9.9 Billion Won Woman: Episodes 1-2
Each day only gets worse for the protagonist as she’s beaten both physically and emotionally by those around her. She passes through life without much passion and seems resigned to her desolate fate until she stumbles upon the chance of a lifetime. Whether her choice brings her freedom or destruction, all actions have consequences, both big and small.
NOTE: This is just a first episode recap.
EPISODE 1 RECAP
In the dead of the night, a group of black suited men watch an excavator dig out a crate. Inside, they find a large stash of bills which the men neatly organize and stack into shipping boxes labeled as frozen shrimp. After loading all the boxes into five different vehicles, they head off in the same direction except for the last car which turns the other way.
During breakfast, wife JUNG SEO-YEON (Jo Yeo-jung) watches her husband HONG IN-PYO (Jung Woong-in) slurp away at his noodles. He suddenly asks if she set a date with her friend, Hee-joo, for their couple’s vacation, but when Seo-yeon answers in the negative, he slams his chopsticks down.
He reminds her of his business’s precarious state and orders her to call her friend today. Despite his use of formal speech, his words are laced with malice and contempt for his wife. When Seo-yeon tries speaking to him, he ignores her to work on his model ship and leaves the house without even glancing in her direction. Seo-yeon clearly feels suffocated by her relationship as she imagines herself sinking in water.
Seo-yeon cleans houses for a living, and her first client for the day is a mean-spirited grandma who calls her a thief. The grandma muses that Seo-yeon either caused big trouble in the past or will in the coming future, but Seo-yeon thinks that she isn’t bold enough to cause anything.
Her other client is a professional photographer who snaps pictures of Seo-yeon without her consent. She comments on Seo-yeon’s mysterious expressions, and asks if she can come clean her apartment while she’s away for an overseas shoot.
After finishing her work, Seo-yeon receives a call from an unidentified number and finds her way to a hotel room where a man dressed in a bathrobe greets her. Though she spurs his kiss at first, he brings her to the bed with little resistance.
The scene fades away, and Seo-yeon stands in the hotel room, looking out the window. She imagines herself drowning again when the man in the bathrobe, LEE JAE-HOON (Lee Ji-hoon), hugs her from behind. She asks Jae-hoon why he likes her—someone who’s married, uneducated, and has nothing.
He turns to face her and asks why she likes him: “Because I’m married, handsome, and rich?” He calls Seo-yeon special because she has him, and gifts her a necklace. Seo-yeon agrees that she’s special if being “special” means someone who seduces her friend’s husband. Scandalous!
While driving, Jae-hoon receives a call from In-pyo who mentions their upcoming joint retreat. This is news to Jae-hoon, but he doesn’t let the opportunity pass to belittle In-pyo for mixing business with pleasure. Jae-hoon hangs up on him, and In-pyo’s face immediately hardens after the call. He sits alone in a large cold room and scrapes away the ice buildup on the crates with growing frustration.
Jae-hoon visits his wife, Chairwoman YOON HEE-JOO (Oh Na-ra), and acts the part of the doting husband. Hee-joo tells him that someone saw him at a hotel, but Jae-hoon lies about meeting a friend for coffee. He casually brings up the vacation idea he heard from In-pyo and tells her to set the time since he’s always on standby for her. He kisses her on the forehead, but out of sight, he wipes his lips.
When Seo-yeon comes home, In-pyo sits in the dark, staring at a broken piece of his model ship. He accuses Seo-yeon of breaking it and doesn’t listen to her when she denies it. Turning on music, he then asks her if she called Hee-joo. She tells him that she did, but when pressed for more details, she can’t answer.
In-pyo chuckles, calling her out for lying again, and smacks her hard across the face. He drags Seo-yeon by her hair and dunks her into an ice bath he prepared. He calls this her “punishment,” and Seo-yeon begs for his forgiveness.
In-pyo tells her that he’s already forgiven her for so much—not taking care of the house, losing their child, becoming infertile—and blames her for causing him pain. He dunks her head underwater, and the music drowns out the noises coming from the bathroom.
Still soaking wet, Seo-yeon is thrown onto the balcony, and In-pyo gives her two options: stay out here until morning or jump off. While In-pyo ignores her desperate pleas to come inside, her phone rings—it’s Hee-joo. In-pyo answers the call, much to Hee-joo’s surprise, and he nonchalantly mentions how excited his wife is for the vacation and sets the date for this weekend.
After the call ends, Seo-yeon bangs on the door for In-pyo to open it, but he turns off the lights and walks away. Resigned to her fate, Seo-yeon grabs a thin blanket from the laundry and slumps to the ground. As her situation worsens, Seo-yeon sinks deeper and deeper into the water.
In a PC room, the other patrons throw disgusted glares at a slob sleeping in front of a computer, and the part-timer goes to wake the person up: manager KANG TAE-WOO (Kim Kang-woo). To the part-timer’s annoyance, Tae-woo passes on his managerial duties to him, so he can play video games all day.
A group of high schoolers barge into the PC room looking for username “Romantic Assassin” (aka, Tae-woo), and he readily agrees to fight them. Outside, he advises the high schoolers to rush him at once since he’s busy, and not soon after, the bruised and beaten high schoolers are playing video games alongside him in the PC room.
The owner arrives to check up on Tae-woo, and noticing him shirking his responsibilities, he shuts off the power to grab his attention. They relocate to the owner’s car (which is surrounded by gangsters acting as bodyguards), and the owner complains about Tae-woo’s continued failures.
He reminds Tae-woo that he’s no longer a detective but his employee, but Tae-woo just yawns at the gangster’s ramblings. Despite no longer being a detective, Tae-woo must still have some power since he steals money from his “boss” like it’s a common occurrence.
Tae-woo enters a storage room he calls home and plops on the couch to sleep. From the shadows, a man from the opening scene appears, and he slowly approaches Tae-woo who’s snoring loudly. Before he can touch him, though, Tae-woo easily apprehends the man and breaks out into a grin: it’s his little brother Tae-hyun.
Tae-hyun hands Tae-woo an envelope of cash to help him move out and find work, but Tae-woo laughs at the prospects of a disgraced detective finding a job. Tae-hyun shouts at Tae-woo for disparaging himself since he was framed for bribery, but Tae-woo changes the topic and tosses his little brother a new watch as a belated birthday gift. However, Tae-hyun returns the present since his current watch works fine.
On their drive to Hee-joo’s villa, In-pyo tells Seo-yeon that they’ll both try harder on their relationship, and once his business gets better, he assures her that everything else will improve as well. He places his hand on top of hers and says, “I love you.”
Once they arrive, In-pyo immediately kisses up to Jae-hoon and takes his bags inside for him. Left alone with Seo-yeon, Jae-hoon offers to take her bags, but they jump apart when Hee-joo and their young daughter come out to greet her. Seo-yeon notices the necklace Hee-joo wears—the same one Jae-hoon gave her—and is startled when Hee-joo asks if she got a boyfriend since she’s looking better these days.
At Hee-joo’s command, the men are in charge of dinner tonight, and In-pyo goes along with the helpful husband concept. The women go out for a stroll while the husbands prepare, and on their walk, Hee-joo comments on In-pyo’s rigid character and untrustworthy face—couching her remarks as concerns for Seo-yeon.
Hee-joo’s daughter Yu-ri stumbles across an abandoned house and calls her mom over to see. Hee-joo explains to Seo-yeon that the owners committed suicide because of debt and complains about the eye-sore. She and Yu-ri turn to leave, but Seo-yeon stays a moment longer, staring at the dilapidated house and its dry well.
In-pyo and Jae-hoon go fishing, but In-pyo disregards his line to ask Jae-hoon for help with his business. When In-pyo loses a fish because of his talk, Jae-hoon coldly reminds In-pyo that life is about timing. He tells In-pyo to focus on the task at hand, and shuts down any further discussions.
The women continue their walk and happen to see their husbands packing up on the other side of the lake. Watching Jae-hoon, Hee-joo calmly tells Seo-yeon that her husband has a new girlfriend again. Seo-yeon nervously asks if she knows who the woman is, but Hee-joo only smiles.
EPISODE 2 RECAP
To Seo-yeon’s confusion, Hee-joo tells her that she doesn’t know nor cares about who the other woman is. She chose Jae-hoon as her husband despite her father’s disapproval, and accepts the fault of bringing misfortune on herself.
Rather, Hee-joo finds herself worried for the other woman since Jae-hoon will throw her away eventually after seducing her with his sweet lies. She calls that a humiliating fate for a woman, and laughs at the idea of her husband’s affair. Before heading back, Hee-joo asks Seo-yeon to forget about their conversation, and Seo-yeon remains silent, her emotions as hard to read as ever.
During dinner, the two couples talk about how they got married, and Jae-hoon assumes that In-pyo tricked Seo-yeon into marriage. Seo-yeon corrects him, explaining that she was the one who seduced him first, which effectively kills the mood.
While a man carrying a blanket approaches the villa, dinner changes to drinks as everyone gets tipsier throughout the night. Hee-joo reminisces about the past and tells the group that Seo-yeon was the only person who didn’t treat her differently after hearing about her family background.
Seo-yeon excuses herself to use the bathroom, and Jae-hoon quickly follows after her, pretending to get more ice. While up, Seo-yeon actually stops by Yu-ri’s room to tuck her in and watches her fondly. When she comes into the hall, Jae-hoon pulls her aside and whispers in her ears to come meet him outside. She pulls away from his grasp, but her refusal only makes him smile.
As the night grows longer, Hee-joo becomes noticeably drunk and asks Seo-yeon and In-pyo if they want kids. In-pyo laughs off the question and redirects the conversation to the two woman’s strong friendship, but Hee-joo asks if they look friendly. Confronting Seo-yeon, Hee-joo asks again if they’re actually friends when Seo-yeon is jealous of Hee-joo’s life.
Hee-joo tells Seo-yeon to stop hiding her feelings because she finds her act creepy, so Seo-yeon complies. She admits to never liking any of Hee-joo’s fancy favors, which were always too much for her. Seo-yeon tells Hee-joo that she’ll never understand how hard she lives so she should get off her high horse.
With Hee-joo drunkenly howling after her, Seo-yeon goes to the bathroom to puke, and In-pyo follows her inside. Without even a word of concern for his puking wife, he talks about his failed negotiations thanks to her outburst, but Seo-yeon says that she tried her best. Her rebuttal angers him, and he slams her head on the sink, causing her to crumble to the floor.
Sporting a new bruise on her forehead, Seo-yeon goes out to meet Jae-hoon and tells him that Hee-joo knows about their affair. The news shocks him at first, but when Seo-yeon mentions that Hee-joo doesn’t know it’s her yet, his demeanor changes. He thinks everything is fine since Hee-joo is too prideful to hire a private investigator, but his lack of worry has the opposite effect on Seo-yeon.
She heads towards the lake, and Jae-hoon chases after her, promising to help her with everything she needs. Seo-yeon knows that it’s all sweet lies like Hee-joo told her, and continues walking into the lake. Jae-hoon jumps in to stop her, but Seo-yeon thrashes around until a loud crash silences them both.
Seo-yeon and Jae-hoon make their way through the woods toward the noise, and they stumble upon a car crash and a dead driver. They decide to leave the accident site before getting caught, but Seo-yeon notices the boxes that spilled out of the car and the wads of cash hidden inside. Jae-hoon wants to call the police and report everything, but Seo-yeon suggests an alternative: they keep the money.
Given the suspicious circumstances, Seo-yeon reasons that the money isn’t clean, which to her, means that no one would lose out if they stole it. Jae-hoon tries to dissuade her, but Seo-yeon argues that she has nothing to lose.
Staring at the large sum just sitting before his eyes, Jae-hoon finally concedes and asks where she’ll hide the money. Seo-yeon tells him to bring the car, and Jae-hoon reminds her that they’re now accomplices before rushing back to the villa.
While Jae-hoon retrieves the car, Seo-yeon carries all the boxes out of the pit and notices a trail of blood leading away from the crash. She follows the trail a short distance to a big rock and finds Tae-hyun, barely alive and breathing.
Though he can hardly move, Tae-hyun grabs a key from his pocket and hands them to Seo-yeon. She tells him that she’ll call an ambulance for him, but then stops at the last second. She makes eye contact with Tae-hyun, and instinctively, he seems to know that she won’t help as a tear falls down his face.
With his dying breath, Tae-hyun seems to whisper, “hyung,” and hangs his head. Seo-yeon wipes away her tears, checking to see if Tae-hyun died, and leaves him there with his eyes still open when Jae-hoon arrives with the car.
Tae-woo is asleep with a framed picture of him and his brother next to his pillow when a group of men barge into his home. They punch Tae-woo in the face before placing a bag over his head, and drag him out in his pajamas.
When they finally take the bag off, Tae-woo finds himself hanging on a cross in the middle of nowhere, greeted by some unfriendly faces and a hole clearly meant to be his grave. One of his captors steps forward and asks, “Where is it?”
Tae-woo screams at him to make sense, but the man only repeats the same question over and over again. Tae-woo gives up on reasoning with them and mockingly tells them that he left it at the Blue House, but even his sarcastic answers fail to rile his captors. The man leans in closer to Tae-woo and asks, “Where is it… the ten billion?”
The first outing of 9.9 Billion Won Woman introduces its audience to a cast of despicable characters all hiding their true intentions and secrets from one another. Seo-yeon, the main protagonist, is an enigma who appears unfeeling and detached from the world. She’s abused at home and in the workplace, but doesn’t look for an escape from her circumstances until the end of the episode. Seo-yeon acts submissive most of the time as she’s pushed and pulled by the players in her life. Her clients order her to do things, her husband forces her to help him, and even her lover is more about satisfying his needs than hers. The show repeatedly shows Seo-yeon drowning as her day gets worse, emphasizing the suffocating nature of her life. Likewise, whenever something rattles Seo-yeon, the camera shakes to depict her fragile mental state, as if she’s on the brink of a complete meltdown—but who could blame her. The first episodes did an excellent job introducing the audience to Seo-yeon’s current situation which is bleak and hopeless, and it offers an explanation as to why she steals the 10 billion won, even if it means watching someone die before her eyes.
However, to summarize Seo-yeon simply as an abused housewife brushes over the mysterious aspects of her character. As noted by everyone around her, it’s nearly impossible to read her expression, and not all her actions make sense. For someone who claims to be too cowardly to stir up trouble, she was audacious enough to start an affair with her friend’s husband. Though she knew her abusive husband was right there, she spoke her mind when Hee-joo began her drunken tirade. There’s more to Seo-yeon than meets the eye, but who she is and what she’ll become, it’s still too early to say.
On the other hand, In-pyo is an abusive husband, and I’m appalled by the character. He’s the real coward who crawls at the sight of power and abuses those he deems are weaker than him. He shows the classic traits of an abusive spouse, and the drama doesn’t try to make him a grey character in that regard (he’s trash through and through). In-pyo’s violence is terrifying because it’s both sporadic and calculated. At the villa, the sink slam was clearly a spur of the moment action since he could have given himself away to Hee-joo and Jae-hoon, but the ice bath incident showed carefully planning. After being humiliated by Jae-hoon over the phone, he decided to take his anger out on his wife and waited for her return. He planned every step of his “punishment,” and knew how to hurt her without leaving too many visible marks in case they did go on the trip. He’s a monster because he feels no remorse and constantly blames the victim for his abusive behavior. Even when he’s acting “nice,” there’s no warmth behind his words because he never takes responsibility. If it’s not “you” then it’s a “we” for In-pyo, and I doubt he’ll ever get a redemption arc.
In fact, I don’t get the impression that anyone will get a redemption arc in this story. In some ways it’s a bold first outing because there’s absolutely no “good” character that the audience should root for, even Seo-yeon. The drama is populated by morally grey characters, and it’s done so purposefully. This isn’t a light story about an underdog who gets a lucky break and fights for her life. Seo-yeon is a bystander who let a man die in order to steal money, and from the way Tae-woo was treated at the end of the episode, it looks like it’s going to be a nasty chase. Since there aren’t any typical good guys, Seo-yeon is alone and has no one to trust. She might be accomplices with her lover at the moment, but Hee-joo knows her husband well, he’s an impulsive man who only cares about his own wants. He doesn’t love Seo-yeon and seems to see her more as an object of conquest. He rarely respects her boundaries and enjoys the thrill of having an affair, completely indifferent to the pain he inflicts on others. As for Hee-joo, she definitely poses as a stumbling block for Seo-yeon, but what exactly she’ll do, I don’t have the faintest idea.
Out of the main cast, Tae-woo might be the only person who could “help” Seo-yeon (the enemy of my enemy is my friend, as they say). He clearly loved his little brother, and will probably want an explanation to Tae-hyun’s death, which will ultimately lead him to Seo-yeon and the money. Also, as an ex-detective, he holds the necessary skills and connections to actually offer some assistance, but knowing that Seo-yeon didn’t call the ambulance for Tae-hyun (even if it probably was too late to save him) puts a wrench in their possible relationship. On the other hand, without Tae-woo’s help (or anyone’s help), I doubt Seo-yeon will make it far with the money. She and Jae-hoon have left their fingerprints, footprints, and tire tracks all over the crime scene, and unless a heavy rainstorm passes through before the police or the original owners get there to investigate, it will be quite easy to follow the breadcrumbs they’ve left behind. With 10 billion won missing, the original owners will do absolutely anything to get their money back, and since it’s clearly not legal money to begin with, I doubt they’ll have any qualms about hurting a middle-aged lady with a backstory.