Manhole: Episode 2
I never imagined it would be so much fun to watch a giant man-child get sent back in time to experience high school again, but ermahgawd, it’s so much fun! I could watch poor, hapless Bong Pil flounce around all day long. I’m sure there are other things I’m supposed to be paying attention to, like the plot and directing and character development, but honestly, I just want more foot stomping, head shaking, and precious looks of confusion.
Episode 2: “Oh, the horrible life. One more time?”
In 2017, Soo-jin searches for the vanished Bong Pil, calling his phone and fuming that he chucked her wedding invitation before bolting. When he doesn’t pick up, she calls juice-truck owner Jin-sook, who is back with their group of friends getting adorably drunk. Soo-jin asks if Pil came back there, but Jin-sook slurs that Pil never returned after leaving with her.
By herself, Soo-jin scoffs that Pil is always unpredictable and stomps her way home, raging at the skies that this is why she and Pil just can’t get along. Methinks the lady doth protest too much.
Returning home, Soo-jin gets a text from her fiancé, Jae-hyun, apologizing for punching Pil earlier. Soo-jin looks less than happy at the message, and instead starts firing off a bunch of texts to Pil, demanding that he answer her. She gets angrier and angrier, until finally she texts him, “Have a good life, Idiot.”
Unbeknownst to Soo-jin, the magical manhole has been playing goalie to all her messages, and we see them literally bounce off the cover. Looks like there isn’t much reception while time traveling.
The next morning, Pil’s mom and dad happily dig into breakfast, cheerfully determined to live their lives without worrying about their good-for-nothing son.
Across town, Pil’s friends are having a rough start to the day, with all of them finding something missing in their normal routines. Then, simultaneously, they all come to the same conclusion: Bong Pil is missing.
This jumps us back ten years ago to where we left off, with 2017 Pil calling his high school German teacher “Gestapo” (the name of the Nazi police enforcers).
Pil is understandably completely confused and keeps asking everyone why they’re all here, pointing to his friends who – as far as he knows – already graduated. The teacher waves his baton threateningly and instructs Pil to recite grammar rules before he receives a beating.
Poor Pil is still trying to convince himself that this is a dream and has a minor meltdown, yelling, “If I didn’t know this ten years ago, how could I know it now?!” The entire class stares at him like the crazy person he seems to be, and Gestapo hollers at him to turn around. The next thing we hear is Pil getting smacked by the dreaded baton. Ouch.
After class, neighborhood hyung Gu-gil tends to Pil’s battle wounds while Dal-soo serenely serenades them nearby. Still trying to figure out what’s going on, Pil asks his friends why they’re back in school when they already graduated. They, of course, think he’s lost it and start checking to see if Gestapo hit Pil on the head. Pfft.
Pil takes refuge in a tree and contemplates his old-school 2G flip phone, finally believing that he might have traveled back in time exactly ten years. Just as he’s coming to grips with the truth, Jin-sook bounds up, smacking his injured butt as she demands a head scratch.
While obliging her, Pil desperately asks if she believes in time travel. He jumps down to lean in close and asks, “What if I tell you that I’m from the future?”
Undaunted, Jin-sook asks quite matter-of-factly, “Then where are you in the present?” Pil stares, gobsmacked, and Jin-sook logically points out that if he really had come back from the future, then there should be two of him: his past self and future self. Heh, Pil looks like his brain just exploded.
At track practice, Pil’s coach finds him pouting on the sideline. Pil mumble-whines that he already quit track years ago, but his coach talks over him to advise that while Pil has amazing acceleration during the race, he has a terrible start. Pil morosely thinks that he’s right: He’s always had a bad start in life.
In the classroom, the high school Soo-jin happily takes pictures of all her classmates with a (then) fancy digital camera. Jin-sook asks where she got the camera, but Soo-jin fidgets, vaguely saying that she borrowed it from someone. Jin-sook wonders if it’s from that church boy, asking Soo-jin if she’s decided to date him yet.
Out on the track field, Pil gets down in starting position with the other boys. It’s all rather dramatic, but as soon as the pistol goes off, Pil jumps up… and trots over to the coach. Without preamble, he announces, “I’m quitting running,” and walks off. Pah!
Girlish screams draw Soo-jin and Jin-sook’s attention to the track field, where Coach has apparently rejected Pil’s resignation and is now forcing Pil to practice his start amidst a group of cheering high school fan girls. Jin-sook sneakily drops in the comment that Pil likes Soo-jin, but Soo-jin doesn’t believe her, arguing that Pil never said anything to her.
Jin-sook sagely suggests that it’s hard to confess to a friend, since it means that you might lose the friendship. Unfortunately, that goes right over Soo-jin’s head, and she instead thinks that Jin-sook likes Pil. Jin-sook does a heavy eye-roll and says that she doesn’t have any feelings for Pil, thinking of him the same way she would a desk: either comfortable or uncomfortable.
After track, Gu-gil and Dal-soo converse about how Pil doesn’t excel at anything, and instead always chooses to try impossible things. Their musings are cut short when Pil asks his friends if they’ve seen another version of him running around, “Not this me, but a different me.”
At their blank stares, he takes a chance and solemnly announces that he’s from the future. It’s cool for a moment, until they simultaneously call him a liar and walk off, leaving Pil talking to thin air.
Alone, Pil tries to replay the events from last night (that is, the 2017 last night), but the sudden tone of the class bell brings on a searing headache and a flash of déjà vu. Pil sees a vision of Soo-jin cowering in in a hallway and immediately tears off looking for her.
Sure enough, Soo-jin is returning from gym when one of the soccer nets she’s putting away snags on a giant mirror, and it starts falling towards her. Pil comes running up just as the mirror shatters on the floor, mere inches from where Soo-jin is crouched.
Stepping up, Pil slowly walks over to the whimpering Soo-jin and sweetly tells her everything will be all right. Soo-jin just stares back at him, still shaken, when a teacher’s voice rings out.
Pil remembers this very accident from ten years ago and recalls that he had told Soo-jin, “You go ahead. Everything will be fine.” He repeats the same thing to her now and gently pushes her behind a corner just as Gestapo waltzes in, baton swinging.
Pil immediately takes responsibility, claiming that he was practicing his running start and accidentally knocked the mirror over. Pil flinches to remember what happens next, and a split second later, Gestapo has him by the ear and is dragging him down the hallway.
As Pil is hauled away, Soo-jin pokes her head around the corner and gazes after him.
Gestapo and Coach have a literal tug of war with Pil’s ears, each mock-arguing that Pil can’t help running around and breaking things. Coach starts to say that Pil should run… but Pil interrupts to suggest, “Fifty laps.”
Gestapo instead assigns him one hundred laps, and Pil looks positively faint as he thinks that it used to only be fifty. He realizes that this means things can change the second time around, then stomps off to start running.
In class, Soo-jin stares out the window where Pil is running. Afterward, she makes her way down to the field and takes pictures of Pil running, quickly ducking out of site whenever he rounds the corner near her. As he runs, she quietly frets that he must be hot. (I’ll say…)
Soo-jin grins and admits that, looking at him now, Pil looks a little bit cool.
Unable to run anymore, Pil collapses on the field and tries once again to remember what happened last night after he left Soo-jin. Finally he remembers, “The manhole!”
With that, Pil jumps up and sprints out of the school while screaming about the manhole and looking absolutely nuts.
Pil races to the manhole and tries everything from attempting to rip off the cover, to praying for the manhole to let him back in. Regrettably, nothing works, as the mystical manhole doesn’t seem to be a two-way door. Pil collapses on top of it and yells to the sky that he doesn’t want to relive “this life that I couldn’t even get started.” Aww.
Soo-jin gets her pictures developed and hurriedly flips through them to find the shot of Pil running around the field. Grinning at it, Soo-jin labels the back of the picture, “The day when he ran around the field 100 times!”
Soo-jin put the picture in an envelope just as buddy Seok-tae arrives at the store to see her grinning at the photo. Soo-jin quickly drops the letter and hands Seok-tae the pictures she took of him, though he scowls to see that he’s sleeping in all of them.
Seok-tae follows her outside and watches as she puts Pil’s picture in the mail. He offers to carry her bag for her, but when she turns him down, he keeps on insisting before pretty much wrestling her bag away from her, growling slightly. Ok, that was a bit alarming.
After his failure with the manhole, Pil mopes his way back into town, but he immediately snaps to attention when he sees Seok-tae escorting Soo-jin.
Hah, Seok-tae looks positively terrified when Pil runs up to him, and he starts trying to lie that Soo-jin asked him to carry her bag (Soo-jin: “When did I do that?”). Pil glares at his friend and tells him to leave, claiming Soo-jin’s bag for himself.
When Seok-tae scampers off, Soo-jin grabs her bag back, saying it’s uncomfortable if he holds it. She uses Jin-sook’s line from before and calls Pil an uncomfortable desk, but Pil adorably thinks that he would be happy to be her desk, then when she lays her head down on it to nap… Eeee! Oh my goodness, that lip bite. I can’t, he’s too cute!
Pil abruptly gets an idea and grabs Soo-jin’s arm. He shouts that she had to go somewhere with him and drags the confused girl all the way back to the manhole. She furiously throws off his arm, but Pil grabs her again and desperately asks if she’s actually from ten years into the future.
Soo-jin is equal parts pissed and alarmed as Pil tries to get her to remember what happened when they split apart last night. (Er, that is, last night ten years from now. Or ten years from then? Time travel is difficult on grammar.)
She is understandably confused, and his frantic animation freaks her out. Giving Pil a solid kick to the shins, Soo-jin runs off, and Pil has to admit to himself that she must really be the past Soo-jin.
Still holding the pink backpack, Pil catches up to Soo-jin. He starts reciting things that will happen in the future and warns her against things like riding scooters and dating pharmacists. (Hah!)
The pair run into Jin-sook, and she quickly pulls Pil to the side to warn him that Soo-jin is going on a date that night with a guy from church who has a reputation for kissing a bunch of girls. Pil realizes that she’s talking about the guy who — in his timeline — will give Soo-jin her first kiss.
Soo-jin has been inching closer this whole time, but when Jin-sook pushes her off, she huffs that the two of them should have fun together and walks off with her bag. Pil moves to follow, but Jin-sook pulls him back, asking what he’s going to do to stop Soo-jin from seeing Church Boy.
Pil mutters that a kiss doesn’t really matter much, and starts a mini-rant that only yesterday, Soo-jin was going into multi-purpose rooms with a pharmacist. Boy just cannot let that one go.
Flailing and stomping, Pil is on his way home when he gets scared by Jung-ae, who pops out from behind a bush. He grimaces at her heavy makeup and wonders if she was always like this. Sighing that no matter what she does to her face, her husband won’t change, Pil walks away, muttering about having to see her again in the past.
Jung-ae runs after him and literally jumps on him as she asks for a favor. She pours on the aeygo, which only makes Pil uncomfortable, and spurs another déjà vu headache. Next thing we see, Pil and Jung-ae are at a fast food joint with Dal-soo, Gu-gil, and Seok-tae.
It looks like Jung-ae’s favor was for Pil to call out Dal-soo so that she could buy him lunch, but instead, he called the whole gang. Suddenly shy, Jung-ae pulls a pink letter from her pocket, and Pil sighs internally, watching the scene replay from his memory.
Jung-ae slides the letter across the table to Dal-soo, but Gu-gil makes a grab for it. Annoyed at everything, Pil grabs the envelope and puts it back in front of Dal-soo, snapping that it’s a love letter.
Dal-soo stares happily at the letter, and Jung-ae grins embarrassedly. She whispers at him not to show anyone, then takes off, giggling. She barely gets five steps before Pil, knowing what happens next, calls out that the floor is wet. But it’s too late—Jung-ae still slips, landing hard on her butt.
Jung-ae tries to muster her remaining pride and limp out quickly, except Pil yells for her to watch for the door… and then she runs face first into a sliding glass door. Everyone else looks shocked, but Pil just shakes his head, having seen it all before.
At the table, Gu-gil pouts about Dal-soo getting a love letter from Jung-ae. Pil cuts in to beg him to please forget about her, but Gu-gil swears to never give her up. It’s too much for Pil, and he wails that he needs a drink.
Cut to the pool hall, where the three friends watch in astonishment as the now-inebriated Pil works his way through his fourth bottle of soju. Just then, a group of on-leave soldiers come into the pool hall and tut to see the high school-aged Pil drinking.
Three sheets to the wind, Pil drunkenly yells back at the men that he’s turning thirty soon. The soldiers snigger at him, inflaming his pride and setting him off even more. Pil angrily starts towards the men, and Dal-soo and Gu-gil leap up to intercept.
Seok-tae, however, sprints away from the conflict and flees the pool hall. He’s in such a hurry that he trips into the path of an oncoming scooter, causing the driver and his packages to go flying. As it turns out, the driver (Woo Hyun) is actually Seok-tae’s father and the neighborhood postman.
Seok-tae’s father isn’t exactly lovingly supportive, and his old tattoos show us that he used to be a gangster. Seok-tae tells his dad that Pil has always looked down on him ever since elementary school because Pil’s father is the postmaster, while his is just a postman.
This drives Seok-tae’s father nuts, and he snarls that his son must take revenge, instructing that the best revenge is stealing what the other person treasures most: “Then you can destroy him completely.”
The words remind Seok-tae of the letter that Soo-jin sent to Pil, and he asks his father for help. Soon after, we see the two of them holding letters over an open fire and laughing.
At home, Soo-jin giggles over her pictures of Pil, thinking back to how he saved her that day when the mirror fell. She tries to slap herself out of it, but it’s no use, since she immediately starts grinning again.
Soo-jin gets a text from an unknown number that just has the quote, “Faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.” Soo-jin texts back to ask who it is, then sends a quick message to Pil, asking what he’s doing. She also thanks him for helping her out today.
Unfortunately, Pil is a little busy at the moment, as he’s trying to take on the four soldiers by himself with Gu-gil and Dal-soo struggling to tug their friend away. Soo-jin keeps texting him, mentioning that she has somewhere to go, but won’t leave if he’s free to meet her. All the while, Pil and his friends dart around the pool hall, fighting with the soldiers.
Soo-jin texts that she’ll wait for him and offers to buy him dinner to make up for his one hundred laps, but as the time ticks by and there’s no answer, her texts turn angry. Just like ten years from now, Soo-jin sends a stream of angry messages that go unheard, finally culminating in a, “Get lost!”
In the pool hall, the fight has ended with the arrival of Gu-gil’s father (who owns the pool hall). Post-fight, Pil lies drunk and semi-conscious on a pool table, his parents standing over him. Gu-gil’s dad, who’s pretty drunk himself, yells at them for not raising their son right. Pil’s dad gives a weak answer that they did the best they could, but it didn’t work out.
All the yelling rouses Pil enough for him to mumble out that Gu-gil’s father should stop drinking, since he dies in 2014. Everyone looks confusedly at Pil, but Dad takes the opportunity to punch his son in the stomach. Well, that’s one way to sober up.
The punch knocks Pil into a kind of nightmare where he imagines he’s at Soo-jin and Jae-hyun’s wedding, but no one can hear his fervent cries of, “Objection! OBJECTION!!”
Pil returns to consciousness when his parents shove him into the bathroom via plunger and broom. Dad brings up their missing digital camera, and Pil remembers that he had given the camera to Soo-jin. Before he can defend himself, both declare that they’re wasting their time and should just worry about their own lives. Harsh.
After a shower, Pil wonders if he should just devote himself to this new chance at life and actually get things right this time around. He imagines a future where he becomes a successful doctor and happily marries Soo-jin. Emboldened, Pil figures that he already knows everything that happens in this life, so he can fix his own history.
Pil goes up to his room to study with renewed vigor, already eagerly anticipating Soo-jin’s reactions to his amazing grades. Sadly, he doesn’t know the answers to his math homework, and his passion to start anew fades in the face of algebra.
Instead, his mind drifts to Jin-sook telling him that Soo-jin is going on a date with the church playboy that night, and he decides that his new history will instead begin with saving Soo-jin’s first kiss.
Pil runs to the church but has another déjà vu along the way, remembering that in the past, this confrontation resulted in him getting his butt kicked (and we see it, punch for bloody punch). He takes a quick detour and recruits his friends to come with him.
In the church, Gu-gil, Dal-soo, and Seok-tae fret over whether they’re going to hell for sitting in church when they’re planning to beat someone up. Pil is oblivious to everyone and glares daggers at Church Boy, who’s sitting with his arm around Soo-jin.
Seok-tae tries to tell Pil that the guy is the best fighter in his school, but Pil psyches himself up that the guy is still just a high schooler, while he’s an adult. Heh, his glowering draws the boy’s attention, and he looks over to see Pil drawing his finger across his throat at him.
Outside the church, Pil saunters up to the boy, greeting him like an old enemy and saying the time has come for revenge. Church Boy, of course, has no idea who he is or any memory of fighting him, but he still meets Pil threat for threat.
Soo-jin runs up and tries to get Pil to back down, but Pil snaps back that she has terrible taste in men, adding that this guy will end up dumping her in six months. Church Boy takes offense, and the two of them physically bump chests as he tells Soo-jin that he’ll have to cancel their plans tonight — something just came up.
Pil preempts the guy’s suggestion to go somewhere else to fight, knowing that he’ll suggest a park behind the church. He heads off towards it, thanking the manhole for giving him a chance at revenge.
In the park, Pil runs around, flipping over trash and looking for something while everyone stares at him. Jung-ae and Jin-sook also arrive to watch, though Jung-ae is more intent on Pil getting his butt kicked, while Jin-sook wants to stop the fight. Dal-soo pulls her back, saying, “Realization always comes after suffering.” Pwahaha. Some back up.
Pil finally finds what he’s looking for under a piece of cardboard: a drainage grate. The fight commences, and Pil immediately starts getting his butt kicked. It’s pretty clear that Church Boy is a very skilled fighter, and Pil’s friends weakly cheer as his face becomes a punching bag.
Elsewhere, a father watches a Cinderella cartoon with his young daughter and tells her that the magic only lasts until midnight, then everything goes back to normal.
Back at the playground, things aren’t looking good for Pil as he’s knocked down again, the fight playing out exactly as it did the first time. As he’s bashed down once more, a small chyron appears on the corner of the screen to count down: Two minutes until midnight.
Pil gets up and takes a wild swing at Church Boy, forcing him to step back. As he does, the guy’s foot get caught in a drainage grate — the same grate that Pil had uncovered before the fight. Both boys freeze and a narrator chimes in to tell us that this is the same grate that Pil had gotten his foot stuck in ten years ago, costing him the fight. Ahh, clever boy.
As Church Boy struggles to regain his balance with his stuck foot, Pil looms in with a punch, and the tide turns. Pil delivers hit after hit and finishes with an uppercut of his own, knocking Church Boy flat.
The friends cheer, but Soo-jin jumps in to whack Pil. She yells that if he would have answered her texts, none of this would have happened. Pil has no clue what she means, but Soo-jin tells him to forget it and runs away.
Before Pil can follow, Church Boy struggles to his feet, grabs a stick of wood, and takes a swing at Pil. Our hero dodges, and the bat heads straight for Jung-ae.
Gu-gil immediately jumps in front of Jung-ae, blocking her and taking the hit himself. Standing shocked in his arms, Jung-ae swoons up at Gu-gil while Dal-soo watches. Uh-oh.
Pil races after Soo-jin, but just as he catches up and grabs her wrist, a bell tolls and a voice announces that it is midnight. Time freezes, and Pil’s future self is magically pushed out of his body. He gapes at the image of himself and Soo-jin, but a bright light transports him back into the supernatural manhole waterslide.
As Pil slides, we return to the manhole cover, except this time, there’s a bunch of litter and trash surrounding the area. The lid unexpectedly bursts off, and Pil slowly emerges from the hole… as a gangster?
Complete with the requisite gangster bling and a giant tattoo, Pil the Gangster climbs out of the hole. As Pil gazes around, a radio playing from the boom box of a passing homeless guy announces increasing gang related crimes in the town.
Pil wanders up to a broken mirror and gapes at himself. He stares at his sleazy outfit and tattoo and asks his reflection in disbelief, “This is me?”
A chyron announces that it is currently noon in 2017, six days before Soo-jin’s wedding.
Hah! He’s a gangster! He wins one fight and suddenly he’s the neighborhood Godfather. Now that’s what I call a butterfly effect! It fits though, because Pil’s life so far has been a kind of blank canvas — he’s never truly started with anything, so he never really became anything. I loved that hidden metaphor his track coach dropped in about life being a series of starts and finishes, and without a solid start, it doesn’t matter how fast you accelerate. The fact that his winning just one fight changed his whole future makes me think that he was just waiting to find one something to try for.
It appears that Pil does have a lot of hidden potential, but without a direction, he never applied it and simply settled for being an adorable goof, bumming his way through life. After watching the way his parents treat him, it’s pretty clear that his parents gave up on him from an early age. I’m not saying they’re bad parents, since we’ve barely scratched their backstory, but so far they’re showing a disturbing kind of apathy towards their son, only caring when his actions directly affect them. It’s amusing to watch, but a bit unsettling if you think of how their actions shaped their son. A cornerstone of a child’s development is the motivation they receive from their guardians, and if Pil grew up with parents that didn’t care to push or inspire him, it’s no wonder he’s lacking in drive.
I am really curious to learn how the relationship between Soo-jin and Pil got so tangled, especially since it looks like they were heading toward each other even in high school. If Pil was that kind to her, and Soo-jin had already developed feelings for him, I have no idea how they didn’t end up together. I appreciate that Seok-tae may have thrown a wrench in their story given that he probably stole all their letters for two decades, but that by itself couldn’t have been enough to ruin their relationship completely.
I’m absolutely loving Pil’s character, and Jaejoong is doing an amazing job of completely throwing himself into the role. The constant flouncing and wailing is entertaining, but there are some warmer moments that just melted my heart, like Pil comforting Soo-jin when the mirror fell. His whole demeanor softened, and for once he lost the flippant attitude and focused completely on her. I can already tell that he cares so much, but has no idea how woo his lady love. Thank goodness for aliens and their mystical manholes giving him another chance. Crossing my fingers that Pil can find a way to fix his own start on life, and stop a wedding before it’s too late.
- Manhole: Episode 1
- Premiere Watch: Manhole, Live Up to Your Name
- Jaejoong goes back to high school for Manhole
- Manhole gang’s funky new character posters
- Manhole goes retro for the ultimate beach holiday
- UEE and Jaejoong cozy up under the sun in new Manhole stills
- Cast of Manhole throws dignity out the window for new dance teaser
- First look at Jaejoong’s time-slip rom-com Manhole
- News bites: July 1, 2017
- Baro up for Jaejoong and UEE’s time-slip rom-com Manhole