Rating:
Average user rating 5.0
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The Lies Within: Episodes 1-2 (Series review)

OCN’s newest weekend thriller (and Netflix Original) lands with a crisp entrée into a world of subterfuge that lies cloaked beneath a winding litany of the mundane. This has been one of my most anticipated pairings of the year: Lee Min-ki needs no introduction, and I LOVE Lee Yoo-young. She’s been one of my absolute most favorite actresses since Tunnel back in 2017, and she consistently elevates every role she’s had.

There’s always something quietly hurt about her portrayals that makes my heart ache, and I admit it’s hard not to be reminded of her own personal history while seeing her take on this role. This show sees her unite with Lee Yoon-jung, the director of 2017’s Argon, Kim Joo-hyuk’s last drama before he passed away. I don’t know if is anything more to this union, but I hope it proves healing for all.

The basic premise of the drama is that after the death of her father, Assemblyman KIM SEUNG-CHUL (Kim Jong-soo), and her husband’s disappearance, KIM SEO-HEE (Lee Yoo-young) is forced to run for assembly if she ever wants to see the latter again. She teams up with Lee Min-ki’s detective character to uncover the truth.

The Lies Within opens on the scene of a young woman’s suicide: We don’t know who and we don’t know why. But we do know that it causes huge distress to Seo-hee’s husband and CEO of JQ Group, JUNG SANG-HOON (Lee Jun-hyuk). Confronting his father-in-law, Assemblyman Kim, he says that they both know that woman would never commit suicide, and he swears to bring to light to everything that led to her death.

The encounter and his intense emotion suggest that Sang-hoon is as straight as they come, while the assemblyman clearly has things on his conscience. He leaves without a word, despite Seo-hee begging him for explanations. The relationship between husband and wife is clearly full of things Sang-hoon doesn’t say, and it leaves Seo-hee to believe he’s having an affair. That same night, the assemblyman dies in a car crash while heading to an unknown destination.

We’re introduced to investigating detective JO TAE-SHIK (Lee Min-ki) and his team. Tae-shik is an effective detective, but he wants nothing more than to be done with Seoul so he can relocate to a rural precinct and be close to his mother (which tells you everything worth knowing about him, right?). His team practically refuses to let him go—it’s always “one more case,” and it’s clear that he’s a caring sunbae, though he seems to have something of a permanently distracted air.

I’m glad to see Lee Min-ki still bringing his trademark weirdness to his character. He’s best when he’s offbeat, and he binds it all perfectly together with a twist of satoori. He also has an interestingly clipped way of speaking, as if he’s speaking half out loud, and half in his head. Watching him work makes me think of the expression “a clock that keeps its own time,” which I think is a perfect description of him. He moves at his own pace, regardless of how slow or fast things are around him, and follows where the evidence leads. Unlike other team members, who have theories they attach to, he attaches only to the clues, not his suppositions of what story the clues should tell. It seems like a random distinction, but it’s also what sets him apart from his colleagues, and has the effect of allowing the plot to accelerate at a rapid pace—which it does.

With Assemblyman Kim barely cold in his grave (in a manner of speaking), his party leader approaches Seo-hee’s mom, and strongly suggests Seo-hee run in the upcoming by-election to replace him. On the one hand, it could be for simple political continuity and to maintain the party’s stronghold, but on the other… well, we’ll get to that. Seo-hee is definitely not politician ilk, but there’s a cryptic allusion to covering up the assemblyman’s wrongdoings and preserving his reputation. Is that a threat from the party leader if they don’t co-operate?

Tae-shik is the first one to pick up on the clues that point to Assemblyman Kim’s death not being an accident, and they all realize that Sang-hoon has also disappeared since the night of the crash. According to his secretary, he’s gone abroad on a business trip—except he hasn’t, so where is he?

It all comes to a gruesome head at Assemblyman Kim’s memorial, where they’re sent a box with a severed hand—Sang-hoon’s. Seo-hee recognizes it by their matching wedding bands, but DNA confirms it. She latches on to the hope that he was alive while it happened, which is horrible, but then maybe he’s not dead? She’s the last known person to have seen him alive, and she unwillingly admits that it was to serve him with divorce papers.

For Tae-shik, each clue slots into the next, and he reveals a broad chain of connections between Sang-hoon and Assemblyman Kim, which tells quite a different story to the one Seo-hee (and Tae-shik’s team, lol) imagined. Rather than amorous assignations, Sang-hoon seems to have been working secretly with Assemblyman Kim on some project relating to his renewable energy company.

In a turn of entertaining irony, the Seoul team relocates to Songju, the district where Assemblyman Kim died… and where Tae-shik was headed out to anyway. The funniest part is that he doesn’t turn a hair at all. I love this character, he’s so in his own world, haha! Also this means the continued hilarity of his Laurel-and-Hardy hoobaes, KANG JIN-KYUNG (Kim Shi-eun) and JEON HO-GYU (Yoon Jong-seok). Jin-kyung is always a little over-the-top and off the mark, while Ho-gyu is acerbically square; both are immediately endearing and (mostly) competent, but what makes the dynamic really fun is that she’s the sunbae and bosses Ho-gyu around accordingly.

Sang-hoon’s abandoned car turns up in a remote neighborhood, and leads Tae-shik to a local teahouse. Sang-hoon was last seen there having a heated argument with someone after Assemblyman Kim’s death. The flashback shows the man fuming over Sang-hoon trying to compensate him for something, and I wonder if this has anything to do with the girl whose death he was so upset about?

The witness recalls the other man’s distinctive smell. The trail leads to a closed-down concrete factory and a man called Kim Pil-yeon, who had a past connection to Assemblyman Kim. They think that he took their plans to locate a renewable energy plant in Songju as a personal betrayal, and abducted Sang-hoon in revenge.

But the story is full of holes, even when a knife turns up that implicates Kim—that, Tae-shik thinks, is even weirder. Why cut off his hand in one place, and bring the knife all the way back here? It makes no sense—and it wouldn’t, because Kim isn’t the mastermind, evidenced by the fact that he’s on the run himself, and nearly killed by an unseen figure.

Sang-hoon is the heir of JQ Group, which was founded by his father, Chairman JUNG YOUNG-MOON. Chairman Jung is a character I can’t get a read on yet. He can’t have ordered what happened to his son, but he’s definitely got his hand in something shady, given his chief aide’s bloody errands. The aide savagely chases down Kim Pil-yeon in an effort to find Sang-hoon, but Kim bests him and escapes.

Meanwhile, Seo-hee gets hacked, and is sent the horrifying video of her husband getting his hand severed. She’s told that the only way she can save his life is to run for assembly (and if she tells anyone, he dies)… which is kind of random? But I suppose it will become clearer as we go on what exactly the mastermind means to achieve through her. In any case, Seo-hee immediately announces her intention to run. It’s the moment she dons a new mask, where you can see the beginnings of the woman of steel she’s going to have to become if she wants to survive this.

But there’s never just one villain, is there? Kim Pil-yeon calls her out, apparently demanding money in exchange for her husband’s location. She arrives at the specified storage container, where’s she’s met by a hanging body… whose identity we’ll find out next week. Gah! But my money is on it being Kim himself. He’s clearly out of his league with whatever is happening, and I think he has no idea how big this is going. I’m also fascinated by the mystery of Sang-hoon. He’s definitely not a cipher but he’s also a totally unknown quantity. What was he up to? Where is he now? I think he must still be alive, but for what purpose? What is the villain’s actual goal?

It must be said that these opening episodes are really dense, and I wouldn’t blame anyone for emerging from them with their expectancy heavily tinged with confusion. That’s because they are somewhat confusing: There are many introductions, and events come at you in rapid succession. Keeping names, faces and connections straight is no easy task this early on, and even for the purpose of this review, I’ve had to watch and rewatch, study character charts, and double- and triple-check all the details. Its main achievement so far is atmosphere, and it delivers a lonely, small-town noir feel which is lightened by the oddball characters populating the detectives’ side of the story.

I’m not sure how maxed out I am on corporate corruption and political machinations right now, with every next drama leaning so heavily on that formula. The parts that keep me invested are always the small-scale team moments and personal interactions, and I hope that that aspect will stay the primary focus of the drama, because the fatigue I get from trying to care about (and tell apart) endless bunches of greedy old men is too real. That said, I always love a show that is rich for character exploration and rewards attention to detail, and this one does have the makings of it. We’ve spent the opening episodes laying the groundwork for the major plot and character arcs, so with the set-up out of the way, I’m expecting the show to really hit its stride next week.

 
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On the other hand, though I love the actors, I found the episodes rather predictable and nothing new or clever in the plotting. So much so that I feel like I've seen this before. I mean, when the first episode is called "Hand" whaddayathink is going to happen. When she thought he'd come back to her you knew it was a dream. Etc.
But I'll still watch as I like the actors.

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Thank you for this review! This is the first Min-ki drama to not be recapped here since the site started recaps in 2007 with Dal-ja’s Spring and that makes me sad, but at least we’ll have this!

Can I just say how nice it is to see Lee Min-ki act alive like a human being again? Beauty Inside robbed him of all his vitality as an actor and I don’t hesitate to call it the worst performance of his whole career. I’m SO GLAD he didn’t suddenly forget how to act. Yes, that was a very small but very real concern of mine.

The whole first episode was just a huge sigh of relief for me. I’m just glad that I can love just watching him move and hearing him speak again.

Now that I got that out of the way...

First things first: these police are dumb as hell while they’re investigating. Really dumb. I mean, police are usually kind of dumb in kdramas but I don’t usually watch crime dramas so I guess I kind of forgot about it. The amount of times I CRINGED during the crime scene investigations... oh my god. The ridiculousness of the car simulation in episode 1 made everything in episode 2 seem not that bad in comparison, though. Still, I’m hoping for less focus on the team. They add nothing to the show. I can close my eyes and try to ignore investigative stupidity, but actively annoying characters are harder to ignore.

But that aside, I don’t think Tae-shik is dumb when it comes to analyzing the information and situation, so at least there’s that. He seems cold towards the bereaved, but it’s clear that he just wants out, and I appreciate that he doesn’t half-ass the case despite clearly wanting to. He can be a jerk towards his teammates, but come on. They’re idiots! She’s one of the most annoying characters I’ve come across recently and the new guy’s not exactly the sharpest tool in the shed. I would get annoyed with them, too (although, again, Tae-shik showed his share of stupidity at the crime scene as well). I would really like to see more interactions between him and his mom, and I hope she doesn’t die too soon.

Lee Yoo-young is, of course, amazing. Seo-hee seems meek and broken right now, but honestly, she is blinded by grief. I would be surprised if she WASN’T a wreck. We still have a lot to learn about her and her family’s dynamics, but I wouldn’t be surprised if her father was a huge pillar of support for her, and his death mixed with her husband’s disappearance would drive anyone insane, I think. She has a lot of room for growth as a character, and I expect (and hope) that’s what one of the focuses of the show will be. I’m eager to see her kick off her election campaign, and I’m curious to see how her relationship and collaboration with Tae-shik will develop.

I’m not one for thrillers usually, so I’ll let others spark the discussions about the mystery itself. Character development is the most important thing in a show for me, so that’s what I focus on most when I watch and it’s what sticks with me. Lee...

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Lee Yoo-young and Lee Min-ki described this drama as a thriller with a “human touch”, and I’m hoping that means an increased focus on the players as people rather than just the investigation and mystery. These writers are new as far as I know, so I have nothing to use to base my expectations off of, but here’s hoping they give these characters a decent journey.

Really, though... all I asked from this drama was for it to be better than Beauty Inside. And I got that. I’m pretty happy. Happier than I was last October, anyway.

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Oh, yeah, I forgot about the hand. I mean, didn't they try to fingerprint it? Maybe I just missed that, or they did it but didn't mention it. You are so right about the incompetent police.
And I only started watching it for Lee Min Ki too, I've never seen him as a "normal" person. He really is good.

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...."these police are dumb"

Procedural shows work when they rely on only one "suspension of disbelief". In, this show the policing is so poor, and the crimes and violence so badly rendered it is constantly breaking me out of immersion.

ATM, each of these almost requires a new "suspension of disbelief" just to get through episodes.

Nearly everything about the hand is hilarious - its like a prop out of a school play.
The police repeatedly tainting the crime scene and such a poor chain of custody.
Normally after a fatal crash, the hazmat team clean the site of oil/petrol/blood etc...but here evidence remains for ages, exposed to the weather and use. (these scenes can't be just after the crash as the car has been sent to the wreckers).

I hope this is just early setup jitters and the show finds its rhythm as there are some interesting things buried inside this. I also really want this to be a role LMK can sink his teeth into.

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Well, I did spot another one of my favourite actresses Ye Soo-Jung as the coroner identifying the hand, and after her awesome role as the Evil MiL in WWW, there's no way she'll only be on our screen for a minute.

So... she clearly is going to play a big part, has purposefully mis-identifed the hand, and is probably plotting together with the husband - keeps him safely hidden somewhere - whilst manipulating the wife into standing for government.

Or maybe not lol. And she really is just playing a one-min part. Lets call it a cameo.

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Cloggie, clearly YOU should be writing this drama!

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I've already put waaaaay too much thought into this and decided that the coroner does have easy access to dead bodies, so she could chop off a hand and pretend it was his.

*this would totally work*

I will stick with my theory until I'm proven wrong. Who am I kidding? I will stick with it even after I've been proven wrong!

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@cloggie
You are on fire here. I would so watch dramas with you!

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Dumb?! Kang Jin Kyung will single handedly solve this mystery. You just watch.

Also, yes. It's good to see LMK differently.

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I feel like she’ll die before she gets a chance.

And I won’t be sad.

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Thanks for reading! I'll just drop the note here that I'll be checking back in with a mid-series review after episode 8, and then a final review at the end, just so they don't drop out of the blue to you guys!

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Thanks for letting us know your plan. I think it might be a good idea for you to put this either at the beginning or the end of your write up in the future. I know in the past many beanies were confused if reviews like this were only for just one episode or not.

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Weeee! Thank you so much, Saya! Just knowing there will be places to discuss makes me happy. I look forward to seeing your thoughts later on!

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i've never seen your thoughts (but i know you were on hiatus) and i loved reading it. thank you for sharinggg

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Ahhhhhhggggghhhhh I’m blushing. Thank you so much, amara!

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While reading this recap, I’d been thinking what was Lee Minki’s last drama? Was it “Because This Is My First Life”? And I really forgot he’s done “Beauty Inside”, until I read you’ve mentioned him his last drama, LoL. I didn’t finish “Beauty Inside”, so I almost forgot was there, LoL.

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Sometimes I genuinely forget about Beauty Inside too and then reality slaps me in the face

I guess it makes sense that I forget because to me, The Beauty Inside = TBI = Traumatic Brain Injury

Which, incidentally, is probably what his character had in that drama...

It’s really best forgotten.

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Thanks for your review, Mindy. I think I am going to pass on this one. After Vagabond and Melt Me, I don't think I can take another dumb drama. My blood pressure is very dangerously high atm. :)

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LOL. To be fair, despite the silly police work, I think it has a lot more potential than either Vagabond or Melt Me had from their premiere weeks! But I understand.

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hmmmm idk. i didnt...not not like but watcher was a tough watch for (lolz) but there was a procedural aspect to it. i wanna see this because it sounds interesting but the reason i bring up watcher is because its density was a HUGE hindrance to my enjoyment of it. we can't pack everything in and expect to know the answers.

honestly i think the importance of fighting the ills of infrastructure and capitalism are imperative, but there's always huge components missing in media, and double that for kdramas. i'm glad the MC is a woman though and i like lee yoo young i haven't finish anything she's in but i just do. i say this every time though, she just has an older soul and look to her? her being so young is crazy.

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I love Lee Min Ki but I think I’ll hold off from watching this drama. The last severed hand I saw was in WELCOME 2 LIFE and I haven’t yet recovered from the gruesomeness. But I’ll be checking out your mid-drama review @saya. :)

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@wishfultoki

FYI - the hand is so obviously fake rubber...and shows no signs of the crime described in the show. (seriously you can get scarier ones for halloween costumes)

I don't know what your stomach level is set for, but for me, the fact that its reveal was so signposted and the prop so fake it did not raise even a grimace.

Others may want to give a different reading to help you get a more accurate gauge.

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The hand really isn’t that gruesome, but there was one scene in ep 2 that made me cringe.

Wait it out and I’ll let you know if it’s worth watching, even just for Min-ki! We all know I’ll be around for all 16 episodes even if it ends up being a dumpster fire.

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Ok thanks! 😊

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Loved every minute of this. Someone did a full on analysis of “Hand” and how the writer and PD wove it into the plot in the Soomoi thread. And someone put together a timeline too which was very helpful. Yes there was a lot to take in with so much happening but it’s cleverly written and the acting has been superb. Staying for the big reveals and for how it will all play out. 🙂

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^Soompi

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I probably sound bland, but as much as skip-able and uninspired the premier episodes are, my happiness from seeing Lee Min Ki back on his wits again will probably powered me through more episodes.
I don't care if the show doesn't get any better than this, since I found it okayish anyway (for now).
I'm too relieved after seeing Lee Min Ki on Beauty Inside and Because This Is My First Life.
I already forgot how attractive he actually is thanks to that two drama, but here seeing his role made me nostalgic of his Byung Hee from Shut Up Flower Boy Band, although it's still completely a different character.
I'm a bit worried yet in awe with Lee Yoo Young's portrayal of her character, and the fact that she often comes across as hurting in her roles. Hope she slowly heals, and that whenever she's required for sad scenes in her drama, it help her vent all her grief and ease her heart in the process.

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SUFBB!

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Please, no ToD in this one. I wonder if LMK has a "No ToD" rider in his contracts.

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I didn't know much about this drama when I started, about from that Lee Yoo-young was in it, who I love, and that @mary pointed out that her character on the campaign trail looked just like her character campaigning in My Fellow Citizens. So I've only got myself to blame for starting watching this with ENTIRELY the wrong expectations.

That said, not knowing what you're going to get can sometimes be good, and getting something way darker than what you expect is fine as well.

LYY is absolutely magnetic. I cannot take my eyes off her when she's on the screen. However, knowing what's been going on in her personal life makes watching her play a woman who's husband has died/disappeared/kidnapped a really hard watch. I hope she looks after herself and has a team of people around her who do that too.

I like Lee Min-ki in this too. However I'm not a big fan of the rest of the police team. I think I'm allergic to set-ups where the only woman in a team is a complete idiot and only there to say stupid stuff & voice outlandish theories. Even the new boy is shown to be sharper than she is. Maybe she'll improve. (I know I'm being foolishly optimistic)

I think I'll keep watching until the show annoys me too much. Just for LYY.

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When it comes to that hoobae: about halfway through the first episode I hoped someone would kill her or me and didn't entirely care which.

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whenever a female side character is there purely to be stupid or to cry because the ML is moving to another place, I want to throw something at the screen.

Because I also watch Extraordinary You, I now have images in my mind of her saying: my line is what??? stupid writer!
It makes it a lot more bearable

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What makes it worse is that I suspect she's there to be killed. Because we'll care more if she's his devoted bumbling hoobae he took good care of.

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I can’t believe I’m saying this because I hate when teams of cops are all-male, but I wish she was a dude. She would still annoy the heck out of me but at least it wouldn’t be the only female cop that’s annoying the heck out of me, because that’s just disappointing.

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@mindy, they could have gender-swapped the two hoobae characters and that would have been perfect.

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It's kind of like in the U.S. where the minority character is there to be killed.

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@mindy " I can’t believe I’m saying this because I hate when teams of cops are all-male..."
I prefer all male casts. Maybe it's because of the way they usually treat female characters. I don't even know what a good female cop is even supposed to act like anymore.

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Funny thing is, I would have never known she was such a complete idiot until everyone here talked about it so much. I just really didn't pay any attention to her any more than any of the rest of the idiotic police team. Are they written that way to make LMK's character so much better?
Poor writing for sure.

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“Lee Min-trademark weirdness” - great reminder of what makes his acting stick.

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Thank you for the recap, @saya
Oh, I did not know this drama is the reunion work for Lee Yoo Young & the PD of “Argon” ... Bittersweet 😥😥

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After reading all of @mindy's comments and @saya's review, this is next on my list. I love Lee Min Ki and have missed him since it's been sooo long since his last drama (the real last drama didn't exist, right?).

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I really liked Because This is My First Life. You didn't?

;).

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I loved that one. The last one.

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That was my failed attempt at a joke.

I will work on it.

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(mugyuljoie was playing along too LOL)

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His last role was the cameo in WHAT'S WRONG SECRETARY KIM right?

;)

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Ohhhhhh...I read it wrong. Silly me.

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Your joke worked, my reply didn't.

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And here I thought he'd been done in by a TOD already.... ;D

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