Suspicious Partner: Episodes 1-2
[Note: Because the broadcasters are now splitting their episodes to accommodate new commercials, they’ve decided to renumber each part. This doesn’t change how much content we’ll be getting, just the way it’s numbered. So Episodes 1-2 refer to the hour that premiered on Wednesday, and Thursday’s second hour will be titled Episodes 3-4. I don’t like the change, but what can you do? –javabeans]
I can already tell that these two are going to kill me. Suspicious Partner pits these strong personalities against each other from the very first minute, and their chemistry crackles as they try to figure out how to define their reluctant relationship. This first episode mostly focuses on laying the story’s groundwork, but every time Ji-wook and Bong-hee butt heads, I can’t help but get excited for what’s to come.
EPISODE 1, PART 1: Hope for the Future
A young woman’s face is partially obscured as she asks the correct way to write something, adding that she’s read a lot of them but has never written one herself. She begins to write, starting with, “When I was little…”
We go back in time, following the young woman, EUN BONG-HEE (Nam Ji-hyun), as she hops onto a subway train. It’s very crowded, forcing Bong-hee to stand, and a timid-seeming man stands to her left.
A weaselly guy on Bong-hee’s right squeezes her bottom, but he strategically grabs the left cheek, making her think the timid man did it. When she feels a second grope, she asks angrily if it was him.
The man, who we’ll come to know as NOH JI-WOOK (Ji Chang-wook), is understandably baffled. She calls him a pervert, which sparks Ji-wook’s temper. Bong-hee doubles down and clarifies that he’s a drunken pervert.
They have an embarrassingly loud argument, with Bong-hee complaining about him touching her ass and Ji-wook insisting that he did no such thing. He indignantly asks why she’s accusing him, and Bong-hee sneers that his fancy suit doesn’t mean he’s not a creeper.
Bong-hee says haughtily that this is an act of sexual violence, which carries a hefty fine or one year in jail. Ji-wook corrects her error in listing the clause number, but Bong-hee only takes his knowledge as proof that he’s quite the experienced pervert.
Bong-hee unknowingly turns to the actual groper and tells him to call security. She leaves the subway car, and when Ji-wook tries to exit after her, she gleefully blocks his way with her formidable stink-eye. Ji-wook’s trapped as the doors close and the train moves on, helpless as Bong-hee smirks triumphantly.
She’s feeling pretty sassy until she remembers her destination. She’d received an anonymous text earlier, saying that if she hurries, she’ll catch her boyfriend at a hotel.
She tells herself it’s just a prank, but she goes anyway, arriving in the lobby just in time to witness her boyfriend, JANG HEE-JOON (Chansung), exiting the elevator with his arm around a woman’s shoulders. Seeing her across the lobby, Hee-joon sends his date ahead of him, then resolutely approaches Bong-hee.
Ji-wook is at the same hotel meeting an older man in the lounge – his boss, CEO BYUN YOUNG-HEE (Lee Deok-hwa). He grumbles that a crazy woman on the subway turned him into a drunk pervert, still bent out of shape from his encounter with Bong-hee.
Bong-hee and Hee-joon sit a few tables away, each waiting for the other to speak. Finally, Bong-hee asks for an explanation, but Hee-joon says matter-of-factly that there isn’t one. With no remorse whatsoever, he calls his cheating a simple mistake.
He deftly skirts all of Bong-hee’s questions, which gives the impression that he’s done this many times before. Bong-hee admits to herself that she’d sensed something wrong lately when certain things stopped adding up.
Hee-joon offers an insincere apology, but Bong-hee is beyond forgiveness. He changes tacticson and says that he’s a young, virile man who couldn’t resist a beautiful woman hitting on him. Bong-hee thinks that’s a crappy excuse, and when Hee-joon says he won’t do it again, she snaps that he’s really saying that he’ll try not to get caught again.
She rises to storm out of the lounge. Hee-joon follows her, and she grabs his hand and twists it painfully. He asks if she’s breaking up with him, but she says that he can wait for her to decide when that happens.
To make it fair, she says that they’ll break up after she has a one-night stand of her own. When Hee-joon objects, Bong-hee declares that she’s going to sleep with the first man she sees. She turns to make a cool exit, which is ruined when the first man she sees is old enough to be her father.
Bong-hee rears back in horror, losing her balance and falling to the floor. Hee-joon proves what a jerk he is by just watching as she stands, disheveled and humiliated, and limps away. She starts to cry and wipes her eyes, accidentally pulling out one of her contacts.
Suddenly, there’s another man standing next to her. Bong-hee asks him if he wants to sleep with her, and when he turns to say that he will, we see that it’s Ji-wook. Bong-hee blinks up at him, his face a blur because of her lost contact.
All she can see is that he’s young and handsome, which is a relief, until she realizes that his voice sounds familiar. She takes a closer look, then she gasps to see her drunken subway pervert leering at her.
He says, “Let’s go,” and drags her away by the wrist. Hee-joon yells that they’re really over if she does this, and with an angry roll of her eyes, Bong-hee grabs Ji-wook’s wrist, slings it around her shoulders, and hauls him all the way to the street. Ha, I love her already.
Once outside, Bong-hee pushes Ji-wook away and makes it clear that she wasn’t serious about sleeping with him, but Ji-wook just yells back that he’s not a drunkard. Bong-hee asks if he put on that act inside just to tell her that, and he barks that he was so offended by her accusations that he had to.
Bong-hee is genuinely surprised that he’s not really a pervert, and by the time he stomps off in a snit, she’s feeling bad about the way she treated him. Ji-wook comes back just to tell her not to carelessly sleep with random men, which is actually kind of sweet, except that he ruins the effect by complimenting himself for saying something so cool. PFFT.
Bong-hee gapes at Ji-wook as he goes, but when she spots Hee-joon coming out to talk to her, she runs after Ji-wook and jumps into his taxi. She desperately begs for his help one last time, flashing him a sheepish smile as the taxi drives away.
Feeling chastened, Bong-hee offers Ji-wook apologies and thanks, but he peevishly refuses to accept them. Bong-hee explains that she doesn’t usually make a habit of offering sex to strangers, but Ji-wook stops her.
She asks him to go for a drink to show her appreciation for his helping her out, but he turns that down too. Bong-hee requests to be dropped off at the corner, and it’s interesting how Ji-wook looks sorry to see her go.
Bong-hee is halfway into a bottle of soju when she realizes that there’s a man standing by her table. For a second she thinks it’s Ji-wook, but it’s just some barfly who says that she looks pitiful all alone. Bong-hee slaps down her National Tae Kwon Do certification card to scare him off before telling him to get lost.
The voice that responds sounds familiar again, and she squints up to see Ji-wook, looking all backlit and swoony as he hands her the compact that she left in the taxi. Bong-hee smiles and croons that she’s happy to see a familiar face.
She slurs that she feels like a loser, having gotten no calls or texts from Hee-joon, then admits that she left the compact on purpose. Ji-wook holds out her compact, intending to leave it and go, but Bong-hee quickly shoves the glass into his outstretched hand and pours a drink. Her hopeful expression convinces Ji-wook to stay.
Bong-hee wakes the next morning in a state of shock, recalling her offer to sleep with Ji-wook and his casual acceptance. She remembers drinking way too much, against Ji-wook’s protestations, then suddenly realizes that she’s in a strange house.
She remembers flirting outrageously with Ji-wook, then refusing to cooperate when he tried to take her home. He’d been forced to bring her to his place, where she’d wrestled him onto the couch and leaned over him, ready for some action. She can’t remember anything after that, and she flails in humiliation.
As Ji-wook showers (thank you drama gods), Bong-hee tries to decide the most appropriate course of action. Should she act casual, or apologize, or maybe thank him? She ends up making a run for it, but she’s stopped cold by her bedraggled image in a security mirror. Lol, she gives herself a disgusted glare like, Really, Self?
Ji-wook exits the shower to find his place empty, and a note stuck to his dartboard that just says Sorry.
Bong-hee checks her phone again on the bus, but she’s still gotten no calls or messages. She starts to write Hee-joon a scathing text for not caring that she took off with a stranger, but she ends up deleting it.
On his way to work, Ji-wook calls CEO Byun, who asks curiously if he slept with the girl from last night. Ji-wook says he’s not sure, but CEO Byun is happy for him anyway, citing Ji-wook’s long dry spell between women.
That puts Ji-wook in a bad mood, reminding him of what must have been the worst moment of his life. He’d let himself into his girlfriend’s apartment one night to surprise her with roses, only to find a trail of discarded clothing leading into her bedroom.
Picking up a man’s tie, Ji-wook had realized what was happening. He’d headed toward the bedroom, and his girlfriend had stepped out wearing a sexy negligee. As she’d looked at Ji-wook guiltily, he could see a man dressing in the room behind her.
Ji-wook thinks about last night in the hotel lounge, when he’d overheard Bong-hee and Hee-joon fighting about his cheating. Hearing Bong-hee’s vow to sleep with the first man she saw, he’d gone up to her deliberately, understanding how she must have been feeling in that moment.
A handsome young man whom we’ll come to know as JI EUN-HYUK (Choi Tae-joon) enters the office of CEO Byun. They discuss Ji-wook and how he’ll never quit his job as a prosecutor, and CEO Byun asks if the two are still fighting. Eun-hyuk just smiles and changes the subject, saying that they should congratulate Ji-wook.
Ji-wook arrives at his office to find his coworkers sarcastically clapping for him, because he’s been chosen as one of the ten official worst prosecutors in the city. HA. He thinks it’s actually a good thing, since having lawyers hate him just means he’s doing his job well.
One fellow prosecutor snaps that that’s not what it means, listing his bad qualities, like ignoring human rights and being biased. Ji-wook defends that he hates criminals, and he hates lawyers who cite human rights as a reason criminals should be set free. He says that their hate is a compliment, and his coworker deadpans that lawyers aren’t the only ones who hate him.
Later, Ji-wook gets a call from his mother, then hangs up when she mentions hearing about his “worst prosecutor” title. His mother grumbles to her masseuse that he was chosen because he’s too righteous, but her masseuse says that her daughter is a legal professional, and that that’s not what she’s heard.
PART 2: Love in Trouble
Bong-hee goes to class distracted by the events of the last twenty-four hours, especially since she still doesn’t know if she slept with Ji-wook or not. Her friend says that she heard Hee-joon dumped Bong-hee after she had a one-night stand, and that the whole school is talking about it in their group chat room.
One particularly haughty student, NA JI-HAE (Kim Ye-won), sneers that a public official with bad grades and loose morals should be embarrassed of herself. Bong-hee tells her to shut up about things she doesn’t know anything about as they glare lightning bolts at each other.
Bong-hee runs into Hee-joon on campus after class, and she fantasizes about flattening him with a roundhouse kick to the face. In reality, she starts to tell him it’s really over, but he interrupts to say, in front of his friends, that he dumped her already. He shakes his head like she’s pathetic, leaving Bong-hee gaping in disbelief.
That night, Bong-hee dreams that when she was drunk, Ji-wook had screamed at her that this is why she got dumped. Her mother, the masseuse who argued with Ji-wook’s mom, is still at her place in the morning after spending the night treating Bong-hee for a fever.
Bong-hee confesses that she failed an exam, but her mom just encourages her to keep at it. She’s even supportive when Bong-hee tells her that she dumped Hee-joon, so Bong-hee runs over to snuggle with her and promise to focus on becoming a lawyer and supporting her mother.
Bong-hee is placed on academic probation and is sent to intern under a prosecutor, a judge, and a lawyer for two months each. The new power couple on campus consists of Hee-joon and Ji-hae, and Bong-hee takes great enjoyment in annoying them in retaliation for Hee-joon destroying her reputation. She plays her new “crazy woman” role to the hilt, pretending to curse them with death.
When it’s time to start her internship with the prosecutor, Bong-hee tells herself that this is a new beginning. She enters the office with a bright smile and a cheerful greeting, but she loses her composure when she sees that the drunken pervert she may have slept with is her new boss.
Ji-wook keeps his expression neutral, though he muses that she seems familiar. He asks if she ever rides the number six subway line or visits hotels, deliberately trying to fluster her even further.
Once he’s got Bong-hee off-kilter, Ji-wook asks why she left that morning, and she starts to answer, only to switch mid-sentence to say that she doesn’t know what he’s talking about. He tells her to stop being so shameless, to which Bong-hee retorts that he’s making fun of her, and he justifies that he’s just testing her honesty.
Bong-hee suddenly mentions the pervert that groped her butt, which wipes the smirk right off Ji-wook’s face. He growls that it wasn’t him and reminds her that she’s on probation, and he’s her instructor.
Bong-hee doesn’t miss a beat, quipping that since she’s already screwed, she has one question she’d like to ask in private. Ji-wook tells her that he has nothing to hide, unlike some people. Bong-hee blurts, “Did we sleep together or not?” and asks if he also hit her, since her face was sore the next morning. Ji-wook didn’t expect her to call his bluff in front of his coworkers, and he finally loses his temper.
His coworkers step into the hall, terrified of the argument that’s going on inside. Eun-hyuk joins them and tries to eavesdrop, but he just gets a hard knock on the head when Bong-hee bursts through the door, ha.
Ji-wook stops her from apologizing to Eun-hyuk, then pointedly ignores the lawyer when he tries to talk to him. Eun-hyuk innocently swears that he voted Ji-wook as best prosecutor, but Ji-wook walks away without a word.
As he leads Bong-hee through the halls, he grumbles that she just turned him from merely the worst prosecutor into a prosecutor who hits and gropes women. Unconcerned about his reputation, she asks again if they slept together.
Ji-wook smugly says that he was hit on by a woman that night, and that he’s not a saint, especially after a few drinks. Wide-eyed, she asks for an answer, but all Ji-wook says is, “I’m not sure.”
Bong-hee has lunch with her friend WOO HEE-KYU, who tells her that prosecutor instructors are either fair, or they work interns to death. Of course Ji-wook is the second kind, and she’s assigned all the worst work. Soon she’s frazzled and wild-eyed from everything she’s been asked to do.
Ji-wook smugly tells Bong-hee that this is his way of helping her to become better. Bong-hee thanks him, but she looks like she’s about to snap, and her job grows even harder when she’s assigned to deal with the most frustrating criminals.
She’s bruised with a bloody nose by lunch time, when a man is brought to her to confess his crime of lewd behavior toward women. Bong-hee recognizes him from the subway that day, and she suddenly realizes that this must be her real groper.
He doesn’t seem upset at the idea of going to jail, saying that he’d actually like to go there, where it’s safe. He tells Bong-hee that he witnessed a murder one night while peeping on women in the building next to his. He says that he saw a dark figure on the building’s roof carrying what looked like a body.
He’s sure the figure saw him and has been scared the killer would return to silence him. Bong-hee just has him taken away and goes outside to eat lunch.
Hee-joon and Ji-hae walk past, so Bong-hee sing-songs her curse at them again. This time, Ji-hae tells her to stop it, saying she has no right after the things she’s supposedly doing to gain favor with her prosecutor.
Ji-wook happens by in time to hear Hee-joon telling Bong-hee to wash her hair, at the very least. He goes to Bong-hee and shocks them all, even himself, by saying, “I missed you.” HAHA, what?
Bong-hee looks at him like he’s gone and lost his very last marble when he says awkwardly that she’s dirty, but also pretty. Poor Ji-wook looks like he’d rather be anywhere else on the planet as he stammers that he fell for her at first sight, but he commits to the act and even pats her on the head.
The whole scene is so weird that Hee-joon and Ji-hae just leave. Ji-wook relaxes and tells Bong-hee that her fake curse isn’t the right way to get back at her ex — instead, she should ignore him and live well. Bong-hee asks why he’s being nice to her all of a sudden, but he just tells her to wash her face, ha.
He closes his eyes for a moment, and Bong-hee stares at him, suddenly realizing how very pretty he is. She remembers more of their night together, recalling that he’d told her earnestly that it’s normal to wonder what’s wrong with her when she gets dumped that way, and that he understands because he’s been there himself. But he insists that they didn’t do anything wrong, and that the others were wrong for betraying them.
She drifts off a bit, and when she wakes later, Ji-wook is gone. Bong-hee knows now that he didn’t slap her, he’d just been holding her face firmly when he’d said all that, which is why she was sore.
Back in the office, Bong-hee watches Ji-wook with new understanding, knowing that he was nice to her because he was also betrayed. She snaps out of it when he tells her to go home and shower because she’s filthy, and she snarls back that he sucks, hee.
Still, she tries to be nice, offering to buy him dinner if she finishes her internship without killing him. He just fires back that if she finishes without becoming a murderer, he’ll give her a compliment. Bong-hee grumbles that she was joking, but Ji-wook says that he meant her ex-boyfriend, and he tells her to stop threatening to kill Hee-joon. He warns her not to show up in front of him as a suspect, because he’s ruthless.
Bong-hee sincerely thanks Ji-wook for helping her earlier in front of Hee-joon, then heads home. She runs into Hee-joon outside the building, who smirks at her for showing off with her prosecutor in front of him. He ends up with another twisted arm while Bong-hee calls him trash and tells him that he left some things at her place.
She makes a cool exit and goes home to shower, while her voice narrates that she thinks she grew up to be a pretty decent person, but that’s all about to change. She goes for a walk, and while she’s out, the power goes out all over the city. She buys some beer at the convenience store but has to pay cash, the CCTVs are all off, and the employee won’t recognize her later since he never took his eyes off his phone.
Bong-hee goes home to her apartment, tripping over something in the dark. She sees that it’s Hee-joon lying on her floor, and when she reaches out to rouse him, her hands come away covered in blood. As Bong-hee shakes in fear, her voice tells us that she has no alibi because of the blackout.
We return to the opening scene, which turns out to be Bong-hee writing down events as she remembers them. Ji-wook enters the room and reminds her that he warned her not to turn up in front of him this way. Bong-hee thinks to herself, “I grew up and became a murderer.”
I’m going into Suspicious Partner mostly blind, having very little idea of the basic plot beyond the concept of a prosecutor and an intern having a personality clash. I’m doing this deliberately, as I’m learning lately that I enjoy shows a lot more when everything is a surprise, and this show is proving to be no exception. I really love the droll humor and interesting cinematography (some shots were so beautifully lit that I had to pause the show just to take a moment to appreciate the gorgeous lighting angles), and I particularly like the fun, quirky characters. I’m willing to put up with a lot of plot holes and story weaknesses if a show has great characters, and in that sense, the drama really shines.
Both Bong-hee and Ji-wook are so extreme in their personality oddities that they both had me cracking up from the very first scene. Bong-hee is like a bull in a china shop, getting an idea in her head and running away with it without even considering any other explanations, which seems to be a bad habit that gets her into a lot of trouble. And Ji-wook is comically uptight, but also has this air of vulnerability that I find intriguing (and that reminds me quite a lot of Ji Chang-wook’s Healer alter-ego, Bong-sook). When they’re together, I can’t take my eyes off their hilarious facial expressions – between Ji-wook’s haughty superiority and Bong-hee’s transparent frustration, they’re both a treat to watch.
The characterizations in the show are very interesting to me, because somehow, everyone seems to be very different from the faces they present to the world. Bong-hee is a bold, outspoken young woman, but she also appears very insecure and unsettled in moments of extreme emotion. Ji-wook is known as a bad prosecutor who breaks rules, coming across as cold and ruthless with his colleagues, but he can also be very soft-spoken and insightful, particularly in the way he sympathized with Bong-hee and jumped in to help her multiple times. It’s a good sign that Ji-wook feels a sort of kinship with Bong-hee, having both been betrayed by someone they love, particularly since she’s going to need that sympathetic spirit as she fights to prove her innocence in Hee-joon’s murder.
Even Eun-hyuk feels like he’s wearing a mask in the few scenes we’ve seen him, particularly in the way he smiles placidly when he doesn’t want to answer a question, which gives me some Missing 9 vibes. He seems like he’s hiding something, and his “friendly” overtures towards Ji-wook carry a note of smug superiority that puts me on edge. I won’t be at all surprised if we discover that he was the man sleeping with Ji-wook’s ex-girlfriend. I’m very curious about all of the main players, and I can’t wait to see their true selves revealed.
Honestly, as much as I genuinely like the characters, I found the plot itself a little bland except for the first and the final scenes. I understand that the basics need to be established, but it just felt draggy for a while in the middle. But killing off the jerk ex-boyfriend brought my interest racing back, and I suspect that the plot will speed up now that it has a direction to go in. And this first episode did lay down a lot of interesting bread crumbs that seem as though they’ll be fun to follow, such as Ji-wook’s antagonistic relationship with Eun-hyuk, not to mention the question of whether Ji-wook and Bong-hee slept together or not on the night they met. It’s a fun twist to see the male and female leads on opposite sides of a murder investigation with one of them being the main suspect, and I’m anticipating a lot of interesting twists and turns as the story moves forward.
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