I’m Not a Robot: Episodes 1-2
One episode in, and I’m Not a Robot is looking to be an unconventional treat with strong performances from actors who look like they’re having lots of fun. This story of misfits already has a lot of heart: Yoo Seung-ho is sure to make us laugh and cry, while Eom Ki-joon tackles lighter fare as an eccentric genius. And Chae Soo-bin is not to be missed in a dual role as one very flawed human who may learn a thing or two from her robot counterpart.
EPISODE 1: “I’m fine being alone”
The driver of a sports car opens a special briefcase and dons the gloves, hat, and mask inside. He fills a syringe and places it in his pocket before he exits the car, armed with a baton.
The driver, KIM MIN-KYU (Yoo Seung-ho), appears before a panel of doctors for a hearing about his exemption from military service. He removes his mask while the doctors discuss his condition—an allergy to human contact.
The doctors scoff at his feeble attempt to draft-dodge and deem him fit for service. Face hardening, Min-kyu pulls off his gloves and shirt and advances menacingly on the doctors, who shrink back nervously. Min-kyu then grabs the wrist of the closest doctor and huge red blotches and blisters spread along Min-kyu’s body, starting at the point of contact.
Min-kyu plunges the syringe into his arm as he explains that his reaction occurs after physical contact and that the severity worsens with the length of the contact. The doctors back up in fear, now convinced of Min-kyu’s unsuitability, relieved when he tells them that his condition isn’t contagious.
Min-kyu drives his car through a large gate and past impeccably maintained grounds where a gardener shouts out, “It’s ready.” Min-kyu parks in front of an estate and enters with a smile.
Surrounded by balloons, Min-kyu beams at his guest of honor, a robot vacuum cleaner outfitted with a birthday hat. He wishes, “Happy Birthday, our cutie,” and presents his gift, a pack of new batteries so that they can stay together a long time. Awww.
As the vacuum goes about its work, Min-kyu wanders through his expansive home, which contains many glass cases filled with collectibles. He occupies himself with an aquarium and a house of cards that’s taller than he is, telling us that contrary to what we think, he lives quite well on his own.
When he chokes on a handful of capsules, Min-kyu slams himself against a pillar in a self-administered Heimlich maneuver and narrates that he’s mastered the art of living alone.
During a kiss scene in an old movie, Min-kyu catches himself about to kiss his pillow and tosses it aside. Min-kyu’s narration insists that he’s not at all lonely as he floats in the pool, but he sighs when he confesses, “I need some space to protect myself.”
JO JIA (Chae Soo-bin) camps outside a store to buy a limited edition figure for a customer. Jia, also known as President Jo, answers texts from grateful customers when a man asks about the reason for the line. He feigns interest in Jia’s work so he can plop down in the spot next to her, but Jia calls him out for cutting. The crowd cheers when she threatens him and the man leaves in embarrassment.
The doors finally open and the crowd is orderly until the line-cutter runs to the front to try to charge his way through. Chaos ensues and the man and Jia are the first to get past the guards and approach the display of the coveted figures.
Jia pulls back the line-cutter and is the first to get a limited edition figure. She protectively shields it from another customer just as a boy with a corndog bumps into the box and leaves behind a smear of ketchup. Unaware that the box has been compromised, Jia schedules the delivery.
Jia’s scooter stops next to a car parked by the river and Min-kyu lowers the back window and asks her to place the box in the back seat. Jia demands payment first, but Min-kyu reminds her that he paid for the figure in advance.
Min-kyu promises to double Jia’s commission as long as the package is pristine, but he needs to inspect it first. Jia places the box in the back seat and waits while Min-kyu examines it—of course he spots the ketchup stain. Angry that he missed his opportunity to get the item in perfect condition, he refuses additional payment.
Jia insists that the box was perfect until she gave it to Min-kyu and accuses him of scamming her. Min-kyu thinks that he’s the one being scammed and explains that while he can forgive mistakes, he can’t forgive lies.
When Jia motions Min-kyu out of the car, he locks the doors. Through a crack in his window he vows that he won’t give a penny to a con artist and parts with the wish, “Let’s never meet each other again.”
Jia pounds on the car as Min-kyu slowly pulls away, but when she falls to the ground, he stops the car in alarm. Min-kyu quickly pulls on gloves and grabs his baton to cautiously approach Jia—and then her eyes fly open and she grabs the baton.
Jia is temporarily distracted when she looks up at Min-kyu and notes, “My goodness. You’re so handsome.” When Min-kyu jumps back in panic, Jia grabs his leg.
After a desperate attempt to break free, Min-kyu manages to push Jia away and runs to the safety of his car. Through the open window, Jia grabs Min-kyu by the collar, where a rash begins to break out on his neck. Min-kyu uses the car door to successfully push Jia away and then injects himself in the thigh as he drives off.
Min-kyu gets a call from his doctor while he assesses his latest reaction in a room filled with mirrors.
Outside, Dr. Oh examines Min-kyu, concerned that he had two outbreaks in such a short period of time. Min-kyu excitedly claims that the most recent rash seemed a bit different, hopeful that it could be a clue to his disease.
Dr. Oh urges Min-kyu to accept his solitary life and hands him a smartwatch that uses colors to monitor his condition. Blue is normal, yellow represents a mild reaction, orange means that Min-kyu’s airways are closing, and red means that he will die in minutes, a severity that he’s never experienced.
Min-kyu laments that he’ll have to live like a monster forever but Dr. Oh wonders if there might be one woman for him. Min-kyu sadly observes, “If there were, she wouldn’t be normal either.”
A very scary-looking Jia leans against a handrail and calls Min-kyu a scumbag jerk of a thief who will never again know a moment of peace.
A drone buzzes past the gardener on its way to Min-kyu’s house. From the street, two men aim for an open window but hear breaking glass instead.
Startled, Min-kyu runs out to his balcony and screams, “Who was that?” The men leave, satisfied that their package was successfully delivered.
Min-kyu finds the drone half-submerged in the aquarium with a pouch labeled “Daeyang Shipbuilding, Santa Maria.” Min-kyu recognizes that the company name matches one that he has up for sale.
The pouch contains a USB that Min-kyu inserts into his computer. A video introduces Aji-3, a robot with a superior mind. While she plays squash, the ball knocks down the cameraman and Min-kyu is transfixed when Aji-3 stops in front of the camera and asks, “Are you okay, master?”
An assistant takes over the camera, which allows DR. HONG BAEK-GYUN (Eom Ki-joon) to introduce himself. He holds up a contract and explains that Min-kyu is the owner of Aji-3 and invites him to visit her in person so that he’ll give them the money that was promised. An online search reveals that Baek-gyun is a famed robotics engineer who was fired after a charge of plagiarism.
A wall in an office is covered with glowing articles as Baek-gyun tells himself that he’ll reclaim his position in his field some day.
Min-kyu parks his car in a shabby neighborhood and extends his baton as he approaches the door to Santa Maria Research. After a few taps, the door pops open and Min-kyu enters, spooked when it shuts behind him.
An approaching glow at the end of a hallway turns out to be a small robot that’s like an animated emoticon. Min-kyu makes a phone call and is told that the small robot will lead him to Aji-3.
An uneasy Min-kyu makes his way past walls lined first with mechanical arms and legs and then more human looking ones. A mechanical head with glowing eyes startles Min-kyu when it looks right at him. The impatient little emoji robot motions him to continue and eventually they stop inside of a large, darkened lab.
Brandishing his baton nervously, Min-kyu calls out and a female voice responds, “Are you Chairman Kim Min-kyu?” Suddenly, the center of the lab lights up and reveals a chair, and the young woman sitting there, Aji-3, stands and approaches Min-kyu. He rears back in alarm until she stops.
Aji-3 looks just like Jia, but with long hair. From her perspective, we see that she runs a facial recognition scan on Min-kyu’s face, but it yields no information so she asks again for his name. This time she extends her hand and adds, “Nice to meet you. Let’s shake hands.”
Min-kyu jumps back warily and warns, “Don’t come near me. Stay away.” From an office, four sets of eyes peer through parted blinds and a female researcher shares that Min-kyu’s nickname is Three-Part Baton.
Watch the scene
Min-kyu meets AI robot Aji-3
Once Aji-3 recognizes that Min-kyu doesn’t want to shake hands, she apologizes and promises to be careful in the future. Min-kyu shouts that he told them to make sure no people would be around, and Aji-3 is pleased that he thinks that she’s human.
She thanks Min-kyu for the compliment and then reveals that she’s Baek-gyun’s creation, the android robot Aji-3. She asks Min-kyu if he likes her and punctuates her question with a tilt of the head and some pronounced blinks.
Min-kyu insists that he can recognize humans and believes that he’s the object of a prank. So she reaches back to unzip her dress, and when the panels in Aji-3’s chest slide away and reveal a whirring mechanism where a heart should be, Min-kyu’s eyes widen as he beholds the human-looking robot.
EPISODE 2: “Aji-3”
Min-kyu cautiously taps Aji-3’s side with his baton and once he’s satisfied that she’s a robot, he pulls off a glove. When Min-kyu extends his finger to touch Aji-3, her programming references the iconic greeting from E.T., and she touches his fingertip with hers. Min-kyu breaks contact and checks his wrist monitor, which displays a very safe blue.
Aji-3 explains that when fully charged, the battery in her chest lasts for three hours. She adds that she can touch and smell, among other functions, and encourages Min-kyu to make use of her functions.
Min-kyu reviews the contract with Baek-gyun, and when the lights dim, Baek-gyun explains that they were unable to secure additional funding and couldn’t pay their electric bills. Thus they’ve been forced to use power from a nearby factory that just went bankrupt. Min-kyu calls Baek-gyun a scammer of the science world, but Baek-gyun replies that Min-kyu is a gangster in finances. Touché.
When Min-kyu asks if there’s anything else he should know about Aji-3, Baek-gyun asks Aji-3 to identify his emotion as he scowls. When she identifies anger, Baek-gyun explains that Aji-3 can read facial expressions and interpret emotions.
Baek-gyun explains that Aji-3 needs a month of intense learning to adjust to a person. Min-kyu wants her sent to his house the next day so that he can check her skills for himself before he decides on additional funding.
The CEO of KM Financial, HWANG YOO-CHUL (Kang Ki-young), is greeted warmly as he begins a meeting and asks how the contract finalization is going. Yoo-chul encourages his team to hit a home run this time, and earns a round of applause.
From his car, Min-kyu calls one of his subordinates, a team manager at KM Financial, to let him know that he’s on his way to join the meeting. The team manager notifies security and a red alert sets off a flurry of activity as the parking garage is emptied, along with the lobby and hallways, ensuring that no one is in sight when Min-kyu pulls in. He doesn’t encounter a single soul until one unfortunate man wanders out of a bathroom wearing earbuds, who quickly turns tail.
Min-kyu joins the meeting room and asks them to continue. Everyone’s mood grows noticeably tenser to have the big boss join them so suddenly. They wrap up the meeting regarding the sale of Daeyang Shipbuilding.
But then, Min-kyu raises his hand to ask, “What does Daeyang Shipbuilding’s team research?” CEO Yoo-chul clenches his jaw in dismay while his employee replies that they research shipbuilding technology. That, of course, is a far cry from Baek-gyun’s introductory video for Aji-3.
Then Min-kyu asks about Santa Maria Team’s results, and the employee replies that there have been no results so far. Thinking of Aji-3, Min-kyu says pointedly that the employee will have to take responsibility for those words.
In the company lobby, Min-kyu’s subordinate, Team Manager Jo, is approached by the head of the Social Contribution Team, who introduces himself as the brain of the company for the past twenty years.
Team Manager Jo has only been at the company a month as part of the research department, and the older man sympathizes that Jo must have it rough working under Min-kyu. He offers to help Team Manager Jo switch loyalties, explaining that the two top men in the company are friends and rivals, CEO Yoo-chul and Chairman Min-kyu.
Alone in the conference room, Yoo-chul reminds Min-kyu that Daeyang Shipbuilding is his responsibility. Min-kyu points out that he’s the chairman of the board of directors because he’s responsible for seventy percent of the company’s profits.
Yoo-chul asks Min-kyu if there’s something else he wants to say. Min-kyu says perhaps later, suggesting that they maintain the status quo till then. He leaves behind a very aggravated Yoo-chul.
Back at home, Min-kyu sends an email to a Madame X with a request for files on Daeyang Shipbuilding’s late chairman.
In a lighting workshop, Jia reacts happily when she touches a lamp and it lights up. She’s not so happy when its companion remains dark and reminds the lighting ajusshi that they must light up simultaneously using wifi, no matter where in the world the lamps are located. Jia is in the final round of a competition and if her idea wins, she’ll receive 100 million won.
The Santa Maria Team discusses their financial woes over a meal, confident that their outlook will improve with Min-kyu’s help. They decide to update everything in Aji-3, who appears with more drinks for the team. The senior technician, Hok-tal, tells her a corny joke and the others blame him for Aji-3’s weird personality.
The female technician, Pi, works on Aji-3 while her colleague, Ssan-ip, sips on his beer. She angrily reminds him that just one drop of liquid would fry Aji-3’s circuits and sends him away. So of course, a drunk Hok-tal stumbles in and lobs his empty can across the lab to the little robot… and one tiny drop lands in Aji-3’s open chest. Sparks fly everywhere.
Jia brings home a cake and is greeted by her sister-in-law, who apologizes before she escapes to a bedroom with her daughter. That’s because Jia’s angry older brother is lying in wait to scold her—he’s JO JIN-BAE, aka Team Manager Jo, and he chases Jia around the small apartment yelling that she was supposed to get a job, not start another business.
When Jia explains that she just can’t work a regular job, Jin-bae hits her with his shoe and berates her for borrowing money from his wife. Jia tries to appease him with the birthday cake, but Jin-bae angrily tosses it aside and his wife and daughter watch sadly as it crumbles onto the floor.
Jia reminds Jin-bae that their father helped him get through college to become a lawyer. With their father gone, Jin-bae is the only one Jia has. Jin-bae urges his sister to go to school or find a job and when he cautions, “Don’t take the easy way out,” Jia argues that she works very hard.
At Santa Maria Research, Pi reports that she found the part that they need but it won’t arrive for two days. Baek-gyun wants her to call Min-kyu to ask for a two-day extension, hopeful that he’ll say yes to a woman. But when Pi asks Baek-gyun if he thinks of her as a woman, he decides to call instead. Poor girl.
Baek-gyun asks Min-kyu for two days to test Aji-3, but learns that Daeyang Shipbuilding will be sold to Bold Group by then. Min-kyu has just one day to evaluate Aji-3 and make a decision about funding.
Baek-gyun searches online and learns that the owner of Bold Group is a patent hunter who would break down Aji-3 and sell off her components. Baek-gyun pulls out an old photo of Jia and gets an idea.
Surrounded by empty beer cans, Jia sits outside of a convenience store and vows to take out a loan and pay back Jin-bae. When her phone rings, she tells the caller, “I don’t need a loan,” and hangs up.
When it rings again, Jia asks for ten million won. Baek-gyun’s voice doesn’t trigger Jia’s memory, so he’s forced to tell her his name and then his nickname, Fungus Guy. When she still doesn’t remember him, Baek-gyun offers Jia the money and asks for her location.
A drunk Jia buys more beer and laughs at the nickname until she remembers who Fungus Guy is. When she looks out the window and sees Baek-gun, she tries to get away without being seen but runs right into him. Jia drops her hood and Baek-gyun stammers in horror to see that she cut her hair and that her chest is larger than Aji-3’s.
Baek-gyun quickly decides that Jia can wear a wig and bras with no padding while she struggles with his odd greeting. Jia points out that most people would ask how she’s been and so Baek-gyun rewinds a bit and comes up with, “It looks like you haven’t been doing too well.”
Jia observes that Baek-gyun hasn’t changed at all—his brain only focuses on the words that he wants to hear, making it impossible to communicate. Baek-gyun blames it on the fact that he’s a genius.
Defeated, Jia asks Baek-gyun why he found her and he explains, “To help you pay back your debt.” At Jia’s confused look, Baek-gyun explains, “You must feel bad for what you did. I’ll give you a chance to make it up to me.”
Baek-gyun presents an envelope with ten million won if Jia agrees to work for him for three hours. Jia worries that he’ll sell her organs but Baek-gyun explains that the job is something that only she can do.
Baek-gyun brings Jia to the lab where Ssan-ip and Pi gape in disbelief. Hok-tal mistakes her for the real Aji-3, and when he notices Jia’s larger bustline, he assumes that the battery puffed up and readies his drill to fix it. (This is too funny.)
Baek-gyun steps in front of Jia and explains that she’s the model for Aji-3. Hok-tal can’t believe that she’s human while Ssan-ip wonders how Jia and Baek-gyun know each other.
While Baek-gyun tries to explain their relationship, Jia wants to know what he meant by her being the model for Aji-3. The equipment in front of Aji-3 swings away, and Jia is shocked to see herself in robotic form.
Jia discusses her job offer with a girlfriend, who’s curious about how good the robot looked. The friend guesses that Baek-gyun must still have feelings for Jia and urges her to take the job and figure it out. Jia insists that she’d rather get kicked out of her house than accept the job.
But a short while later, Jia sits outside of her house while her brother and sister-in-law argue about her. She overhears Jin-bae insist that she can’t come home until she pays back her debt.
In his dressing room, Min-kyu realizes that a necklace is missing from his neck and begins to search for it. Eventually he recalls that it broke off when Jia grabbed his shirt.
Jia returns to the lab to inform Baek-gyun that he owes her the money since she served as the model for Aji-3, accepting the job. Jia emphasizes that she is not doing this because she has lingering feelings for him, and likewise, Baek-gyun clarifies that he didn’t contact her because he still cares for her either.
Jia’s phone goes unanswered as the Santa Maria Team, including little robot, BEETLE, coaches Jia on how to move and behave like Aji-3. They dress her in body armor that looks just like Aji-3’s and when Pi places a wig on Jia’s head, the transformation is complete.
Watch the scene
How to Act Like a Robot 101
Jia is given contact lenses that actually function as screens, and Baek-gyun hands her a wrist transmitter that will connect her to their network. Once everything is activated, Jia is connected to Aji-3, who will see and hear everything that Jia does.
Baek-gyun explains that Jia will receive instructions via text or video. When Aji-3 responds to Baek-gyun’s greeting with, “I love you, master. What can I help you with,” the text appears in Jia’s field of vision. Jia would be more impressed if she wasn’t so horrified that Baek-gyun programmed Aji-3 to tell him, “I love you.”
Baek-gyun denies that he still has feelings for Jia and explains how Aji-3 is better than her in every way. Jia argues that Aji-3 is nothing more than a doll.
When Baek-gyun has Aji-3 analyze the stock market and look up an article, the information is instantly visible to Jia. She declares that she feels like a genius, and the team beams until Jia adds that she can’t read English.
Ssan-ip and Hok-tal arrive at Min-kyu’s estate to deliver Aji-3. In the back of the van, Jia gets a call from Min-kyu, his number entered as Nasty Jerk. She assumes that he called to finally pay her and is shocked when he accuses her of taking his necklace.
Min-kyu explains that she pulled the necklace from his neck and threatens to sue Jia unless she returns it. Jia suggests that Min-kyu needs a psychiatrist and hangs up, surprised to see the many missed calls and texts from him.
Ssan-ip and Hok-tal deliver the crate safely into the house, but the team panics when Jia’s phone rings from inside the box. It’s another call from Min-kyu, and Jia threatens to call the police and hangs up.
A very frustrated Min-kyu motions for the scientists to leave after they open the crate. He approaches the crate and sees Jia inside, ready to “awaken” to greet her master.
When greeted as Aji-3, Jia opens her eyes to reply—and then jumps back in surprise at the sight of Min-kyu.
I had no idea what to expect from I’m Not a Robot, so I was pleasantly surprised by the first two episodes. The performances by Yoo Seung-ho, Eom Ki-joon, and Chae Soo-bin really make this drama something special and I hope that they can sustain the energy that went into the premiere. In addition to the strong performances, the drama offers little details here and there that show that a lot of love went into this production, like the reference to E.T. plus others that I’m sure I missed.
Yoo Seung-ho brings a complexity to Min-kyu that must be seen to be appreciated. While Min-kyu is certainly immature since he has no experience interacting with people, Yoo Seung-ho imbues him with a childlike quality that is sweet, yet heartbreaking. Min-kyu has the curiosity and pettiness of someone far younger while he possesses the intelligence and drive of an adult. I just hope we get many more chances to see Yoo Seung-ho smile, because he just lights up the screen.
I think this is the first time that I’ve seen Eom Ki-joon in a comedic role and he’s so much fun. He’s just thrown himself into the role of the socially challenged Baek-gyun and his fluffy poodle hair just kills me. I can’t wait to learn exactly how he and Jia got together and what it is about her that’s been so hard to forget.
Between Jia and Aji-3, I must admit that I like Aji-3 better, and that’s not the fault of Chae Soo-bin. While Min-kyu has the excuse that he has little experience with people and Baek-gyun has trouble talking about anything other than science, Jia can’t seem to get along with anyone. She lectures Baek-gyun about his idiosyncrasies, dismisses Min-kyu without listening to him, and is a burden to her brother. I’m tired of her already but that only makes Aji-3 such a powerful counterpoint to her human model. I just know that Aji-3 will teach Jia about what a gift it is to be human and I can’t wait to see how she changes for the better.
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