Mixed-up Investigative Agency: Case 4
Mixed-up Investigative Agency has turned the corner, I think — I hadn’t been ready to jump fully onboard, but now I’m fairly confident it’ll be solidly entertaining. I appreciate that the plot is layered, and reveals itself in stages. The drama also plays with format in a fun, humorous way, and while some of the comedy borders on the absurd, it’s funny-absurd, not stupid-absurd. The show is comfortable with itself and its sense of humor.
My favorite aspect of the series is the chemistry between the three friends — Mu-yeol, Hee-kyung, and Yong-su really do seem to be longtime friends who’re comfortable being around each other and bickering good-naturedly. Eun-jae will probably be integrated into the fold eventually, but that’ll be a gradual process. Somehow the balance has been struck just right so that the three maintain a friendly, platonic tone (I wonder if Yong-su and Hee-kyung will develop a romantic bond later, but for now the three of them are almost like siblings, or perhaps cousins.)
(Random) SONG OF THE DAY
Portable Groove 9 – “Rose Day” [ zShare download ]
CASE NO. 4: “And Those Guys Have Got Something!”
At the end of Episode 3, a mysterious stranger stepped into the agency to request their services. Episode 4 starts by backtracking a bit to show that the man had previously been following the gang around and staking out their activities.
For instance, if you recall in Episode 3, there was a moment where Hee-kyung pricked up her ears, sensing something strange. Mu-yeol shrugged it off as her fake-psychic affectations, but now we see that Hee-kyung was on to something — they were being watched by the man and his henchmen. They were also observed while rushing to save Eun-jae, then later as they visited her in the hospital.
And now, the man arrives with an odd request: He needs his briefcase delivered to a particular address at a certain time. The guys try to tell him they don’t run an investigative agency (the sign’s a leftover from the previous tenant, whose firm went bust), but the man provides a large fee in advance, and the guys happily accept the job.
They’ll be handling the job without Hee-kyung, who’s on her way to take care of a special assignment of her own. She received a request for her supernatural services at a hotel and will be away for the night.
Hee-kyung, as played by Ye Jiwon, is a HOOT. She puts on airs and aspires to luxury, but deep down she’s just a regular girl with not one gentrified bone in her body. She’s that person who’s infinitely better off being the most “refined” member in the midst of crude and common folk (big fish, little pond), rather than actually gaining entrée into the high-class society she dreams of, where she’d be exposed for the gauche plebe she truly is. (Said with affection; gauche plebes get a bad rap.) In other words, she’s much better off being among people who’d actually believe she’s classy than with those who know she’s not.
Anyway, it creates a fun dynamic between her and Eun-jae, because for once the two women leads aren’t rivals because of a romantic hero — in this case, Hee-kyung is bitterly envious of Eun-jae’s life and dislikes her for it, but has to grudgingly respect that Eun-jae is the real thing.
Case in point: As Hee-kyung readies to leave, a luxurious car pulls up and a driver steps out. Assuming this is her hired ride, Hee-kyung airily commands the driver to see to her luggage and sweeps inside the car regally. But the driver hands his keys to Eun-jae — because this is HER car!
Utterly humiliated, Hee-kyung wordlessly slinks back out of the car as Eun-jae gets behind the wheel. Yong-su and Mu-yeol can’t contain their hilarity over how thoroughly she just embarrassed herself.
Eun-jae keeps up her cool demeanor until she parks her car, at which point even she can’t hide her reaction. She displays her first hint of emotion in the entire series, smiling over Hee-kyung’s faux pas.
The guys head out to make their delivery in high spirits, enjoying the nice day while singing to the old-school kpop hit, Cool’s “해변의 여인” (woman on the beach). How this song brings back memories! Ah, the nineties. [ zShare download ]
Watching the guys sing along (and dance in their seats) to the song is ridiculous and cute, because we’ve SO all been them.
Arriving in a seaside town, the guys take advantage of the fact that they’ve got hours to kill before their delivery (which the man specified needed to be made after 9pm). Yong-su and Mu-yeol frolick on the beach and ogle pretty girls.
When they finally make their way to the address provided, they stare in shock at their destination — a cemetery. There must be some kind of mistake. They wonder what to do, thinking the address must be wrong, but finally, they decide that they’ve fulfilled their job and leave the briefcase by a tombstone…
…but as they drive away, Yong-su muses about the contents of the briefcase, which they were instructed not to open. Their curiosity thus piqued, they go back to retrieve the briefcase.
Meanwhile, Hee-kyung arrives at the hotel, where she sets out to “clean” a particular room of spirits, where three people had previously committed suicide. She puts on her dramatic persona — spelled Alansya, apparently, not Aransha as I’d previously thought — and explains to the hotel manager what occurred. Her “reading” of the events would be somewhat convincing if she got some facts right (she senses two spirits, until the guy tells her there were three people who died, and she quickly amends her answer).
She prepares her “ritual,” but it’s really just an act and she spends most of the time falling asleep, not knowing she’s being watched on a security cam.
Mu-yeol and Yong-su get a locksmith to unlock the briefcase combination, but their consciences prevent them from opening it. They deliberate all night, changing their minds every other minute, afraid to disobey their instructions but too tempted to see for themselves what’s inside.
Finally, Mu-yeol works up the courage (Yong-su watches from a distance, just in case there’s a bomb inside, or something) and opens the briefcase.
And inside, there’s nothing but crumpled-up newspaper. What the—?
The reason being that, unbeknownst to them, the guy who commissioned their services is currently ransacking their quarters back at home, now that he’s sent its inhabitants on a wild goose chase. The man and his henchmen tear the rooms apart looking for something, but are ultimately unable to find it.
The three friends return home in the morning to see the disarray, but aren’t too alarmed after realizing nothing was stolen. They write it off as being victims of a burglar who was unlucky enough to target three people who own nothing worth stealing. (I was about to crack the joke that Hee-kyung’s apartment, normally drowning in clutter anyway, doesn’t look any different after the ransacking, but Mu-yeol makes the joke first. In fact, Hee-kyung herself doesn’t notice anything’s different until they tell her about the burglar. Heh.)
Eun-jae drops by after seeing the mess in Yong-su’s manhwa store, and asks what happened. They explain that all three of them had been victims of (failed) burglary.
Eun-jae reacts with more suspicion than any of the others, and asks if they don’t think it’s weird that they were the only three people in the building who were robbed. They say that they were robbed because they were the only three who were away last night, but Eun-jae asks, what if they were sent away specifically so they could be robbed? Was there anything odd about the requests they got that took them out of town last night?
She shows them her gold bar and notes the Chinese characters on the back, which are numbers. The bars that the trio found in the wall also had numbers inscribed on the back — 211, 212, 213 — which means there are at least 210 other bars out in the world somewhere. The news broadcast of the discovery must’ve alerted their ransackers. She asks them what else was found in the wall — what can they remember?
The guys rack their brains trying to remember the events of the day, with Eun-jae prodding them to go over everything in detail. That spins them off into a slightly altered recounting of their actions that day (making them look cooler than they really were), which prompts Eun-jae to entreat, “Um, if possible, please say what truly happened.” (Their collective retort: “That IS the truth!”)
The flashback sequence is a bit jokey but actually pretty funny, because the characters within the flashback react to the comments in the present day, giving the flashbacks an “interactive” feel. It’s goofy but fun.
Finally, a minor digression provides a clue — there was an old piece of cloth/paper that Yong-su used to swat at a bug. They trace that piece of paper to later that day when he used it to fan himself… then later when he dropped it on his desk… then used it as a pot holder… then tossed it out with the trash yesterday.
They race to the garbage bins outside to find them empty — but the truck is just pulling away. They run after it, and dig through the mountains of paper.
Triumphantly, they locate the paper in question — but the question is, how to read it? They inspect it from every angle and direction, but can’t make sense of it. If it’s a map, what is it for? Yong-su confidently subjects the paper to a bunch of tests (learned from manhwas, of course), but several vinegar-light-heat tests later, they’ve still got nothing.
Tired and cranky after a long, not-quite-productive evening, they decide to give it a rest — but out in the hallway, they run into their mysterious client, who’s accompanied by a whole mess of thugs. The thug leader shouts, “Grab them!” and the foursome make a break for it.
Mu-yeol demonstrates some of his Taekwondo techniques as he holds off the gangsters, and the group runs out of the building and through the neighborhood. At one point, Yong-su’s grabbed by their followers, causing Hee-kyung to yell, “Forget it, lose him!” Mu-yeol reminds her Yong-su’s got the map; Hee-kyung: “Save him!”
The four gain enough of a lead to find a hiding spot in a crawlspace in an alley, and stay quiet as the henchmen search nearby, grumbling over where their quarry went.
Unfortunately, Eun-jae’s assaulted by another anxiety attack as a result of being stuffed in a small enclosed space, and starts panicking. The friends try to calm her down, but she can’t take it anymore, and bursts free, out into the open —
— landing right at the feet of their mystery pursuer.
Today’s end sequence is short and sweet, taking place during the ransacking of Yong-su’s manhwa store. The leader looks down to see that one book has fallen open to reveal some racy material. He tries to ignore it, but gives in to the compulsion and picks it up, flipping through — only to be stopped short to find a page ripped out at what we can only assume is a rather critical, uh, plot point. He growls in frustrated disappointment. Thwarted!