Man to Man: Episode 15
You know that feeling you get when a show rights itself just in the nick of time, and you feel like all the story elements you were worried about culminated in a satisfying way? That’s what I felt today. This was a great episode, and I am very pleased with how the story threads are finally weaving together in a coherent picture. If this penultimate episode is any indication of the finale, then there’s still a couple more twists and turns left, and a lot of scores to settle once and for all.
EPISODE 15 RECAP
We return to the crosswalk where Dong-hyun was hit by the murderous truck. Nearby, we see Seung-jae’s assistant observing the events and eyeing the bag filled with the missing tapes.
Seol-woo hurries to Dong-hyun and recalls the conversation he had with Department Head Jang, who informed him that Director Im had a similar Rifle With the Dragon Tattoo—the symbol of Chairman Mo.
Department Head Jang races into an emergency room but slows when he sees the tear-streaked face of Dong-hyun’s wife. She puts two and two together and wails that she explicitly said no hospitals or the NIS. And Department Head Jang’s face falls when he hears that Dong-hyun is in critical condition.
Seol-woo examines the crime scene, which the police have already investigated, and hears from Department Head Jang how the driver of the vehicle was drunk and drove himself to his death after hitting Dong-hyun. They know the police won’t investigate further into the incident, so Seol-woo scans the area, and his eyes focus in on the tire marks left on the road.
He notes how the marks go from dark to light right before the point of impact, which indicates sudden acceleration. Department Head Jang thinks the job seems too sloppy for an NIS agent, but he knows it definitely wasn’t an accident. Seol-woo darkly replies that it doesn’t matter who did it as he adds, “They’re all going to die anyway.”
Seol-woo heads immediately home to retrieve his sniper rifle, but as he packs, he suddenly hears Dong-hyun’s voice calling out to him. His head swivels around looking for the source of the sound, and he spots his arcade machines as the room fills with a memory.
We see Dong-hyun complaining to Seol-woo for always playing dirty in their virtual bouts. Their relationship is brotherly in a dongsaeng-hyung kind of way, and characterized by the warm bond we’ve witnessed over the course of this show. Seol-woo flashes through his many memories of Dong-hyun before he breaks down, sobbing.
In Seung-jae’s secret room, Director Im tells him that the reason he decided to join hands with the chaebol is because while Chairman Mo liked to make kings, Seung-jae is interested in getting into politics himself.
Since Seung-jae isn’t old enough to run for president yet, he’ll need someone to fill the political void of Assemblyman Baek, and Director Im offers himself and the support of the first-generation ghost agents.
Director Im then lights the tapes on fire, and Seung-jae helpfully explains to us those tapes contain evidence of Director Im’s illegal acts during his years as a ghost agent. Director Im then vows to eliminate Seol-woo and rid themselves of the remaining threat.
Later, Department Head Jang goes to Seol-woo’s secret hideout, but he sees it already swarming with other NIS agents. On the news, Dad listens to a report accusing Dong-hyun of leaking information to his “spy ring,” who then turned on him and tried to have him killed.
Do-ha also goes to Seol-woo’s place, but finds it empty. Woon-kwang calls to tell her that Seol-woo left the third wood carving and five million dollars at his house and cannot be reached.
Meanwhile, Department Head Jang gets into contact with Mi-eun via Sharon, and the two align what they know about the growing situation: mainly that Director Im is the traitor and Seol-woo has gone dark knowing that information, so they have to stop him before he does anything crazy. Their call is interrupted by a pair of NIS agents who take Department Head Jang in for questioning.
At Woon-kwang’s, Do-ha and the actor try to make heads from tails when Do-ha receives a call from Mi-eun.
The next day, at Chairman Mo’s lavish memorial service, Seol-woo overlooks the ceremony from on top of a hill and watches his two targets: Seung-jae and Director Im. He unloads his sniper rifle and gets into position.
Down at the service, Seung-jae announces his intentions to commit his life to serving Korea and vows to use his new foundation to do so to the press. Director Im takes the stage next, and Seol-woo readies himself. He puts his finger on the trigger, locks onto his target… but suddenly hears a familiar booming voice. Oh! He sees Woon-kwang and Do-ha crashing the memorial service, and the two come to stand right in the middle to search the area for Seol-woo.
Woon-kwang calls Seol-woo on the phone and tells him that he also wants to kill these dirty bastards, but Seol-woo’s actions will tarnish Dong-hyun’s honor. He explains that since Dong-hyun is being investigated for espionage and for leaking information, seeking revenge will upend Dong-hyun’s life of righteousness. Do-ha adds that she trusts Seol-woo to make the right decision.
After hearing them out, Seol-woo can’t pull the trigger and looks down in anguish.
In the ICU, Dong-hyun’s wife is grilled by the press, who are seeking an admission that Dong-hyun was working as a spy before his accident. It’s obviously a sore topic for her, and she declares bravely that Dong-hyun is not a spy.
Woon-kwang and Do-ha arrive in time to see her declaration and intervene on her behalf. The press is perplexed to see the Hallyu star there, and are even more confused after Woon-kwang says that all the charges against Dong-hyun are false.
When asked how he knows this, Woon-kwang explains that as an actor, he can tell when someone is lying or telling the truth. He then calls Dong-hyun the most righteous prosecutor in all of Korea.
Director Im visits Department Head Jang in the interrogation room, where the latter asks if he had to go that far with Dong-hyun. Director Im sticks with his lies about Dong-hyun betraying the country, and Department Head Jang shouts at him, calling him the traitor.
Director Im threatens Department Head Jang’s peaceful life with Sharon, by offering to expose his name with the ring of spies Dong-hyun is accused with working with. Seol-woo cannot be saved and is being investigated, but if Department Head Jang pledges his loyalty, then he can be spared.
Seol-woo visits an unconscious Dong-hyun in the hospital and holds Dong-hyun’s hand. His wife enters shortly after, and Seol-woo bows to her before walking toward the door. But she knows he isn’t a doctor and calls him out on it before mentioning how her husband talked of a troublesome hoobae agent from time to time.
She explains to Seol-woo that the doctors don’t expect Dong-hyun to live beyond three days, but she’s sure he’ll pull through because there are too many bad guys left for him to catch, and his personality won’t allow them to continue their life of crime. She calls her husband an idiot that needs to catch all of them himself and one who insists on doing it strictly by the law.
She adds that she let Dong-hyun be because she knew he was fighting for justice, but then her voice cracks and she says that if she knew it was a losing battle, she would’ve stopped him.
Seol-woo answers that it isn’t a losing battle and vows that he’ll take over from here, and by using the law, as Dong-hyun would have done. Aww, that was really beautiful. This woman is a great addition to this story.
Director Im goes home after his day (whoa, his house looks swanky for a government official), and as he walks up his driveway, he senses Seol-woo appear behind him and calls out to the spy. Seol-woo stares lasers into the back of the Director Im’s head, who knows that Seol-woo cannot be stopped, but he warns Seol-woo not to touch his family.
Seol-woo says that he won’t kill Director Im, but he will make his remaining days a living hell, then wishes Director Im a long life (I’m kind of digging Dark Seol-woo). After Seol-woo is gone, Director Im immediately orders Seol-woo to be shot on sight.
CEO Ji scolds Woon-kwang for sticking his head into Dong-hyun’s business and for generating bad press for their movie. Woon-kwang offers to fabricate a hot scandal to divert the attention from the hospital news.
CEO Ji is not in the mood for jokes, then turns to Do-ha, accusing her of knowing that Seol-woo was a spy since they were dating. Do-ha plays dumb and asks if CEO Ji thinks Seol-woo is a spy. He snaps that his opinion isn’t important, but then Woon-kwang casts him a look and suddenly, CEO Ji becomes thoughtful as he thinks through his answer.
He says that Seol-woo saved Woon-kwang and seems like someone who saves others rather than killing them. But then his phone vibrates, and he flips back to anger, screaming at Do-ha that that doesn’t matter since reporters have been hounding him nonstop for statements on Seol-woo.
Do-ha’s beginning to feel anxious after being cut off from contact with Seol-woo, and so Woon-kwang suggests one other person who might be able to reach him: Mi-eun.
Late at night, Mi-eun and Seol-woo meet to discuss Seol-woo’s latest mission. She asks about Dong-hyun’s well-being and nods when she’s told he’s hanging on. Seol-woo states plainly that Seung-jae was involved in Dong-hyun’s accident, and he intends to target both him and Director Im. Thus, he asks Mi-eun if she’ll continue working with him on the mission.
She agrees and says it’s time to finish “it” so that there are no more sacrifices. Seol-woo directs Mi-eun to find the copies he’s sure Seung-jae made of the videos.
Dad sternly asks Do-ha if she’s seen Seol-woo. He tells her that he knows these kinds of situations very well and warns her that “love doesn’t feed you.” And when someone is unfairly being chased, that’s when they need to eat more to stay healthy.
He very cutely hands her 150,000 won to give to Seol-woo and tells her to look after him while he looks after Dong-hyun. He promises that justice will prevail and Do-ha’s eyes well up with tears. Aww, Dad. I love this.
Do-ha returns to Seol-woo’s abandoned hideout and thanks him for not shooting before. She speaks to her coin as if he’s listening through it and says that they never ended their lovers tactic before reminding him that he told her to hang onto the coin for one more day.
Her voice shakes as she asks him to remember that he isn’t alone, and she tears up as she squeezes the coin in her hand. Suddenly, an arm wraps around her and holds her tightly. She thanks Seol-woo as they hold each other, still both wearing their rings. Guys, you’re making me tear up.
The next morning, still half-asleep, Woon-kwang hears Seol-woo’s voice call out to him to wake up. He blearily answers back that he needs to meet with Mi-eun today, then his brain catches up to his ears and so he pops up to see Seol-woo standing beside his bed with a Jongno coffee in his hands.
Woon-kwang jumps out of bed and is shocked that Seol-woo was able to get in since his place is surrounded by cops looking for him. Seol-woo answers simply that he’s a very skilled spy. Hehe.
Woon-kwang asks if Seol-woo got into contact with Do-ha, since she’s been really worried about him. He doesn’t answer, but raises one eyebrow in confirmation, and Woon-kwang figures it out. He suddenly finds himself feeling depressed that Seol-woo reached out to her first before coming to him.
He adds quietly that he was also really worried about Seol-woo, but then cracks a smile and nudges Seol-woo in the arm. Seol-woo warns Woon-kwang that he won’t be able to meet with Mi-eun since it’s too much of a risk if Seung-jae were to find out.
Woon-kwang understands and answers that it’s fine so long as Seol-woo is safe. He offers to do whatever he can to help since he also wants revenge against the baddies who hurt Dong-hyun.
Director Im tells Seung-jae that the first generation ghost agents behind him who worked with Chairman Mo now want control of the Songsan Foundation, since the slush fund was their money to being with. Director Im tries to offer a compromise by appointing someone of their choosing as chairperson, though Seung-jae would still run it behind the scenes.
The most Seung-jae is willing to offer is half the seats on the board of directors, but he won’t budge on having Mi-eun be the chairperson. Director Im comments on Seung-jae’s great trust in his wife, and Seung-jae calls her his most trusted person. Director Im calls him naive for trusting the one person he should be most cautious of.
He asks Seung-jae if he knows that Mi-eun was an NIS agent in the past, and that he instructed Mi-eun to extract information from Seung-jae. Oh no. Seung-jae looks like his world is falling apart from around him. But Director Im continues and invites Seung-jae to think about who recommended Seol-woo as Woon-kwang’s bodyguard.
Director Im proposes a test that Seung-jae can run on Mi-eun, since he’s certain that Mi-eun is working in cahoots with Seol-woo.
Seung-jae goes directly home to administer his test. He finds her in his secret room and asks what her thoughts are on Director Im. She says he has an honest and upright image, but when asked if he would make a good political partner, she tells Seung-jae to be wary of Director Im. She explains that he could betray Seung-jae at any time since he was once an enemy, and Seung-jae’s eyes widen.
He hides his alarm and reveals to Mi-eun that he made copies of the missing videos for assurance, and tells her exactly where they are.
Seung-jae also even gives her the perfect opportunity to steal them by saying that he can’t have lunch with her the next day because he’s set to appear on a live broadcast. He watches her carefully as if hoping she can be trusted, but also as if realizing for the first time that he has been blind.
Director Im sees Assemblyman Baek in prison and haughtily says that he’ll probably be locked up forever, since Director Im turned over the videos that incriminate him. Assemblyman Baek asks if Director Im thinks his dirty secrets will never come to light.
Director Im chuckles and advises him not to worry about that since he destroyed them, but Assemblyman Baek asks pointedly if Director Im honestly believes that Seung-jae didn’t make copies.
Mi-eun promises Seol-woo that she can get the copy of the videos that reveal the identity of the people who formed the Songsan slush fund as well as Director Im’s wrongdoings. She says she’ll carry out her plan while Seung-jae is out the next day, but Seol-woo doesn’t answer and just keeps a hard look on his face.
In his office, Seung-jae looks at the flash drive containing the video copies and recalls his conversation with Director Im. He also thinks of Mi-eun’s reaction after he told her about the copies being in his safe, and how for one second she betrayed a look of determination. He then looks over to his safe with a pained look in his eyes.
Seol-woo and Department Head Jang meet secretly to catch up: Department Head Jang is still being investigated by the NIS but realizes that if he hadn’t pulled out of the mission, then he would have been targeted instead of Dong-hyun.
He blames himself and takes responsibility for everything by apologizing to Seol-woo. Seol-woo gets up to leave and says, “Of all the orders I know, saying ‘I’m sorry’ is not one of them. The mission is not over yet.” Oh, swoon. That was awesome.
Dad visits Dong-hyun and breaks down in tears when he sees Dong-hyun lying in bed on life support. He introduces himself to Dong-hyun’s wife as a quasi-secret agent and tells her that based on his experience, no matter how much the truth is hidden, it always comes out eventually.
Dad steps out to get some water for her, and when he’s gone, she turns to her husband and says that at least he wasn’t lonely.
At Woon-kwang’s, the main trio debrief on the newest mission. Do-ha brings up a good question and asks what they’ll do with the videos after they’ve acquired them, especially since the only prosecutor they trust is in a coma.
Seol-woo comes up with an unorthodox plan and says cryptically that they should shoot a movie. Interesting!
Later, Woon-kwang and Do-ha try to work their magic on CEO Ji and get him to bite on a new movie they are pretending to be interested in. They even show him a script they claim was written by a well-known director. CEO Ji is skeptical about the idea, and he also doesn’t think the director would want to meet.
However, Do-ha is already prepared and knows where to find the director. She and CEO Ji wait at a broadcast station where the director is about to go on a show as a guest. They manage to lure him into quick coffee chat where Do-ha spikes the director’s drink with laxatives, forcing the director to cancel his appearance last minute and giving Do-ha a chance to swoop in and offer a replacement.
Elsewhere, Ki-chul gives Seol-woo a briefcase containing an explosive while Department Head Jang enlists Sharon’s help with something that we don’t hear about yet. Mi-eun secretly meets with Director Im and confronts him for betraying Robert Yoon, but Director Im expresses no remorse for his decision.
Mi-eun tells him that she’s planning to leave soon, but she wants to strike one final deal before she does. She’ll give the tapes of Director Im over to him in exchange for helping her and her son leave safely and obtain new identities.
Director Im agrees to the terms, and Mi-eun warns him not to try and kill her after he gets what he wants, like he did to Robert Yoon and Dong-hyun.
Backstage at the broadcast station, Seung-jae calls Mi-eun to ask what she’s up to. She is, of course, stealing the copies of the video from his safe as he watches her on a tablet. When she tries to leave the building, Seung-jae’s assistant stops her and searches her bag, but unfortunately, they don’t find anything.
Seung-jae is confused, but he doesn’t have long to work it out because he’s about to go on the show.
We flash back to Mi-eun and Seol-woo’s meeting, where she told Seol-woo of her suspicions that Seung-jae was lying to her, and how she sensed a trap. Back in the present, she calls Director Im to make their deal, and Director Im grins widely.
Seung-jae walks onto the set and is informed that since the director they originally scheduled to appear with Seung-jae has dropped out last minute, they’ve secured a replacement: Woon-kwang.
Do-ha and Woon-kwang walk in at that moment and greet Seung-jae brightly, eagerly anticipating the shoot. Ah ha! Very clever.
Before going live, Seung-jae and Woon-kwang sit across from each other, and Seung-jae asks what Woon-kwang is trying to pull. Woon-kwang feigns ignorance, and apparently the format of the show is such that Woon-kwang will be asking questions, which Seung-jae will need to answer.
The sound guy steps forward to put a mic on Seung-jae, and we zoom in to see that there’s a little blinking red light attached to the mic. The sound guy urges Seung-jae to answer truthfully, and Seung-jae recognizes the man as Seol-woo.
Seol-woo smirks and explains the kind of explosive that Seung-jae is now wearing before showing him the detonator that can blow up his heart. Seol-woo explains that all Seung-jae needs to do is tell the truth because, “Only the truth can save you.”
I’ve been feeling so disconnected with this show lately, but I was shocked at how much I got pulled back in emotionally this hour. To be totally honest, when Dong-hyun got hit by the truck in the last episode, I rolled my eyes in annoyance because it felt contrived, and it also felt like a disservice to the character. Like, really? This show couldn’t be bothered to think of anything even remotely original? This is a world of spies and instead we bust out the old truck?
I’m glad Department Head Jang pointed out how sloppy it was, because at least the show acknowledged the lameness. All that aside, the accident allowed for some of my favorite scenes in this episode (which involved Dong-hyun’s wife), so I can’t be too upset about how it came to be.
The tidbit about Dong-hyun’s wife being vehemently opposed to his spy work always felt like a throwaway, and while I did expect it to come into play at some point, I never thought it would be used so well. I assumed it would be utilized for comedy, but it was actually pretty moving. The drama elements in this show tend to feel clunky to me, but not today. I loved hearing her talk about her husband’s commitment to justice and the rule of law, because we always see the silly side of Dong-hyun, but to her, his work is really meaningful and it means allowing the risk of him getting hurt one day. And that bit where she said that at least he isn’t lonely was perfect. I kind of wish we’d seen her and her interactions with Dong-hyun earlier. Maybe like a scene where she keeps finding fake mustaches and hats in his bag, and when she confronts him about them, he lies that he performs at birthday parties on the weekends or something. That would be fun.
Overall though, the storytelling in these spy-heavy episodes is really convoluted, and although by the end you can work out what’s going and why it unfolded that way, the path to getting there is so fragmented. There’s always an excess of these little half-scenes, which are trying to set up later scenes, but I wanted fewer of those. We’re so close to the end, so it seems a little pointless to complain about that this since when all is said and done, I did like the episode.
The bad guys seemed like a threat, the good guys looked smart and on top of their game, and surprisingly, I even cared a little about Seung-jae’s feelings of betrayal. He’s such a simpleton, so you can see right into his heart and his feelings were raw. I haven’t forgotten the things he’s done and I do think he deserves to pay for them, but I like the few layers he’s been given.
On the topic of Mi-eun, I like her and Seol-woo’s teamwork. They’re smart, competent, honest with each other, and cool-headed. I wouldn’t mind seeing an epilogue where they’re both still working as spies and Woon-kwang and Do-ha are at home watching the children. (No more lovers tactics though.)
There were a lot of these little moments I enjoyed in this episode, like Do-ha and her father, Seol-woo and Do-ha’s hug, or Woon-kwang’s pouting to Seol-woo, and it’s really because those relationships feel so earned at this point. I finally feel like I’m on the same wavelength as the show, and although it doesn’t undo the dissatisfaction I felt before, I can say that I am now very eager to see how it all ends.
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