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Shopping King Louis: Episode 1

Shopping King Louis makes a great case for itself right out of the gate, with wonderful, rich characters, and a zany story setup that’s pretty out there, but leaves you wanting more. We’re given just enough of the wacky plot to whet our appetites, while the show lets the characters shine, pulling us in and making us care for them right away. It’s been a while since I cared this much, this quickly, and I can’t wait to dive into Louis’s bizarre but fun fantasy world and explore.

 
EPISODE 1: “Pick Me”

The show begins by telling us how connected the world is these days. The internet, computers, and smartphones allow people instant access to information, and one of the things people love to do most with that connection is shop. You can buy nearly anything you want, from nearly anywhere, and have it delivered wherever you are.

A well-dressed man, CHA JOONG-WON (Yoon Sang-hyun) explains to his staff that they’ll be using the brand Louis Ssaton as PR for their new luxury hall of high-end brands. In particular, a tracksuit recently worn in a drama by Lee Min-ho has been attracting a lot of attention.

The man’s assistant BAEK MA-RI (Im Se-mi) asks if it’s a good idea to use this tracksuit to publicize their high-end brands, and she gets a scathing glare in response. Joong-won asks if the others think the same way, but they all decline to respond, and Joong-won moves on with a smirk.

One hundred special editions of the tracksuit are about to go on sale online, and people all over the world hover over their Enter keys, eager to be the first to buy one. Each jacket will be inscribed with a number corresponding to the order in which they’re sold, and everyone wants to be Number One.

The tracksuits sell out in seconds, and Lucky Number One is a man whose face we don’t see. He does a victory dance while his butler looks on indulgently, used to this behavior.

The promotion is declared a success, but Joong-won remains calm and thoughtful. His staff wonders who the lucky Number one buyer is, but the whole world knows him — he’s the internationally-famed Shopping King Louis.

LOUIS, otherwise known as KANG JI-SUNG (Seo In-gook), grandson of the CEO of mega-brand Louis Ssaton. He’s been up all night, shopping online as usual, in what seems to be his very own luxurious, fully-staffed French castle. He heads to the couch for some shuteye, asking BUTLER KIM to bring him brunch later, and Butler Kim reminds him that he has to be at a certain boutique by noon today or the sunglasses he wants will be sold out.

That gets Louis up and moving, and he seems a happy sort of fella as he splashes in his bubble bath, appreciates the view, then dresses in a nice suit. He heads to breakfast, but complains that he has no time for the vast Korean meal set out for him.

Butler Kim patiently says he has to have rice at least, because his grandmother says so. That stops Louis, and he fidgets while the maids prepare his meal for him. He takes a few big bites, complaining about the huge portions, then declares himself finished.

Butler Kim hands Louis an herbal tonic, which gets spit right back out, heh. Louis refuses to drink the tonic, but it’s Grandma’s orders. Butler Kim actually chases him around the house and out onto the vast lawn, brandishing the cup of tonic, HAHA. The entire staff comes out to giggle at their antics.

Butler Kim finally sits on a low wall, out of breath, and Louis cautiously approaches him. He says he’ll drink the tonic, but before he gets to Butler Kim, he chickens out and runs again. I could watch this all day.

Butler Kim can’t run anymore, and he calls out that if Louis doesn’t drink the tonic, he won’t take him shopping. Wow, he knows where to hit so it hurts. Louis gives in, but he trips over his own foot and falls flat on his face in the grass. Butler Kim rushes to catch him, but he trips as well and lands right on top of Louis, face in his butt.

Louis gets a nosebleed, and the news immediately reaches his grandmother all the way in South Korea. GRANDMA is horrified that her grandson is bleeding, and she falls out of bed and calls for the doctor to be sent to Louis. Her assistant JUNG-RAN runs out, and Grandma snuggles Louis’s portrait, crooning, “My Precious!” (Heh, the portrait sticks his tongue out at her.)

Louis is more concerned about missing out on the coveted sunglasses than his nose, and gripes at Butler Kim for calling his grandmother. Butler Kim sasses back that it’s Louis’s fault for running away, reminding him that it’s his job to follow Grandma’s orders and protect Louis.

Louis snaps that Butler Kim is too stubborn, and that’s why he’s still single at his age. That hits below the belt, and Butler Kim trails after him, feelings all wounded. He whines that he’s so devoted to Louis that he has no time to date, and Louis complains that he can’t date either because Butler Kim is always around.

He even blames Butler Kim for his being bullied at school, since he followed Louis everywhere, and that just about breaks the poor man. His face crumples, and Louis feels bad, so he proposes that they stop fighting and go get themselves some sunglasses.

They cook up a scheme, and they video chat Grandma while Louis pretends to be crying in his bed. That convinces Grandma to cancel the doctor, and the two silly boys head out to do some serious shopping.

They visit a posh boutique, and Louis is in his element. He peruses the jewelry, and the best pieces actually call out to him to pick them. The boutique manager compliments Louis’s exquisite taste, and Butler Kim explains that Louis possesses something called “inframince,” the ability to spot even the most infinitesimal differences between goods. In other words, he knows quality when he sees it.

The manager gives Louis a special gift as thanks for his patronage — a pair of (no kidding) custom-made, diamond-studded underwear with his name stitched on the back.

Grandma visits the Louis Ssaton building, where the staff gossips about her difficult life. One woman, HONG JAE-SOOK (Yoon Yoo-sun) tells acquaintances that the lady lost her husband at age 42, then her son and his wife died only ten years later. Louis, her grandson, is all she has left.

Grandma frequents a particular fortuneteller, who said that her own fate is so strong that it’s killing her family. That’s why she and Louis live far away from each other — she’s afraid her fate’s strong energy will kill him as well.

The gossipy employees are startled to realize that Ma-ri was in the restroom with them, and overheard everything they said about Louis. She calmly tells them that the matriarch’s grandson is 25 years old, and that he’s also the famed Shopping King Louis.

She actually knows the King himself, but he’s not eager to take her call when she tries to reach him. Butler Kim thinks they’ll eventually marry, but Louis calls that insane, having no desire whatsoever to marry Ma-ri. Butler Kim smugly says that she’s determined, so his money is on Ma-ri getting her man, and he accurately predicts that she’ll call again. Louis takes the call, and she asks questions as if she’s reciting a memorized script.

Louis is not amused, and he asks if Ma-ri’s in love with him. She’s always calling and asking after him, so he tells her flat-out that he doesn’t like her. He says not to even think about marrying him, and hangs up, while Ma-ri’s mouth hangs open like a fish.

But he’s right about her intentions, and she declares that he’ll marry her soon enough. Interestingly, Butler Kim notes that she always calls Louis at the same time every week and asks the same questions, which leads him to believe that her calls are more of an obligation than anything else.

Louis goes inside and turns on the TV for background noise, and the channel lands on a documentary about a girl who combs the mountains for medicinal herbs to support her family. Something about her grabs Louis’s attention, and when she bravely flips a snake then beams into the camera, he looks positively smitten. This fact does not go unnoticed by Butler Kim.

Eyes still glued to the TV screen, Louis asks if people really live in remote areas like that in Korea. When the girl on the show mentions an herb that’s good for nasal inflammation, Louis orders Butler Kim to get him some, but Butler Kim says this is a documentary, not a home shopping show, hee.

We switch to the girl, GO BOK-SHIL (Nam Ji-hyun), as the cameraman follows her up to her quaint mountain home. He asks if it’s hard living without electricity, and she agrees that it is, but her grandmother won’t live anywhere else.

Bok-shil takes care of her grandmother and younger brother, and what she wants most is a refrigerator. She tells the camera that she cooks every day in the summer, because the food won’t keep.

Louis has a burst of generosity, and tells Butler Kim to send Bok-shil the biggest, fanciest fridge he can find. Butler Kim points out that she has no electricity, and anyway, the show isn’t a fundraising drive either.

Joong-won’s parents let themselves into his home, and his mother gasps in horror to see his fridge filled to the brim with the last batch of food she brought him. His father indulgently helps her replace it all with new food, though he comments that Joong-won never eats at home anyway.

He tells Mom to stop doing this, because their son is picky and will never eat it, and she figures out that he doesn’t like her food, either. She demands to know which things Dad hates, and he clarifies that he likes her cooking, but the combinations are weird.

Mom scans Joong-won’s place with (literal) laser eyes, looking for any evidence that there’s a woman in his life. She’s worried that he’ll still be single at 40, so Mom drags Dad to a fortuneteller to hear Joong-won’s fortune.

The fortuneteller informs them that he’ll meet someone in one month, but for now, both men and women are out of his reach. Mom asks what he means by mentioning men as well, but the fortuneteller doesn’t know exactly.

Joong-won is currently berating his staff, unhappy with their suggestions for increasing sales. They mostly seem terrified of him, and cringe when he throws their folders at their feet. Only Ma-ri’s suggestion gets the barest of compliments, but that’s rare enough that she basks in his approval.

Bok-shil celebrates when she finds a wild ginseng plant that appears to be over fifty years old. A plant that old could net her nearly five million won, or about five thousand U.S. dollars, but Bok-shil plans to give it to her grandmother, who’s been ill ever since her younger brother BOK-NAM ran away.

She blames the documentary for making Bok-nam want to leave the mountain, but her digging companions assure her that he’s a survivor. One of them offers to buy the ginseng plant from her, but she refuses, and rushes it home to her grandmother.

When Bok-shil arrives home, her grandmother doesn’t respond to her calls, and Bok-shil suddenly notices that she’s sitting terribly still. Oh no. She cradles her grandmother in her arms and begs her tearfully to wake up, but she’s already passed away.

Butler Kim rushes to shut the window and close the curtains when Louis gets a little rain on his face, and Louis grows irritated with his hovering. Louis asks if it will still be raining in the afternoon, because he’s not allowed to go out when it’s raining, and perks up when he hears it could clear up.

Louis tells Butler Kim that he’s going to his friend’s birthday party, but Butler Kim says that Grandma won’t like it. Louis sighs and asks why his grandmother keeps him locked up, and seems saddened when he’s told that it’s because she loves him.

He remembers his first Christmas after his parents died, when he’d cried to his grandmother that he didn’t want presents — he wanted his parents back. Grandma had said she can’t bring his parents back, but that she was there for him.

Little Louis had prayed to the stars to bring his parents back, wanting back the little everyday things like eating with his mother, and bathing with his father. He says that he loves his grandmother but he’d rather have his parents back, and behind him, Grandma’s heart breaks.

Remembering her sorrow, Louis can’t go against Grandma’s wishes, and he backs down on going out today.

Bok-shil takes a train to Seoul to look for her brother and tell him that their grandmother died. Bok-nam appears to have taken up with a motorcycle gang, and wears his knockoff copy of the Louis Ssaton tracksuit proudly.

Bok-shil takes out a rice ball to eat, and the ajumma across the seat from her licks her lips hungrily. Bok-shil shares a rice ball, and the ajumma asks for some water when she chokes. Bok-shil goes to the cafeteria car for her, leaving her bag behind. Uh-oh. While she’s in line for the water, the train makes a quick stop, and sure enough, when Bok-shil gets back to her seat, both her bag and the ajumma are gone.

Joong-won travels from Seoul to Busan for a blind date, but he pays more attention to his ice cream than his companion. His date says she’s glad she canceled a trip to Japan to meet him, and Joong-won vaguely says that she’s beautiful. She simpers, until he adds that she’s not his type.

When she presses him for details, he says her eyes are too round, her nose too high, and her lips too red. “You’re too doll-like.” His date is offended (well, you did ask) when Joong-won says that she’s too perfect for his liking, and she storms out.

Bok-shil sits at the train station clutching her bottle of water, having been told by a cop that there’s nothing they can do to get her bag back. She doesn’t even own a phone, so filling out a report would be useless since they’d have no way to contact her.

Joong-won is at the same station, heading home after his disastrous date. He calls his mother and threatens to run away if she ever sets him up again.

Bok-shil gets an idea, and she begins to scan people as they pass by. She nixes several people as unsuitable before she spots Joong-won, notices his nice clothes and expensive appearance, and locks on him as her target.

She steps in front of him, throws her arms out wide, and refuses to let him sidestep her. Joong-won starts to worry that she’s a psycho when she grins and yanks up her shirt — but she’s just pulling out her wild ginseng root, which she’s kept strapped to her torso. Smart girl!

Bok-shil demands that Joong-won buy the ginseng, dragging him aside to talk. She shows him the ginseng and explains that someone stole her bag and that she needs the money. He seems impressed, but he turns to walk away — then something desperate in her voice makes him stop.

He asks how much Bok-shil wants for it, and she agrees to sell it for only one million won (about a thousand dollars). Joong-won squints at the price, thinking she’s lying about the ginseng’s authenticity, so Bok-shil swears on her name that it’s genuine.

Interspersed with their discussion is Louis, explaining to his staff that you know something is quality by its price tag. The more expensive an item is, the more a consumer feels reassured that it’s the real thing.

Joong-won obviously agrees with this way of thinking, because he’s tempted to buy. But he lectures Bok-shil for not even being able to prove her name since her ID was stolen. He gives her a few bills and calls it a down payment, promising the rest if the ginseng turns out to be a real wild root, but Bok-shil shoves his money back and refuses.

She changes her mind when it looks like Joong-won will walk, and offers to sell it to him on those conditions if she can see his ID. He says that’s unfair since he can’t see hers, so she accepts the down payment and his name, and hands over the ginseng.

Joong-won asks for her phone number, then gives her his when she admits she hasn’t got a phone. Bok-shil promises to call him every day, and begs him to pay her the balance as soon as he verifies the ginseng. He asks what happens to his down payment if it’s not genuine, but Bok-shil swears it’s the real thing.

At home that evening, Joong-won takes a closer look at the ginseng, and wonders if he’s nuts to have bought it. He thinks about Bok-shil — I have a feeling it’s more about her than the ginseng.

Louis dresses like a cat burglar and tries to sneak out, though he nearly immediately walks into a cabinet and makes a huge racket. He hides while Butler Kim investigates, and makes his way to a locked door downstairs. He successfully picks the lock (he wasn’t kidding — he’s literally locked up), but an alarm goes off, waking the entire household.

Louis runs back to his room, and takes a good look around at all the expensive toys and electronics. Butler Kim follows him, and Louis gives him a resigned look and tells him to take care. He jumps out the window and races away into the night, Butler Kim calling after him.

This is apparently all a nightmare of Grandma’s, and she also calls out, “Don’t go, Louis-ya! Don’t leave. Come back!” She wakes with a start and her assistant Jung-ran rushes in, and finds Grandma burning up with fever. Grandma says that she dreamed Louis was running away into a dark forest, then passes out. She’s taken to the hospital with pneumonia, where the doctor tells her people to be prepared for the worst.

When Louis hears of Grandma’s collapse, Butler Kim drives him to the airport to go to her side. Butler Kim is nervous to let Louis fly alone, but there was only one seat left on this flight, and he promises that he’ll be on the next flight out.

The plan is for one of Grandma’s company directors, DIRECTOR BAEK, to pick up Louis at the airport. Director Baek is slated to be the next chairman of Louis Ssaton, and his vulturous cronies congratulate him in advance on his promotion. He politely reminds them that Grandma is still alive, but there’s a greedy gleam in his eye that I don’t like one tiny bit.

Grandma finally wakes, crying out weakly for Louis, and Jae-sook, Director Baek’s wife, rushes to her side. Grandma calls everyone in, and announces to their shock that she wants Louis to inherit the company. When she hears that Louis is on his way to Korea, she asks Jung-ran to prepare a party to welcome him home.

Louis stays awake for his entire flight, and by the time their landing is announced, he looks exhausted. He fastens his seat belt, then lays his head back and closes his eyes.

A short time later, Bok-shil canvasses the streets passing out flyers, still looking for her brother. She hears female voices exclaiming over a man’s attractiveness, and wanders over to see the back of someone with her brother’s same build, sitting on the steps of a building surrounded by garbage. The man is wearing the same knockoff tracksuit Bok-shil’s brother bought just before he ran away.

She calls her brother’s name loudly, and runs over to grab him. The man is filthy and looks homeless, and it’s not Bok-nam — it’s Louis, and he peers at Bok-shil’s face closely, almost as if he recognizes her.

COMMENTS

What an interesting cliffhanger. What on earth happened to Louis? I notice he actually isn’t wearing his own tracksuit, which has a giant “01” stitched onto it in gold thread. The jacket he’s wearing had no number, which means it’s not one of the limited edition jackets. I had assumed that the special jacket would provide a clue as to Louis’s identity once he lost his memory, but apparently that’s not the case.

But let me back up — first of all, this show is absolutely gorgeous on a purely visual level. I really love the soft colors, warm lighting, and interesting angles used throughout the episode, and I hope that keeps up. It gives the show a very unique feel that sets it apart, and I kept rewinding scenes and pausing certain shots just to get the full picture of everything that was happening on a visual level. If nothing else, it’s very pretty, and that’s before we even mention Seo In-gook’s face, heh.

The characters are wonderful already — they all seem fully formed and complex, and the relationships feel real and genuine. I appreciate that this first episode focused on introducing everyone to us, leaving the business information for later, just giving us enough so that we know who is who and how they relate to one another. It’s a smart choice, because letting us care about the character first draws the audience in that much faster, so that by the time we get to the company machinations, we’ll actually give a damn about how the company business affects everyone.

The show did a very good job showing not just the personalities involved, but their care and concern for one another, which just makes me like everyone that much more. You can feel, for example, the affection between Joong-won’s parents even as they bicker, Grandma’s vast love for her grandson and his for her (even when they haven’t even shared a scene together, which is truly impressive). We can even feel the long history of frustration and fondness between Louis and Butler Kim. You get the sense that they have these disagreements all the time, but they rarely get truly upset with each other. And when they do, such as Louis hurting Butler Kim’s feelings, he backs right down and goes to great lengths to make it all better. Honestly, I’m worried about Butler Kim once he realizes that Louis is missing — he’s going to be beside himself.

Louis himself is a great character already. I love that he’s completely spoiled rotten, but it hasn’t made him rude, arrogant, or otherwise superior. His staff seems to genuinely like him, and his relationship with Butler Kim is positively adorable. Louis appears to enjoy life, and though shopping is his addiction, he’s not a jerk about his money and treats people well. There’s a deep sadness in him left over from the loss of his parents and his separation from his grandmother, that I suspect fuels his drive for shopping. He’s trying to fill a hole in his heart that can’t be filled with things, but he hasn’t figured it out yet. Still, he’s a sweet boy with that trademark happy-go-lucky cheekiness that Seo In-gook does so well. It makes him really fun to watch, and I can’t wait to see him and Bok-shil interact.

I really like how Louis and Bok-shil were allowed to be their own people in this first episode, so we got to know them individually before seeing them together. It’s interesting how they live such vastly different lives, one in luxury and the other in near poverty, yet they have so much in common. Both were raised by a loving grandmother, and though the settings are different, they both lived in relative isolation (though ironically, it’s Bok-shil who had more personal freedom in her mountain home). Both seemed to thrive in their environment, but it’s also rendered them innocent in the ways of the world, so coming to the big city will be quite the shock for them both. I’m very curious to see them learn to navigate with only each other to lean on.

I really enjoyed this first episode, outlandish comedy and all, and the way so much vital information was withheld from us just makes me anxious to see more. What happened to Louis? Why does he look so ragged and filthy? We know from promos that he loses his memory in an accident, and I’m dying to learn what actually caused the memory loss. But most of all, I can’t wait to see him and Bok-shil together, learning to survive with nothing but one another in the big, scary world.

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This surprised me in a good way. I was expecting a silly, childish show and while it's kind of silly it also has heart and zany humour. I like the refreshing take on the chaebol cliche with Louie being actually nice and likeable despite being a spoiled manchild with a shopping addiction. Also Louie doesn't take brooding showers, he has bubble baths hehe.

I loved Grandma and her "My precious" a la Lord Of The Rings.

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Yes, yes, yes, the bubble both was overly endearing. I could not NOT like him.

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