Last: Episode 6
Anyone who says you can’t con a conman hasn’t met Tae-ho, because he sets his plan in motion pretty easily. The Seoul Station crew are there to help him out in their areas of expertise, and it’s a caper of delightful proportions as they outwit their opponent at every turn. And if you thought this show could use a birth secret or two to spice things up, you’re in for a special treat. (It’s a good one, I promise!)
EPISODE 6 RECAP
President Jung and Heung-sam have a meal together, but only President Jung is enjoying it. Heung-sam nervously apologizes for things getting out of hand, asking that if only President Jung will let him keep his loan shark business, he’ll stay out of President Jung’s business. He hands over a gift to President Jung, who opens it to reveal a human finger on ice. Eeewwww.
Heung-sam says that it’s Tae-ho’s finger, and that the rest of his body was destroyed and harvested, but he kept this as by way of a promise. President Jung still isn’t fully convinced, but when Heung-sam politely bows, pleading for his understanding, he seems to revel in seeing Heung-sam beg.
On the drive home, Heung-sam sneers at the fact that President Jung’s ego was puffed up with just a few apologies. He also wonders how much he can trust Tae-ho — even if this plan was Tae-ho’s idea, Heung-sam will still need to throw his weight around to make sure Tae-ho and his band of merry followers know who’s really the boss.
A car pulls up alongside the sidewalk where Jong-gu is idly pacing, and Mi-joo rolls down the window, asking if he wants a ride. He pleasantly declines, saying he doesn’t want to stink up her car. In response, she parks it and walks alongside him. Aw.
He enters a high-end clothing store and browses some of the suits, but the shopkeeper’s automatic pleasant greeting turns to a sneer when she realizes that he’s homeless. She hands over some cash, telling him to get out so he doesn’t scare off the clientele, but Mi-joo sidles up and slips her arm around his, brightly telling the shopkeeper that they’re there to buy a suit — the best one that the store has to offer. And they’ll need at least three of them. The shopkeeper leaps to attention. It’s like Pretty Woman, but in reverse!
Mi-joo has a lot of fun dressing Jong-gu, and I can’t blame her, because he looks mighty fine in a well-cut suit. She bribes him to try on more with the offer of buying him lunch later, and his face lights up like a little boy at the mention of crab stew — with a bottle of soju, too, of course.
But a few dark clouds descend on the happy mood when Mi-joo gets a call. She discreetly answers it, and Jong-gu watches as her face falls while she tries to convince the person on the other end that she’s in the middle of something. She’s all smiles as she turns back to Jong-gu, but he correctly guesses that it was Heung-sam she was talking to. He knows that Heung-sam requested to see her, but he tells Mi-joo to stay with him. Sadly, she tells him that she has to go and they’ll have lunch together some other time.
Jong-gu, back in his trademark track suit, wanders his lonely way to Seoul Station, where he spots Sergeant Bae berating one the homeless men for not handing over enough of his take. Sergeant Bae threatens everyone, pointing out that easy-going Tae-ho is no longer around, and on collection day, everyone is now required to give 80% of what they make each day.
But Jong-gu intercepts, reminding him that Heung-sam and Tae-ho had agreed that the collection would be 50-50, and Sergeant Bae and the rest of the Seoul Seven shouldn’t try to rip off their men by raising the price. If they have a problem with it, they can go through him.
Tae-ho and his crew are parked outside the gambling hall President Jung goes to every week, and the newly besuited (and bespectacled) Hae-jin preps himself to talk his way into the building. He’s still a little nervous about being recognized by the burly bodyguard, but he manages to escape suspicion and is buzzed inside.
The high rollers are in a special, private VIP room, but the experienced grifter Hae-jin plays so that it looks like he’s a lucky beginner. He loudly expresses his excitement over his wins so that President Jung inquires about him. Seeing the chance to win a few easy bucks off the newbie, President Jung invites Hae-jin to join the VIPs.
Meanwhile, Tae-ho and Young-chil are busy making sure their fake corporation will look legit if someone searches for it online. Aw, the Chairman is fully immersed in his role as “Bernard Park,” the Korean-American who is the Chairman of the corporation, as he says that his exhaustion is based on jet-lag from the twelve-hour flight.
Heung-sam calls Tae-ho to see if President Jung has taken the bait, and reassures Tae-ho that he’s working on their insurance — getting Vice-Minister Moon on their side. Or, rather, blackmailing Vice-Minister Moon so he’ll be on their side. Tae-ho asks if he’s really going to give the vice-minister a night with Mi-joo, and Heung-sam chuckles at Tae-ho’s concern, asking if it’s because of Jong-gu. He reminds him that he’s invested a lot of money into Tae-ho’s scheme, and if he fails, they’ll all die. I doubt that’s an exaggeration, either.
Min-joo sits in the fancy hotel room as the drunk Vice-Minister Moon takes a shower. She’d earlier asked if it would be enough to just take incriminating photos of her and the vice-minister entering and leaving the hotel, but Heung-sam angrily told her that the woman Vice-Minister Moon wants to sleep with was specifically her. Besides, it’s not like she’s never done something like this before. Ouch.
Heung-sam told her to give up on Jong-gu, because unless she can get rid of the scar on her back, Jong-gu will never accept her. It’s not about superficial looks, though — it’s the memory of how she got the scar.
As she sits and waits in the hotel room, she rubs the scar on her shoulder. The doorbell rings and she goes to answer it — it’s Jong-gu. He wants to have dinner with her, like, right now. Mi-joo glances nervously at the bathroom where the vice-minister is still showering, but before she can protest, Jong-gu grabs her by the wrist and leads her out of the hotel.
Parked across the street is Praying Mantis, scanning through the photos he’d taken earlier of her entering the hotel room with the vice-minister. He watches as Jong-gu flags down a taxi.
Meanwhile, Hae-jin (or “Daniel Park,” a Korean-American businessman, as he introduces himself) has suddenly (and expertly) lost his winning streak that got him into the VIP room. Seeing a chance to win back some money, he desperately asks President Jung if can put up important business papers in lieu of money.
President Jung agrees, and Hae-jin throws down his cards, assuming he’s won the pot — but President Jung’s cards are better than his, so Hae-jin’s important business papers now belong to President Jung — exactly as Tae-ho had planned. Hae-jin begs President Jung to take care of those documents, promising to return tomorrow with enough cash to buy them back.
At the restaurant, Jong-gu happily slurps down his dinner while Mi-joo watches him carefully. He tells her he just felt like having dinner with her, which is why he dragged her out of the hotel. But she wants to know if it’s just out of concern for the scar on her back.
A flashback shows Jong-gu rushing into a burning building where his daughter Eun-ji and Mi-joo were huddled together on the floor. As a burning rafter starts to fall, Mi-joo throws her body around Eun-ji to protect her, taking the brunt of the burning rafter on her back — which is how she got the scar.
The memory of that day puts a damper on Jong-gu’s mood, and Mi-joo reassures him that the fire was an accident, so he should stop feeling guilty about it. But Jong-gu often wonders what would have happened if he’d gone with her on the train that day — she wouldn’t have her scar, and he wouldn’t struggle so much to get through each day.
Mi-joo asks if it’s too late, and Jong-gu says that he still needs to find Eun-ji. But after he finds her, will Mi-joo leave Seoul Station with him? Through tears, she tells him that she’ll need to think about it.
As his crew sleeps, Tae-ho watches the city lights from the view of their rented office space. At home, Nara looks at Tae-ho’s empty room, and then stops by her little garden, remembering the rainy night when she and Tae-ho ran home underneath his makeshift suit-jacket umbrella. Aw, I forget she still believes he’s dead.
The next morning, Hae-jin stops by President Jung’s office, a briefcase of cash in hand. He’s ready to exchange it for the documents he left with President Jung, but the wily President Jung tells him that he “forgot” the documents at home. Acting annoyed, Hae-jin gets him to agree to bring the documents to the hotel where he’s staying at, then storms out — but only after he discretely places a bug underneath President Jung’s table.
Tae-ho monitors President Jung’s conversation from his surveillance van. It turns out President Jung is convinced that there’s some serious money behind these documents, and demands his burly bodyguard to find a translator to figure out what it says since it’s written in English.
At the company cafeteria, Se-hoon sits down a table, but the other workers immediately leave as soon as they see him join them. No one wants to sit with him. No one except Jung-min, who happily plops down across from him, teasingly pointing out that he’s now considered a pariah. Since everyone assumes he’s now the enemy out to take down Chairman Choi, they don’t want to be caught eating with him.
But she’s just glad to have another outsider to eat with. Since she was a teenager, she’s eaten alone because everyone knew she was the illegitimate child of the chairman. So now they can be pariahs together.
He tells her that when Chairman Yoon comes back from his business trip, he’ll tell him that he and Jung-min are dating. (It’s more of a tactical move than a romantic one, since by doing so, Jung-min will be forced to support him instead of Chairman Choi.)
Se-hoon doesn’t care if other people think he’s just using to climb the corporate ladder. When he was growing up in Canada, he was always alone, and he used to imagine what it would be like to have someone sit with him, to be on his side. And now he has her.
Tae-ho continues to stake out President Jung’s office, listening in on all their conversations. President Jung has managed to get the document translated, and it’s revealed that Hae-jin’s company has supposedly found an environmentally friendly way to harvest oil from sand — which, if true, means these documents are pure gold since such a thing is nearly impossible. President Jung still has his doubts, but his men have done a thorough search on the company, and their results (courtesy of the tech-savvy hacking skills of Young-chil) revealed that the company does indeed seem legit.
In a secluded area down by the river, Tae-ho meets with Heung-sam to report on his findings so far, reassuring him that they’re close to reeling in President Jung. Heung-sam gives him a USB drive with the incriminating photos of Vice-Minister Moon and Mi-joo to help seal the matter. Everything is falling into place.
But Tae-ho is curious about Chairman Choi, since President Jung ordered his bodyguard to create a convenient “accident” for Se-hoon. Just as Se-hoon arrives at his car, his arms laden with documents, his phone rings. Ooooh, his ringtone sounds awfully familiar! He answers, surprised that the other person called since they promised not to contact each other on this phone.
Heung-sam is the other person at the end of the phone, and he urgently warns Se-hoon that President Jung has sent his men after him. Se-hoon looks around to sees the burly bodyguard and the rest of the thugs slowly advancing. Heung-sam yells at him to run away, but Se-hoon hangs up, as Heung-sam shouts, “Heung-soo!” OMG, are they brothers?
Se-hoon is keeping his cool as he deals with the burly bodyguard, pointing out that all the CCTV cameras that are pointed their direction. But Jung-min’s sudden appearance is what really sends President Jung’s men away. This probably won’t be the last meeting between them and Se-hoon, though.
Meanwhile, an overly-eager President Jung shows up at Hae-jin’s hotel, important documents in hand. He offers to hand them over if he can meet with “Chairman Park” (aka the Chairman, who’s playing Hae-jin’s alter-ego’s father). But “Chairman Park” simply tells Hae-jin to pay for the documents, sending President Jung away.
Hae-jin is beside himself, since the whole purpose of this con was to get President Jung to come to them. But the Chairman knows what he’s doing — it would be too suspicious if “Chairman Park,” the head of a large corporation, would meet with an unknown like President Jung without an appointment. This way, it’ll only make President Jung want to meet with them even more.
He’s right — in the hotel lobby, President Jung begs Hae-jin to get him in to see the Chairman, even if it’s only for a few minutes. He reassures Hae-jin that it would be to the Chairman’s benefit. Sighing, Hae-jin reluctantly agrees, and a happy President Jung goes home, knowing he’ll soon be meeting with “Chairman Park” tomorrow.
Aw, Hae-jin’s excited “we got him!” signal to Tae-ho is super cute, and Tae-ho sets down the newspaper he was pretending to read as he listened in on the conversation. Everything seems to be going according to plan, but Tae-ho keeps thinking about the Heung-sam’s outburst he overheard earlier, when Heung-sam had yelled out Heung-soo’s name.
Jung-min is also suspicious, and she practically bores a hole in Se-hoon’s head with her gaze as he drives her home. He finally points out that she clearly has something on her mind, the way she keeps staring at him. She wants to know if he’s ever borrowed money from loan sharks, and he’s surprised that he knew who those thugs were. He explains that it was just Chairman Choi getting scared and using his connections to intimidate Se-hoon.
He gets a sudden phone call, and he tells Jung-min that he’s sorry, but he has to go meet someone. She’s resigned to the fact that he won’t tell her who it is, even if she asks, and wonders again about how little she knows about him, even though she’s supposed to be his girlfriend.
It was Heung-sam who called him, and they meet in a secluded spot near Namsan Tower, where a worried Heung-sam makes sure Se-hoon isn’t hurt. He warns Se-hoon to not let down his guard, because this won’t be the last encounter. Se-hoon dismisses it as proof that Chairman Choi is running scared, but Heung-sam can’t trust anyone or anything, including Chairman Choi’s intentions. However, he can trust Kwak Heung-soo, his younger brother. I knew it!
Heung-sam recalls that after he ran away from the orphanage, he barely survived, starving each day, until he was so desperate that even the bread crumbs left for the pigeons looked good. But it was the city lights down below, lights that looked like bread crumbs or freshly cooked grains of rice — that’s what Heung-sam really wanted to consume (metaphorically speaking).
Se-hoon/Heung-soo is apologetic, humbly thanking Heung-sam for all the money he’d spent on his brother’s schooling and housing while living in Canada. Heung-sam tells him if he really feels thankful, then he should do everything it takes to take down Chairman Choi and be noticed by Chairman Yoon. But what about President Jung? Heung-sam smiles, telling Se-hoon/Heung-soo that he’s found a guy a lot like his little brother, except he’s more tenacious and even more intelligent.
That would be Tae-ho, of course, who’s currently prepping for part two of their plan to trap President Jung. They have the photos of Vice-Minister Moon and Mi-joo, and they’ll pretend that the Chairman and Hae-jin are part of a governmental investigation committee, looking into the vice-minister’s corrupt integrity and ethics. The important thing, though, is to have the vice-minster leaving the hotel room just as President Jung arrives.
Mi-joo and Jong-gu have dinner at Nara’s grandmother’s restaurant, and Mi-joo looks around, taking in all the details of Jong-gu’s favorite place. Grandma has no filter, as per usual, and as she serves them their dinner, she asks if Mi-joo is planning to marry Jong-gu. She warns Mi-joo that a guy like him will give her nothing but grief.
She can also tell that Mi-joo is one of the bar girls, and despite Jong-gu’s protests at Grandma’s bluntness, Mi-joo just smiles. She admits that she’s not worthy of Jong-gu, but so long as he says that he likes her, she’s happy. Grandma leans over and stage-whispers to Jong-gu that “she’s a keeper” and Mi-joo will make him a better man. Aw.
Nara’s busy working — more so than usual, in order to keep her mind off Tae-ho. As Jong-gu and Mi-joo slowly walk home, he tells her that he understands Nara — she’s clinging to her work in order to patch up the hole in her heart, which is probably better than trying to patch it up with alcohol, like he does.
He wonders if Heung-sam was angry that he took Mi-joo from the hotel that night, but Mi-joo says Heung-sam’s been too distracted lately to say anything about it. Jong-gu tells her that he’ll take care of it — after all, he’s still Number Two, and he’ll tell Heung-sam that he had a sudden craving to go eat crab stew with “his woman.”
Aw, Mi-joo is slightly flustered at that sudden declaration, but she regains her teasing demeanor and the two are adorable as they happily walk down the street together. Whoops, it looks like Poison Snake and Crocodile overheard everything. That can’t be good.
Tae-ho’s plan is set in motion, and as predicted, Vice-Minister Moon is totally panicked about what it will mean for his career if his indiscretions are revealed. The Chairman starts to discuss a way they can sweep it under the rug, asking as a “favor” to buy Vice-Minister Moon’s loyalty. “Chairman Park” is perfectly in control of the situation — until the fire alarm goes off.
It’s just a test, but the Chairman’s PTSD means the façade of “Chairman Park” immediately falls away as a panicked Chairman clutches at his head. Hae-jin escorts the rattled vice-minster out of the room (and as planned, he meets President Jung in the hallway, who’s surprised to see him).
Hae-jin hurries to the Chairman’s side, worriedly asking if he’s okay. The Chairman address Hae-jin as “Director Cha,” and Hae-jin sighs in relief, knowing that he’s still in “Chairman” mode. But the Chairman looks around the room, asking why they’re in a hotel room. Oh no!
I know the fact that the Tae-ho’s carefully planned con might break down is something to worry about, but right now I’m more focused on the important things, like Se-hoon aka Heung-soo. I definitely did not see that one coming, although I thought there had to be more to Se-hoon’s story just because he was so, well, boring. But it puts that meeting back in Episode 3 in a whole new light, because there I was totally convinced they were meeting for the first time, and instead, it’s two brothers pretending not to know each other. (Now I’m wondering how much of his pointing out that Se-hoon wasn’t having a good time was just Heung-sam tormenting his little brother a little bit, because, hey, that’s just what brothers do, so why pass up the opportunity?)
So well played, show. Well played. I love the reveal because it gives this huge sudden depth to these characters that we really only knew vaguely (Heung-sam) if at all (Se-hoon/Heung-soo). Se-hoon’s declarations about growing up in Canada and living life alone are no doubt true, but now we know exactly how alone he is. It also explains that underlying level of resentment that seemed to surround his character whenever he was on screen. I never really understood the romance between him and Jung-min, since it seemed clear both were in it for purely business reasons, but now it makes so much more sense.
Yes, it’s still primarily for business reasons, but while Jung-min might actually like him (or be warming up to him), I feel like his wooing her was just because his brother wanted leverage within the company. So it’ll be interesting to see how this romance plays out, if he actually starts to like Jung-min as a person and not just as a mission, and whether or not she can sway his affection and loyalty to his brother over to her side. If that will be even possible, since I sense the bromance is strong in this one.
Another romance that finally makes sense for me, now, too, is Jong-gu and Mi-joo. I loved watching their scenes together during this episode — in fact, those were probably my favorite parts. I think piecing together their backstory (and Heung-sam’s backstory) is the most intriguing part of the show for me, and to finally understand how much they care for each other, even if it’s not something they are really free to do anything about, makes me so happy. Not that I’m happy to see that Mi-joo is torn up over the fact she knows she’s second in Jong-gu’s heart until he can find his long-lost daughter, but I’m just glad to know that he does really care for her, as messed up as their relationship and friendship and past might be.
I’m also glad that the romance is low-key, because that’s not why I’m watching this drama. I’m watching it for the characters and to see them overcome their struggles and try to continue moving forward (preferably on a better path). JTBC is usually excellent when it comes to character studies and character-driven dramas, and this show is no exception. Even with a plot that’s laden with intrigue, mystery, and action, there are so many small moments in each episode that are there to build on our understanding of the characters and to make them feel real to us — and to make their relationships with each other feel real. Such as Jong-gu teasing Mi-joo, asking if she stole the car, or the Chairman easily world-building his role as “Chairman Park” in such a familiar manner that you’re sure it’s coming from his past experience, or President Jung yelling at his bodyguard for picking all the slow streets to get to his all-important meeting with “Chairman Park.”
They don’t just feel like actors reading lines — these feel like real people, people that I know and love (or love to hate). There is no black-and-white dividing lines of hero and villain, even though it’s clear that there are those whom we are rooting for and those whom we are rooting against. These are characters that come to this show fully developed, and we have the pleasure of slowly unwrapping each layer as we learn more and more about them, be they small discoveries or large surprises. Perhaps most importantly, these discoveries and surprises make sense within the world of the Seoul Station and the people that surround it — even with a “birth secret,” they don’t feel like cheap tricks to move the plot along or garner our sympathy. (At least, not yet.)
Which means I’ve reached a point where I trust the writer and director to not only find a way out of this potentially sticky situation of the Chairman reverting back to himself in Tae-ho’s hour of need, but find a way out that will make sense. Not just a slapped together bandaid-bridge to help our hero get out of a jam and then move on to next plot point. No, I expect more than that, because our hero fights his own battles (well, with the help of his friends and comrades), succeeding by his own merit and wits — not by a magic button created by the omnipotent screen-writer.