Level 7 Civil Servant: Episode 11
The blinders come off, the faith is lost, and our love story comes to a screeching halt. Typically, the mid-point romantic breakup is where so many dramas go awry with the melo antics turning up a notch, but I hope that the divide here will take our story into more interesting places. (And to be honest, we could use that.) Now, at least, begins the real bout of Spy vs. Spy.
SONG OF THE DAY
1sagain – “Love Is Over” [ Download ]
EPISODE 11 RECAP
Seo-won gets caught raiding Gil-ro’s family safe, which is heart-shattering for them both.
(Though I can’t help wondering why she gave herself 20 minutes just because he said he’d zip out for 20—instead of, you know, supposing he might be early. Also, what spy doesn’t notice she’s been caught for a full minute or so? Okay okay, I’m going with it. Logic, step aside!)
He looks completely disillusioned as he asks if this is why she was so insistent that they couldn’t like each other. And then: “So this is why you approached me.” It’s both a statement and a question.
Seo-won is devastated too, and barely holds on to her composure as she asks him—begs, really—to let her go just this time. Uh. In what world is it fair to ask, You caught me stealing from you but can you just let me skip off with the family secrets? Pretty please?
She tries to go, he grabs her, she shakes his arm off. They grapple briefly but he grabs her and demands an answer: Is that why she pursued him? “If you want to leave, then kill me and leave.”
She says she’d never kill him, but he’s through falling for her lies. This time when she flings off his arm her bag goes flying… and out spill the documents she swiped. She stands there miserably while Gil-ro pockets her camera and reads the contract detailing the firm’s acquisition of other tech companies.
That’s damning, but worse, it sends him on the wrong line of thinking: that she’s in league with the baddies who were trying to kill his father. Which, taken from his perspective, doesn’t seem that outrageous.
Seo-won asks if he believes she’d really do that, and also requests the documents back. Guh. Or you could refute the claims and not seem like a guilty person. I feel bad for her, really I do, but she’s handling this in the most suspicious way.
They fight over the papers, and he stops himself from knocking her out, warning that she can’t beat him. She agrees, but says tearfully, “I know, but I can’t lose today.” And pulls a gun on him.
What in the WHAT. Okay, I’m over her now. Sympathy mode off.
Gil-ro challenges, “Shoot.” Seo-won turns the gun on herself, pointing it at her heart to say that while her head may have told lies, her heart never did. “If you want me to, I’ll kill this heart.” She clicks off the safety.
I spoke too soon. Now it’s time to say, What in the WHAT. Either you play the hardass spy and you steal the documents, or you play the heartbroken martyr and sacrifice the job for love, but don’t fucking try to do both.
Seo-won asks if that’s what he wants, and he can’t answer. Both are choked up with tears. She warns, “Don’t follow me, or I’ll kill myself.” Is there a logic chip I’m missing, that this scenario makes sense and I’m just not seeing it?
Gil-ro doesn’t follow, and Seo-won breaks down just around the corner.
Gil-ro breaks down too, though he pulls out his phone to call in a report to Won-seok. He can’t hold it together long enough to actually say anything, however, and sobs with his head in his arms.
Seo-won reports her mission failure to her team. Heads hang all around as she says that Gil-ro confiscated the documents. Sun-mi shoots her a bitter glare, saying that given how Seo-won drove Do-ha off the team, she should have at least succeeded at her mission. Me-ow. Suddenly when a guy’s involved the unni bond no longer matters. Thanks, Mr. Writer, for this enlightened view of women.
Young-soon asks about her chances of trying to rekindle the connection with Gil-ro, but those are just about nil given that she pulled a gun on him. Seo-won is put in clean-up mode to wrap up loose ends, and asks with a catch in her voice whether she’ll have to move out of her apartment. She’s thinking of Gil-ro telling her to change her number and her address so he could never find her again, fearing just that.
Young-soon understands and doesn’t argue when Seo-won asks to stay put. She tells Won-seok to get those documents from Gil-ro, even if it takes clueing him in on the whole story: He’s not an agent, and if he doesn’t hand them over he’ll be lumped in as Dad’s accessory.
Gil-ro’s not home when his parents arrive, and Dad beelines straight for his safe. But it’s just the watch he wants, and he takes it out with a smile. Aw, would it kill you to do that in front of your son?
Said son drowns his sorrows at a bar while reading over the documents. The liquor has a resolve-weakening effect and he ends up in the courtyard outside Seo-won’s apartment, sitting on the bench where he once lay his head in her lap.
Seo-won arrives to see Gil-ro staring wistfully at their couple photos, and ducks around the corner to avoid being seen. After he leaves, she takes his seat on the bench, where she finds the photos he dropped.
At the IT&TI offices the next day, Gil-ro shows the documents Seo-won was trying to steal to Mi-rae, asking if she has any idea who might want them. The documents list companies that were acquired, then basically stripped for their best parts. Mi-rae says it’s not an illegal practice, but perhaps a rival company would want that info.
Gil-ro notes that the practice goes back five years, with a large investment from a now-defunct company, Taeguk. The name immediately has Mi-rae on alert—that must be their cover organization. And as it happens, that initial investment is their whole operation’s Achilles heel, because Woo-hyuk had used a name (Dad’s) that could link to JJ.
Mi-rae deflects, saying that she could hardly know events dating back years before her arrival at IT&TI. But Gil-ro has done his homework, pointing out that Mi-rae received stock incentives when she came onboard, and there’s a note on her account… which is the same as that old company’s.
Her eyes narrow, wondering what he’s up to. He says he simply wants to know where the danger lies—another company, or industrial spies. Mi-rae dismisses him coolly, telling him she’ll handle any problems and that he should go home, since he’s been suspended from his job.
Gil-ro lockpicks his way into Seo-won’s desk (right in front of his employees—not the most careful spy, is he?) but finds nothing.
At NIS headquarters, the team briefs on the latest findings about Mi-rae and JJ. They’re aware of a deal about to go down with Director Park (the scientist stealing the secrets), and are keeping tabs on him to prevent him from fleeing abroad.
Since her mission has fizzled, Seo-won is told to take Do-ha’s old job as Sun-mi’s partner. But Sun-mi refuses to work with her (me-OW), stating that they are unable to protect each other. It’s a vague sort of catch-all excuse, but the bosses relent and don’t press the issue.
Seo-won takes Sun-mi aside to clear the air, which is like running into a brick wall with spikes. Sun-mi says she doesn’t think she’d be able to protect Seo-won in a moment of danger, because she would hesitate. Because of a boy? Are you an agent or aren’t you?
Sun-mi doesn’t seem to believe Seo-won’s insistence that she and Do-ha are just friends, and says pointedly that it’s not like she and Seo-won were friendly to begin with. Meaning: back to zero for us.
Gil-ro surprises Seo-won with a call, and the first thing she asks is whether he’s eaten—a mundane but affectionate sort of inquiry, the kind you ask of a loved one. He cuts her off to get to his point: He’s going to track her down and uncover her organization, certain that they’re the bad guys.
The NIS agents panic to see Gil-ro approaching again, and scramble to get their cosmetics company front in place. Seo-won isn’t fast enough and gets stuck in the office as Gil-ro bursts in, and ducks behind some boxes that her colleague does his best to keep Gil-ro away from. Heh.
Gil-ro asks about Seo-won’s work record and her client roster, certain that this job was just a cover for her more covert activities. He gets nowhere, though, even when he declares that he’s an NIS agent—to Seo-won’s shock, as well as that of everyone watching inside HQ. The other agents laugh, assuming he’s bluffing, while Won-seok and Young-soon fidget uncomfortably.
Gil-ro promises to confirm his identity and calls Won-seok, who takes the call pretending he’s the wife. Ha. They’re able to shove Gil-ro out of the office, so the next time he meets Won-seok he asks for contact info to the government office—he can’t investigate when nobody believes who he is, and he has no proof of being NIS.
Won-seok does his usual runaround of saying he doesn’t need to investigate anything on his own, but Gil-ro is determined this time. He asks, “Then am I not an agent? Is that why?” Won-seok assures him that he is, to which Gil-ro replies that he’s going to catch the criminals.
He heads to Seo-won’s apartment that night and bangs on the door… only to find it occupied by brand-new tenants. Discouraged, he turns away—and we see that they were agents pretending for Seo-won’s benefit, to get him off her trail.
As Mi-rae exits the office, she picks up a few NIS tails, but she’s wise to it. JJ laughs that the agents are incompetent; no argument there.
But the laughing disappears when Mi-rae informs JJ about the documents being in Gil-ro’s possessions. If their identities are uncovered and the dots connected, they may not get to enact their revenge at all. Faced with such a dire threat, Mi-rae doesn’t argue this time when JJ decides he’ll kidnap Gil-ro to detain him till their deal goes through—or kill him to shut him up.
Seo-won calls Gil-ro for a meeting, and she directs him over the phone to the location in an outdoor parking lot. He’s suspicious of her motives and treats her like she’s a criminal making demands, but follows her instructions to meet her at the convenience store.
She’s not here to actually meet him, though, because she ducks back into her car, watching him all the while. She keeps him busy walking around looking for her while telling him that she’s not a corporate spy, which he doesn’t believe since he’s decided to trust nothing.
She apologizes, then thanks him for the photos, saying that she wanted to tell him this while looking at his face: that she’ll treasure them always, so he should too. At that, Gil-ro realizes she doesn’t intend to meet him and dashes back to his car, where she’s left him one set of photos.
He looks around frantically… and spots one car trying to back out of a parking spot, doing a terribly jerky job of it. HAHA. Way to call back the joke.
He runs right up to the car, and Seo-won panics, screeching off into reverse, driving back up the entrance ramp while he chases her. Ha, maybe she really is an innate spy, ’cause she’s way better when she’s too overwhelmed to think about what she’s doing. Of course, she IS also way out of control so maybe it’s a wash. She’s alternately screaming (at herself), “What am I doing?!” and (to him) “I’m sorry!” Ha, okay that was funny.
Gil-ro gets left in the dust, and angrily hurls away the photos.
Do-ha gets back into the good graces of NIS director Oh, who orders him back to his old team. Do-ha balks, only to be told that his job as an agent is to do what needs to be done, not what he wants to do. Y’know, what does it say when the super shady Director Oh is talking the most sense around here? What good is moral rectitude when it’s blazingly incompetent?
Seo-won admits to Young-soon that she saw Gil-ro again, but she acts like she’s fine with everything. She didn’t cry, and it wasn’t so bad, really. Young-soon invites her out for a drink, and they laugh it up rehashing her hilarious backward escape.
Seo-won spies a form in her bag—one of those dating applications from her friend’s firm, filled out with Young-soon’s info. Haha. So they call over Jin-ju the matchmaker, who reads over the application and is pleased with all the top-notch specs. Their clientele gets classed into A, B, and C levels, and Young-soon’s job, income, and education are all A. Of course there’s her age… which drops her to a C overall.
Jin-ju the tactless chirps that age conquers all, since a woman need nothing but her looks and youth to nab a good man in this dating reality. It’s thoroughly depressing, but it’s Seo-won who gets most upset about it, and she yells that it’s just so unfair.
Of course, she’s no longer talking about Young-soon as she sobs that it’s just not right that she worked so hard for the country, and yet the result came out the worst possible way.
That night, Gil-ro heads to his car in the parking garage, which tells me something bad’s about to go down. (Nothing good happens in parking lots! Not in this drama, at least.) Sure enough, as soon as he turns his car on it fills with fumes that knock him out. JJ’s handiwork.
Luckily for him, Seo-won arrives at the office just in time to see Gil-ro being driven off, unconscious in the passenger seat. She had come on Young-soon’s urging to meet with Gil-ro and have a heart to heart with him, but now she switches gears, hops into a cab, and follows.
Meanwhile, Sun-mi and Do-ha sit down to dinner. She’s called him out to tell him (rather huffily) to change his number because she doesn’t want to call him anymore, but has already memorized it. Riiiight, and that makes it His Problem, right?
She adds that Seo-won failed her mission and tells Do-ha not to come back to their team—because it’ll make her think he came back for Seo-won. Le sigh. Are you national security agents or are you twelve-year-olds? And “both” is not an acceptable answer.
Gil-ro comes to in a shady abandoned warehouse. JJ sits nearby, so he quietly slips out a pocket knife and gets to work on his bindings, all while feigning sleep.
But JJ’s wise to the act and tells him to knock it off. He cuts right to the chase: Hand over the docs to live. Refuse and die.
Gil-ro displays no fear and talks back, which gets him punched in the face over and over. He wants to know if JJ is the one who gave the order to steal the docs, but JJ wants his documents. They’re having two different conversations entirely, too fixated on what they want to get anywhere.
Gil-ro keeps working on his handcuffs as he demands his answer, just as JJ loses his patience and figures there’s no great need to keep him alive: “Just die, then.”
Just as JJ’s finger tightens on the trigger, Gil-ro frees himself and launches himself at JJ. The gun goes off. They grapple.
Seo-won has arrived on the premises, aided by the GPS tracker on Gil-ro’s phone, and the gunshot gets her springing into action. She calls into HQ for backup and pulls out her gun as she approaches carefully.
The two men duke it out, both of them doing a pretty fair job of landing blows, and Gil-ro snatches up the dropped gun. JJ decides to make a break for it, leaving Gil-ro with his gun out trying to get a good shot.
And that’s when Seo-won bursts into the room, and they both whirl out at each other, guns raised. Eek! This is not the way she thought this scene was gonna go… and it also makes him even more sure she’s in league with JJ.
Seo-won is genuinely confused as she asks what happened, but Gil-ro is hostile, ordering her to drop her weapon.
So she tells him earnestly that she trusts him, and lowers her gun. What happened? She wants to help, if only she knew how.
Gil-ro bites out cynically that she’s stalling to give JJ the chance to escape, not willing to hear anything she’s saying. He declares, “I’m a national agent.”
Ha, at that she loses her patience and knees him in the groin, which sends him to the ground. She thinks he’s just impersonating an agent (a federal offense) and orders him to stop kidding around, then leaps to the ground to pursue JJ.
Gil-ro staggers to his feet, raises his gun, and takes aim at Seo-won…
Oy, this drama. The thing is, I think it’s funny in a dumb sort of way when it’s doing its silly action-comedy thing. It makes me laugh, and for that alone I think it works. It’s not trying to be a badass spy show or a high-budget thriller, so as a dumb fluff rom-com it has its merits.
But I also feel like its writer is terrible writing women, which I felt in his previous dramas (Chuno, Runaway Plan B). Also with writing people. And emotions. And maybe logical story progressions. He’s not a terrible writer, period, in that all of his dramas have a certain something, a neat hook or a fun setup to keep you watching. But the actual character work is a big sloppy mess, so when the show sets aside its entertaining stuff to actively wallow in this quagmire of underbaked emotional character moments, it just sucks the fun out of it.
Seo-won, for instance: I want to like her, but she’s just written so poorly.
I have no connection with her as a person, a woman, a spy torn between loyalties. There’s no understanding of her as a real(istic) person. No kernel of truth deep down. Choi Kang-hee is doing what she can to act what’s on the page, but it’s not enough. I still don’t like her in this role, and I think it’s fair to say she’s not working as an actress without making it about her age or her looks. She simply doesn’t hook me into Seo-won’s conflicted angst, when I should be right there with her dilemma. Though yes, that’s also a writing issue, because sometimes I just have no idea what she’s doing or why.
Sun-mi’s the same—she was supposed to be this tough tomboy character who grew up in a family of oppas, which was so great. And we had that diplomat’s daughter to fulfill the frivolous ditz quota. Only, we lost her for some unexplained reason and it’s like the show decided to mash her character in with Sun-mi’s, giving us this inconsistent mess of weak, small-minded immaturity. As a woman, I’m offended by her character. Heck, as a person I’m annoyed.
Admittedly, it’s not like the men are glowing bastions of rich character depth either, but I do think they get more attention and loving detail thrown their way. Gil-ro’s pain, I can fully understand, because at least the show bothered to paint his father-son conflict in a nicely believable way. It’s one of my favorite parts of the show, because here’s the one case where the spy conflict actually works, where you actually understand why Dad’s shoving his son away and hurting him on purpose, and it tugs my heart. Compared to when Seo-won was pushing Gil-ro away, which felt more slapdash and therefore didn’t resonate with me at all.
To end on an up note, though, I have to say that I think that this story turn is a huge improvement, starting with Gil-ro realizing she was playing with him and refusing to believe a word she says. Now he’s so shut off from her that it’ll be a really interesting hurdle to overcome to get him back around to having faith. And believing that she’s one of the bad guys who tried to kill his father is a pretty great angstmaker. Plus, he still thinks he’s an agent, and his skewed understanding of his place is going to twist everything he sees in the wrong ways. That’s pretty great.
- Level 7 Civil Servant: Episode 10
- Level 7 Civil Servant: Episode 9
- Level 7 Civil Servant: Episode 8
- Level 7 Civil Servant: Episode 7
- Level 7 Civil Servant: Episode 6
- Level 7 Civil Servant: Episode 5
- Level 7 Civil Servant: Episode 4
- Level 7 Civil Servant: Episode 3
- Level 7 Civil Servant: Episode 2
- Level 7 Civil Servant: Episode 1