What’s Wrong With Secretary Kim: Episode 1
I didn’t realize how much I needed this show until I saw this first episode. It’s cheeky and irreverent, and loads of fun, but it’s not your typical summer rom-com. What’s Wrong with Secretary Kim may be silly on the surface, but it also has the potential to be thought-provoking and heart-wrenching as we get to know two people who have been around each other for so long, they don’t realize just how much they need each other.
EPISODE 1 RECAP
A serious, impeccably dressed man steps out of a car, and makes his way towards a fancy party being held by a hotel pool. We overhear a partygoer tell a friend that the man is LEE YOUNG-JOON (Park Seo-joon), that since he was made vice chairman of Yumyoung Group, the company’s profits have doubled.
The partygoer says that he’s the most competent young CEO in the nation, with a perfect face and body to match. A woman repeats a rumor that Young-joon stays away from women, but another woman claims to be currently dating Young-joon, though she admits that he keeps a distance.
Young-joon walks into the room, ignoring their greetings to sit alone on a sofa. He gracefully rests his chin on his hand, looking disturbed as he muses, “What’s wrong with her? Secretary Kim… what’s wrong with her?”
The lady in question, KIM MI-SO (Park Min-young), begins her work day at Young-joon’s home, making tea and choosing his suit and accessories for the day. She helps him with his tie, and he dramatically announces that his aura shines today. Mi-so contains her “this dude is whacko” reaction as she agrees that he is, indeed, dazzling.
Young-joon tells Mi-so not to answer a call from an executive director, unwilling to let the man’s bad news ruin his good mood. He says the executive director is guilty of incompetence, and also of being unaware of it, asking Mi-so how that’s even possible. Mi-so tells Young-joon indulgently that not everyone can be as perfect as him, and he chuckles in agreement. The phone rings again, and she says that this time, the call is from “an absolute sinner.”
She accompanies Young-joon to work and follows him to another director’s office. The man jumps up, stammering that there’s been a misunderstanding, but Young-joon launches into a vicious lecture about his lecherous activities during work hours. When he’s finished, Mi-so sends Young-joon to a board meeting after confiscating his cigarette.
After he leaves, Mi-so comforts the chastised director, explaining that Young-joon is only angry at him because he’s disappointed. She sends the director home to rest, and after he’s gone, Mi-so calls security to clear out his desk, reminding his secretary that Young-joon doesn’t give second chances.
At the board meeting, Director PARK YOO-SHIK (Kang Ki-young) outlines a plan to purchase an airline and grow it into a globally-ranking airline within five years. Young-joon interrupts to correct his math, then tells him to acquire the airline before abruptly marching out.
Once he’s gone, the executives all collapse into their chairs, complaining that Young-joon is way too intense. Yoo-shik punks them all by pretending that Young-joon walked back into the room, making them complain that Yoo-shik just doesn’t want them badmouthing his friend.
After listening to Mi-so speaking English on the phone, Young-joon remarks that her English has improved since they first visited the U.S. nine years ago. He credits his unwavering support, and Mi-so agrees that she improved because he embarrassed her every time she made a mistake. Young-joon entirely misses her sarcasm and says that if embarrassment and scolding helps, then he’ll continue to do so, and corrects her pronunciation of the word “accent.” PFFT.
They arrive at a decadent party that evening, Young-joon sporting a sharp tuxedo and Mi-so in a stunning red dress. As they navigate the evening, Young-joon speaks to the various foreign guests about his company in several languages.
At one point, a trio of beautiful ladies get excited when Young-joon seems to notice them and heads in their direction. But he walks right past them to admire his own reflection in a mirror, LOL, and Mi-so joins him and confirms that he looks perfect.
In the car after the party, Young-joon remarks that Mi-so spent a long time talking to some Spanish men who were hitting on her. She confesses that she doesn’t speak Spanish… she was just guessing what the men were saying based on their actions. She shows Young-joon the ring she wears on her left hand to ward away unwanted suitors, and Young-joon smiles his satisfaction. Aw, is someone a little jealous?
As a reward for doing such a great job tonight, Young-joon invites Mi-so to make a request, though he warns her not to confess her love for him, hee. She says that he needs to find a new secretary because she’s quitting, and Young-joon looks at her in disbelief.
He asks why, but she just says it’s personal. He says it’s fine if that’s what she wants, but his expression grows tight. And that night, Young-joon lies awake, tossing and turning and wondering why he can’t sleep.
In the morning, one employee tells his coworkers that Mi-so is resigning, but none of them believe him. Mi-so walks in and tells them it’s true, shooting down their wild guesses as to her reason and simply saying that it’s personal.
The two female employees, Se-ra and Young-ok, join Mi-so in the break room to talk about her resignation. Se-ra pays close attention to how Mi-so makes Young-joon’s tea, assuming it will be her job once Mi-so is gone, because (she thinks) she’s the prettiest woman in the office. Young-ok huffs indignantly, and Mi-so escapes as soon as Se-ra looks away, ha.
Up in Young-joon’s office, he sees Mi-so make a note when his chair squeaks, and tells her that he knows exactly what she’s thinking. He says confidently that she’s not really thinking of quitting, but she says he’s wrong. He asks if it’s the long hours he makes her work, but instead of answering, Mi-so tells him that she’ll do her best to find a perfect replacement.
When she finishes posting the job description, Mi-so looks up to see Young-joon glaring at her angrily. But he just tells her to push back his afternoon meeting and that he’ll eat lunch at home. Mi-so jumps at the chance for a little personal time and runs past Se-ra, who brought her lunch in an attempt to kiss up for the job.
Young-joon visits Yoo-shik’s office, obsessing about why Mi-so might be quitting. He’s upset because he can usually figure her out, but this time he has no clue what she’s thinking. Yoo-shik offers him a red ginseng supplement for his nerves, but Young-joon just wants to know why Mi-so is quitting.
Yoo-shik tells him that Mi-so is practically a saint for staying with him for nine years. He tells Young-joon that all relationships, no matter how good, suffer a slump every three years. He gets a little emotional thinking about his marriage, which got worse after three, six, and nine years, and ended in year ten.
Young-joon fidgets uncomfortably and orders Yoo-shik not to cry, telling him to get to the point. Yoo-shik says that he needs to talk to Mi-so and make a breakthrough. He offers to help, but Young-joon quips, “You got divorced because you couldn’t.” Well, he’s not wrong.
Meanwhile, Mi-so uses her free lunch hour to pay off a loan at the bank, accidentally signing the last payment slip “Secretary Lee.” She wilts when Young-joon calls her back to join him for lunch with his parents, but she runs back obediently and holds her breath so he can’t see her gasping for air.
In the car, Young-joon thinks hard about how to make a breakthrough. As they approach his parents’ house, he whirls and reminds her that he doesn’t give second chances. But he offers to make an exception for her, and even to promote her to director with her own assistant and company car. He keeps going, extravagantly offering to pay for her personal expenses and family debts, not to mention that she’d still have the world’s most perfect boss.
Before Mi-so can gracefully decline, they’re joined by Young-joon’s mother, who ushers them inside. Young-joon’s parents are sweet, but he’s stiff with them, refusing to listen to any advice on how to run the company. So they’re surprised when he asks if they’ve ever encountered burnout in their marriage, and his dad looks uncomfortable while his mother chirps anxiously that of course they’ve never experienced any such thing.
Mom comments that Young-joon seems taller, and he flatters her that he’s simply her creation which is why he respects her so much. Dad looks at Young-joon expectantly, hoping for a similar compliment, but Young-joon just tucks into his food, HA.
After lunch, Young-joon fills Dad in on the company’s future projects. But Dad spaces out, so Young-joon asks if there’s something he wants to say. Dad asks if he has plans for marriage and pretends to be on death’s door when Young-joon says he doesn’t. Then he yells that Mi-so is quitting, but Young-joon firmly informs him that he’ll never let that happen.
Mi-so has tea with Mom, who cautiously brings up the subject of Young-joon’s dating habits. She asks if it’s true that he doesn’t let girls touch him, and her lip wobbles when Mi-so confirms it. Mom tries to ask if her son is gay, but she can’t get the word out, so Mi-so takes pity on her and blurts, “Gay?? Oh, no, of course not!”
She reassures Mom that as long as she’s worked for him, she would know. Mom admits that she and Dad have been worried about Young-joon, and she’s curious how women perceive him. Mi-so says that he’s perfect, and Mom sighs that she wishes someone nice would date him – someone like, oh, say, Mi-so?
At Mi-so’s flustered expression, Mom laughs riotously and says she was joking. Mi-so is rescued by Young-joon, and on their way to the car, she tells him that Mom was trying to set things up between them. Young-joon preens and asks if she was excited, but she says it just confirmed that she needs to quit as soon as possible.
That evening Mi-so has dinner with her two older sisters, who feel guilty that they left most of their family debt for her to pay off. She says it’s fine, since they started pitching in eventually, and at least they didn’t cause trouble like their father, who borrowed money from a loan shark recently.
She says breezily that she sold her car to pay it off, a car that Young-joon bought for her when she missed her bus last week. She gives them a bright smile and laughs that she feels better with the debt paid off, but something in her laugh sounds a bit forced.
Young-joon joins Yoo-shik for dinner, still cranky over Mi-so’s resignation. Yoo-shik muses that something sudden must have happened to make Mi-so decide to quit, so Young-joon thinks back to the day of her announcement.
Mi-so also thinks of the party when her pollen allergy flares up over dinner. She recalls a woman, Ji-ran, wearing a similar (but much shorter) red dress, latching onto Young-joon. She’d aegyo’d that she came to the party to surprise him as he pulled her hand from his arm.
Ji-ran had asked if Young-joon noticed something different about her, and he’d looked to Mi-so, who’d covertly touched her throat. It had prompted him to compliment Ji-ran’s necklace, which he apparently gave to her (and which Mi-so actually purchased).
Ji-ran had pouted that she wants flowers for her birthday, and annoyed but knowing her job, Mi-so had scurried off to the hotel gift shop. She’d sneezed the entire way back to the party, violently allergic to the flowers, and Young-joon had assumed that her sniffling and watery eyes were because she was crying.
Hearing this, Yoo-shik thinks that Mi-so quit because she was upset at having to perform menial tasks like buying flowers. But Young-joon disagrees, having concluded that her real reason is because — drum roll — she likes him.
Mi-so laughs her butt off when her sisters decide that Young-joon must like her, since he’s always buying her shoes and clothes and even a car. She assures them that he loves himself too much to love anyone else, and that there’s nothing at all between them.
Lost in his dramatic little world again, Young-joon says that he’s been careful in case Mi-so had feelings for him, but that after nine years, it’s natural that she fell for him. Yoo-shik tries to talk him down from his fantasy, but Young-joon is enjoying it too much to listen.
Mi-so’s sisters gape when she drops the bomb that she’s quitting her job. She says that her sisters are settled and the family debt is paid off, so she’s ready to make a new start with a job that doesn’t take up all of her time.
A call from Young-joon interrupts their conversation, and she answers despite her sisters’ urging to ignore him. She tries to talk her way out of his summons to drive him home, even telling him to call Ji-ran and stay at her place tonight, but he insists.
As she’s looking for her keys, Mi-so spots a tiny spider near her foot, and she completely loses it. She screams hysterically while her sisters kill the spider, and when it’s all over, she asks her oldest sister Pil-nam if she’s sure she didn’t get lost when she was young. Apparently they’ve had this conversation before, and Pil-nam swears that nothing like that ever happened.
She collects herself before finding Young-joon waiting in his car at the office. He’s practicing a speech where he magnanimously accepts her feelings and offers to break up with Ji-ran, and when she gets in the car to drive him, he shoves a huge bouquet of flowers at her.
He smirks when her allergy kicks in, thinking that she’s crying with happiness, but she just sneezes right in his face. She gets out to stash the flowers in the trunk, and Young-joon congratulates himself for creating such a touching moment.
On the way home, he tells Mi-so that he’s breaking up with Ji-ran soon, that he never slept with her, and that he’s not dating anyone else, punctuating each statement with, “Okay?” He gives Mi-so tomorrow off to reconsider his offer, and she happily accepts the “day off” part, except for an interview she’s holding with her potential replacement.
Young-joon asks if she’s lined up a new job, and she says she hasn’t yet. He looks worried when she says she’s not sure if she’s even staying in Seoul, and asks why she’s resigning with no plans. She says she wants to live life not as someone’s secretary, but for herself.
Poor Young-joon looks exhausted in the morning, having stayed up all night wondering what Mi-so calls her nine years with him if not her life. He takes an indulgently broody shower (lucky us!), and when he trudges to the mirror, he’s horrified to find a pimple on his forehead. And awww, he can’t even manage to tie his own tie.
He goes to work tieless and in a terrible mood, stopping to glare at Mi-so’s empty desk before stomping into his office. He decides to cheer up, but finding Mi-so’s resignation letter on his desk plunges him right back into despair.
He ends up in Yoo-shik’s office gobbling up his red ginseng like candy, morosely wondering what Mi-so meant about wanting to live her own life. He quickly calculates that he and Mi-so have spent more hours together than most married couples, wondering if she’s upset because she likes him too much. Oh honey, no.
Yoo-shik notes that Young-joon seems awfully upset, and he asks if Young-joon has feelings for Mi-so, but Young-joon emphatically denies it. Yoo-shik mentions how Young-joon doesn’t let women touch him and asks if he suffered a trauma.
Young-joon says he just doesn’t like women, but that Mi-so is different. But when Yoo-shik asks how she’s different, Young-joon stalls out. He finally blurts that “she’s just Secretary Kim,” and flees the room.
Mi-so wakes up rested after a good night’s sleep, and she takes her time getting ready to go to the office to hold the interview. She takes some time typing up notes for her successor, and concludes that the last, and most crucial thing, is the reason she’s quitting… but she doesn’t finish. Why do I have the feeling it’s “don’t fall for your boss”?
She’s alarmed when she sees Young-joon looking pale and exhausted, but he declines her offer to call the doctor for sleeping pills, or his dermatologist for the pimple on his forehead. He does ask if she’s worried about him, and she says she is, of course. Young-joon wants to know if she’s saying that as Secretary Kim, or Kim Mi-so.
Mi-so nervously asks what he means, but they’re interrupted by the applicant for the secretarial position. Young-joon says he’ll hold the interview in his office and orders Mi-so to observe. He’s completely childish during the interview, asking the applicant, KIM JI-AH, who she’ll live as if she gets the job, Secretary Kim or Kim Ji-ah.
She trills that she’ll be both as Mi-so shoots Young-joon a look. Mi-so and Young-joon take increasingly passive aggressive jabs at each other disguised as interview questions (Young-joon: “I need someone who won’t quit with abstract excuses like ‘personal reasons.’” Mi-so: “Do you think you can satisfy a boss that’s perfect?”), thoroughly confusing the young applicant.
When Mi-so says that the pay is good but Ji-ah will have no life, Young-joon asks her directly if all the hours she’s put in aren’t considered her life. She just glares at him, and he hires Ji-ah on the spot. He instructs his assistant to show Ji-ah around, and tells Mi-so to train Ji-ah to be her clone before she leaves.
He stops Mi-so from leaving to ask what she meant by wanting to get her life back. She tells him her life has been all about work, so she wants to have time to herself. Less confidently, she says that she’s twenty-nine, so she wants to start thinking about getting married, and Young-joon head-tilts at her in confusion.
Mi-so meets with some old friends, and her two married friends urge her not to get married, while the single friend jokes that they’re just showing off. Mi-so’s purse spills, and her friend finds a man’s tie, handkerchief, and lighter. Mi-so explains that they’re things Young-joon occasionally needs, but her friends suddenly look uncomfortable and judgmental.
On the bus home, Mi-so watches a family with two young children, and she remembers how she accidentally signed her name “Secretary Kim.” She goes home and packs up several journals she’s filled with notes on Young-joon, and anything else that reminds her of him. She also packs the instructions she wrote for her replacement, and on a sticky note, she writes, “The most important thing you should remember is to make time for yourself.”
Young-joon is at the party where we first saw him, scoffing at Mi-so’s wish for her own life and family. He asks Ji-ran what she thinks of him, and she gets flirtatious, calling him successful, handsome, and sexy. She puckers up for a kiss, but Young-joon rushes his car and speeds away.
Mi-so is at home, her hair down and wearing comfy clothes. She’s about to look through an old personal journal when there’s a knock on the door. It’s Young-joon, looking thunderous, and he insists on talking outside.
He asks if Mi-so really meant what she said when she spoke of dating and marriage. She asks if he’s here late at night to ask her that, but he barrels on, asking if she’s dating behind his back. He denies being angry, saying it’s none of his business, but when she says she’s not dating, he’s all, “Of course not!”
Thoroughly confused, Mi-so says that she hasn’t had time to date. She tells Young-joon that for years, she’s had to be at work at six in the morning and never knew when her day would end, and was expected to come running whenever he called.
Unconvinced, Young-joon asks if that was her only reason (for quitting). Mi-so asks who will take care of her if she gets on his bad side when she’s older and gets fired. Young-joon promises never to fire her, but Mi-so fears that he wants her to be his secretary for the rest of her life and grow old, single and alone.
Young-joon asks if she’s really quitting because she wants to get married that much, and Mi-so says it’s true. He thinks about it for a moment, then says, “Then keep your job. I, Lee Young-joon, will marry you.”
Whoa, that escalated quickly. I can actually understand why Young-joon would make such an offer, and how it wouldn’t seem like much of a leap to him: Mi-so wants to get married, and he doesn’t want to lose her as his secretary, so logically, if they get married, they both get what they want. What he fails to understand is that he’s missed Mi-so’s point entirely. What she wants isn’t simply marriage, but what it represents — love, freedom, and choice in how to live her life. Right now, Young-joon represents work and obligation to Mi-so, so I fully expect her to fling his thoughtless proposal right back in his face.
But I’m so glad that Young-joon and Mi-so had that talk… well, argument. As much time as they spend together, I’m guessing they’ve never had a real, honest conversation, and obviously Mi-so had a lot of reasonable fears and concerns. Young-joon has monopolized all of her time for years, never realizing how unfair it was of him, and although at first I thought she was nuts for quitting a well-paying, stable job, by the end of the episode I could feel Mi-so’s frustration and desire for more out of life. And Young-joon needed to hear that he’s been selfish and thoughtless… it probably didn’t sink in, because he’s got a pretty thick skull, but it will in time.
It seems obvious that Young-joon already has a head start over Mi-so when it comes to unrealized romantic feelings. He’s already showing some jealousy such as when Mi-so got male attention at the party, and his feelings of rejection over her quitting her job are definitely more personal than professional. But of course he doesn’t know he’s feeling anything for Mi-so other than dependence and familiarity, because he’s not in the habit of thinking highly of anyone but himself. But with Park Seo-joon at the wheel, watching Young-joon learn to stop being such a navel-gazing twit and make an effort to care about someone else should be hilariously fun.
And if anyone can perfectly pull off a character like Young-joon, it’s Park Seo-joon — he somehow manages to take a character who’s completely arrogant, wholly self-absorbed, and infuriatingly self-indulgent, and still make him adorable and endearing. What’s more, you can tell he’s having fun, and the only thing I love more than seeing an actor play a character to perfection is watching them have a blast while doing it. It’s a quality he brings to all of his characters, that little sparkle of his own enjoyment in portraying them, and it’s one of the reasons I luff him so much.
And Park Min-young is no slouch, either — she’s been a personal favorite since Sungkyunkwan Scandal, and she’s only gotten better with time. I didn’t get as strong of a sense of Mi-so’s personality in this first episode like I did with Young-joon, but that’s understandable. Mi-so’s job requires her to wear a pleasantly neutral mask, so much so that after almost ten years, even she doesn’t know who she is. She works hard to always seem cheerful and pleasant, even to her friends and family. The most authentic moment we saw from Mi-so was when she freaked out at the spider, but otherwise she’s careful to keep her true feelings hidden. I do think Mi-so has feelings for Young-joon, but if she’s aware of them, she probably wonders if they’re even real, since her whole life revolves around him and his needs. I think that Mi-so is right to want to break away and figure out who she really is apart from “Secretary Kim.” Her personal journey should be interesting as she figures out what she wants from life.
My first impression of What’s Wrong with Secretary Kim is overwhelmingly positive. It’s bright and funny in unexpected ways, but the actors have the chops to offers some pretty heavy-hitting emotional moments once the characters’ feelings start to get involved. I’m particularly appreciative of the twist on the typical office love story, which almost always begins when the lead pair start working together. But in Young-joon and Mi-so’s case, they’ve been working together for almost a decade already, which I anticipate will complicate their inevitable romance an interesting ways. I’m hoping for something like we saw in Fight My Way — two people who already know each other inside and out, but only in a certain context, who struggle when it becomes necessary to redefine their relationship. It’s going to be awkward and weird and adorable, and I can’t wait.