik can emote like crazy, but I enjoyed seeing him as this very subdued character, at least at the beginning. I like how he played Yeon-woo as very understated and nuanced, and you could really feel how Yeon-woo’s genius has shaped his personality. He seems stiff and stand-offish, not because it’s how he is naturally, but probably as a defense mechanism from having been treated like a freak by people his whole life due to his perfect memory. I can’t wait to see how he changes now that he’s found someone who finds his ability an asset, something of value to be used to help himself and others instead of something to be exploited like a circus trick, and I’m confident that the character is in excellent hands.
Veteran lawyer Kang-seok is particularly unpredictable, and I love how Jang Dong-gun (Oh, I’ve missed him so much since A Gentleman’s Dignity!) played him entirely straight-faced, but with an undeniable cheekiness underneath the super-serious-lawyer facade. And Yeon-woo’s reactions to Kang-seok are understated but entertaining — he’s not sure what to think about this lawyer who seems so serious, but not only doesn’t turn him in to the cops, but invites him to defend himself and hires him despite his lack of a law degree. The fact that Kang-seok knows that Yeon-woo isn’t really a lawyer was the biggest surprise for me (I went in really blind), but I’m looking forward to the dynamic that will form as he simultaneously protects Yeon-woo from discovery, and teaches him how to be a good lawyer.