My Ajusshi: Episode 3
Ji-an turns out to be far shrewder than I gave her credit for—she clearly has a plan, and is willing to ruthlessly use whomever she has to use in order to make her plans happen. We still don’t know what she’s up to, or even why, but somehow that just makes her more compelling rather than less. I just hope that Dong-hoon figures out her game before he gets caught up in it, because this is one young lady who’s strong enough to bring everything crashing down around his ears if he isn’t careful.
EPISODE 3 RECAP
On the train after dinner, Dong-hoon asks Ji-an, “How did you know that I’d received a bribe?” She reminds him that they looked each other right in the eye when it happened, saying that she could tell from his body language.
They get off at the same stop like usual, and Dong-hoon asks Ji-an to keep it a secret that she’s the one who threw out the money. She agrees in exchange for him buying her dinner and drinks for a month.
Dong-hoon asks if he can just give her money instead, since people will talk if he’s seen having dinner with her. Ji-an scoffs that he must think he’s attractive, and she asks for ten million won. His stunned expression answers that question, and she walks off alone.
Dong-hoon’s wife, Yoon-hee, talks on the phone to her lover (and CEO of Dong-hoon’s company) Joon-young, who tells her that they found the bribe in the trash. She reveals that Dong-hoon told her he lost it, suspecting something strange.
She thinks they should tell Dong-hoon the truth about their affair. Joon-young asks if she has the courage, advising her to sit tight and let him handle things.
Meanwhile, Ji-an follows Dong-hoon home and watches him input the building’s security code. She lets herself in, noting which floor the elevator stops on, then checking the mailboxes for his unit number. She finds a letter to Yoon-hee from the bar association, and she pockets the entire handful of mail.
When he gets home, Dong-hoon says he found the bribe when Yoon-hee asks, but he just says that a janitor found it in the garbage and brought it to him. Yoon-hee wants to know why people are saying he threw it out, and he asks her, “Who said I threw it out?” Oops.
Yoon-hee covers by saying that she called Joon-young when she couldn’t reach Dong-hoon. But Dong-hoon is on his guard now, and he grumbles that Joon-young is someone who hides his greed with saintly smiles. Yoon-hee snaps at Dong-hoon and stomps off to her office. He apologizes, then tells her not to call Joon-young anymore.
The following morning, Ji-an is already at the office when Dong-hoon boards the train. She slips a pen recorder into the stack of mail for Joon-young, and when she goes to his office, she pops it into his pen cup. But it triggers an alarm, so Ji-an takes the pen back. She calls her friend Ki-bum, who thinks the alarm was possibly a bug detector, and he advises her to assume there’s also one in Joon-young’s cell phone.
Sang-hoon, Dong-hoon’s older brother, composes a text saying how much he envies him for being a manager at a big company, who has somewhere to go and a young female employee who likes him. Dong-hoon replies, “Go back to sleep if you have nothing to do.” HA.
The copier acts up, and Ji-an makes a lot of noise pounding in it trying to make it work. Dong-hoon finally jumps up to help, but he finds himself nose-to-nose with Director Park. They step away to talk, and Ji-an watches them go, kicking the copier in frustration as if she’d been trying to get Dong-hoon’s attention.
In the men’s room, Director Park tells Dong-hoon that the fifty million won (in the form of gift certificates to a department store) was given to him on purpose in order to get him fired. He says that he originally thought the bribe was for himself and had gotten mixed up because of their similar names, but now he’s worried they’re both targets.
Dong-hoon asks who it could be, and why he’s being targeted. Director Park thinks that the only logical answer is Joon-young, and that it’s obvious why he wants him gone. He’s unsure of Joon-young’s motive for getting rid of Dong-hoon, but he says that it’s pretty obvious that there’s animosity, dating back to when he demoted Dong-hoon to the safety inspection team.
He says that at the time, he thought it was just Joon-young feeling awkward about being his college sunbae’s boss, but now he believes there’s something more going on. He asks if there’s anything between Joon-young and Dong-hoon, but Dong-hoon says there’s nothing.
Director Park warns Dong-hoon to stay vigilant, since the other side will probably strike again soon, so they need to discover who sent the bribe and get rid of them first. They scatter when Director Yoon walks in, and Director Yoon reports to Joon-young that they were up to something.
Joon-young thinks they’re just digging for information, and he asks Director Yoon which company sent the bribe. When Director Yoon is hesitant to tell him, he warns that it better not be a technical, building, or safety-related company.
Director Yoon insists that he wouldn’t take such a dangerous risk, confessing that it was a temp agency who sends them workers for a fee. Coincidentally, or maybe not, Ji-an is one of the workers they sent this year.
He tells Joon-young that the temp agency managers even come and manage their own people. He confesses that the president of the agency is a bit of a thug, but he says he’s also very loyal, especially when he’s paid to be. And this doesn’t strike you as a problem?
Joon-young gets only a minute’s notice that Chairman Jang is on his way, and he and the directors follow the chairman as he tours the building. Chairman Jang stops in Dong-hoon’s department to invite him to dinner tonight, and Dong-hoon locks eyes with Ji-an for a moment before telling Chairman Jang that he has a prior commitment. Chairman Jang just says they can get together whenever Dong-hoon is free.
As they leave, Joon-young tries to criticize Dong-hoon, but Chairman Jang pays no attention. He decides to go, “Since I got rejected.” Okay, he’s adorable. The directors realize that he came all this way just to extend a dinner invitation to Dong-hoon.
After work, Ji-an leads Dong-hoon (who follows at a distance) to a restaurant. He pulls down a shade to shield them from the other diners, then watches as Ji-an demolishes enough food for two people in silence. She easily tells him where she lives, but when he asks what her father does, her guard goes up and she asks why he cares.
She guesses he’s trying to figure out if she comes from a good family based on her father’s income, and he apologizes for being rude. He tells Ji-an that he’s never gotten a bribe before and didn’t intend to keep it — he was just conflicted. He says that someone planned to fire him over it, and Ji-an guesses that it was Joon-young.
Dong-hoon is amazed when Ji-an accurately sizes up the situation — it couldn’t have been Director Park because he seems friendly, and Director Yoon wouldn’t do something like that on his own, so it must have been Joon-young. She asks why he’d do such a thing, and Dong-hoon sighs that Joon-young must know he dislikes him.
He doesn’t give a reason why, but Ji-an says there’s always a reason. Dong-hoon snaps that sometimes people don’t want to think about why they dislike a person. Ji-an says that he must really hate seeing Joon-young succeed, and Dong-hoon says that whenever he hates someone, they end up doing well. So she asks him to hate her: “Extremely and without limit. Complete hatred.” She offers to hate him, too.
They ride the train home like strangers, but at one stop, too many people get on and they end up standing very close, with Ji-an’s face in Dong-hoon’s chest. Dong-hoon tenses up, and as the train resumes its journey, he tries to shield Ji-an from being crushed while contorting so that he doesn’t touch her.
While he’s distracted, Ji-an pilfers his phone and installs a spy program, then slips it back into his pocket. She tests the software as Dong-hoon walks home, confirming with Ki-bum that it works and they can overhear everything he says if his phone is near.
In the morning, Sang-hoon sneaks home after being out all night after a job interview. He confesses to Mom that he was turned down because of credit delinquency, and she fusses that all three of her sons went to college, but two of them still live at home.
A man from the credit agency comes to the door looking for Sang-hoon, and Ki-hoon tells him that Sang-hoon doesn’t live here. Sang-hoon tries to pretend he’s someone else, but the guy doesn’t believe him, and eventually Ki-hoon gives him up by yelling that he’s a terrible actor.
Mom is a thousand percent done, and she wearily tells the man from the credit agency to just take Sang-hoon away, ha. He’s not taken away, to Ki-hoon’s annoyance, and the brothers head outside together.
They watch in horror as a van speeds up to beat a light and goes up on two wheels as it makes a sharp turn through an intersection. It narrowly avoids tipping over, then screeches to a halt, and Sang-hoon and Ki-hoon run over to yell at the driver.
He’s a friend of theirs who runs a cleaning company, and apparently he pulls that stunt every day just for the fun of it. Sometimes he actually does tip over, ha. The brothers hang out with him while he works, and he tells them that his wife just suddenly cried and left in the middle of the day, upset by the menial janitorial work they do.
The cleaner notes that Dong-hoon is the only one from their neighborhood with a good company job, and Sang-hoon grumbles that he ignored their texts yesterday. He adds something about Dong-hoon enjoying the long winter nights, and Ki-hoon tells him to knock it off.
Dong-hoon gets to choose a temp worker to keep for his team, and naturally he chooses Ji-an. The temp manager says he was going to stop placing her, and he warns Dong-hoon not to complain about her later.
At the water tower site, Dong-hoon’s team is back to using their drone for the inspection. At lunch time, Dong-hoon notices one younger guy’s short socks and asks if it’s a new winter trend for young people not to wear long socks. Listening in through the app on Dong-hoon’s phone, Ji-an realizes that he’s thinking about her.
Dong-hoon and his team get back to the office later, and one team member asks Dong-hoon why most bribes are in the form of gift certificates. Dong-hoon explains that it’s difficult to find untraceable money, so many people buy department store gift certificates with a company credit card to give away as bribes, and that makes a light bulb go off in his head.
He calls Director Park to meet up and leaves his phone on his desk. Ji-an hurriedly calls Ki-bum and tells him to call Dong-hoon’s phone several times. While it’s ringing, she chases after Dong-hoon to tell him he has a call, making sure he’s got his phone on him so she can listen to his conversation with Director Park.
Dong-hoon takes his realization about using a company card for bribes to Director Park, who thinks it should be easy to track down a company card that charged fifty million won’s worth of certificates. He tells Dong-hoon that when they find them, they’ll find who hired them. He says they’ll celebrate together once they catch the culprits.
Ji-an calls Joon-young to report that Director Park and Dong-hoon are looking into who secured the certificates for the bribe. Joon-young tells Director Yoon, who calls the president of the temp agency to ask if he used a company card to purchase the bribe certificates, screaming down the phone at him when he answers that he did.
Dong-hoon visits the janitor, Choon-dae, in the basement. He confirms that it was Choon-dae who turned in the bribe he found in the trash, and he leaves him a gift certificate as thanks.
At the end of the day, Ji-an rides the elevator with Joon-young, who warns her that she’s in danger of losing her payout (for getting Director Park and Dong-hoon fired). She just tells him to keep his burner phone on and keep it on silent.
Loan shark Kwang-il has been looking for Ji-an, so he calls to ask where she’s been. She says she’s staying in saunas, which tells him that she hasn’t been staying in saunas, and she sarcastically calls him smart. He’s been to the random house where she has her mail delivered and knows that her grandmother’s former living facility is looking for her for overdue payments.
He says he paid off her grandmother’s bill, which he’ll add to what she already owes him. He threatens that no matter how much she runs, she’s still in the palm of his hand, and he orders her to turn herself in to him before he sends his goons after her.
Ki-bum follows Director Park to a club that evening, and after reporting his location to Ji-an, he slips in through the back door posing as a food deliveryman. He finds Director Park in a private room, talking to someone about their purchases of gift certificates, then goes back out to meet Ji-an in the alley.
He removes his jacket to reveal that he’s dressed like a club employee, and he goes back in as Ji-an cuts the power. He sneaks into Director Park’s private room while everyone is in the hall and spikes his drink with some sort of powder. Ji-an turns the lights back on, and Director Park goes back to his meeting and sips his drugged cocktail.
While all this is happening, Dong-hoon sits at his desk, looking at his pictures of his son (who, I believe, is studying abroad). He leaves to meet Sang-hoon for drinks, who grins at him and says he looks younger lately, assuming he’s having an affair with Ji-an.
Dong-hoon tells him to stop talking about someone’s precious child that way. Ji-an, who’s listening in while working her dishwashing job, is startled to hear them discussing her.
Sang-hoon complains that teasing Dong-hoon is his only fun, then says that he knew Dong-hoon wouldn’t get in trouble because he’s got a lot of willpower against temptation. Dong-hoon asks morosely if he really thinks it’s his willpower keeping him out of trouble.
When Ji-an gets off work, her boss catches her with her bags of leftovers scraped off of other people’s plates and fires her. She just leaves without a word.
Sang-hoon’s wife, Ae-ryun, finds the brothers at the bar. She presents Sang-hoon with divorce papers and begs him to set her free, screaming at him when he avoids taking the papers and promises to pay back his debt.
Once she’s gone, Dong-hoon tells Sang-hoon to just grant Ae-ryun a divorce. Sang-hoon refuses to ever do that, because eventually Mom will die and Ki-hoon will move on, and he’ll be left a lonely old bachelor. But until Ae-ryun takes him back, he’s thinking of dating someone. His words sound cheerful, but his expression is one of anguish.
As soon as Dong-hoon reaches his building, Ji-an texts him to buy her dinner. He texts back that it’s late, but she keeps waiting.
Director Park wakes in a strange hotel room the next morning, with no idea how he got there. He forbids the hotel employees to tamper with the CCTV or anything else, then as he peels out of the parking lot, he gets into a fender bender with another car.
He leaves the scene, late for a meeting. His subordinates tell the prospective investors that he’s on his way, but the delay causes them to reconsider giving their business to the company, and they leave.
The office is all atwitter at the news that Director Park was arrested for a hit-and-run. Director Yoon excitedly informs Joon-young, who gets a call from Ji-an telling him to prepare her payment for getting Director Park fired.
Joon-young passes Dong-hoon in the hallway, and Dong-hoon asks him, “Am I next? Why? I don’t think I did anything to you. I never make it known that I don’t like you.” He accurately guesses that Joon-young must have done something to him that he doesn’t know about yet, which Joon-young finds unsettling.
Ki-hoon visits his former boss, a director who wants Ki-hoon to be his assistant PD again. Ki-hoon says that he came to talk about his movie idea, but when the director tells him it’s a bad idea, he turns down the job offer. He punches the director to completely sever their relationship and remove the temptation to come crawling back for the assistant PD job when he needs money.
He heads home, talking on the phone with his friend from that office about what he’ll do now. The cleaner’s van comes screeching around the corner on two wheels like he does every day, and today he tips the van over on its side. Only it isn’t the cleaner who crawls out — it’s his brother Sang-hoon.
He tells Ki-hoon that the cleaner’s wife wants to open a restaurant, so they sold him the cleaning business. He asks Ki-hoon to do it with him, and Ki-hoon reluctantly agrees. They work hard cleaning an apartment lobby and change the name to Brothers Cleaning.
Of course Mom, ever the pessimist, complains to Dong-hoon that it’s a waste of their educations, but she sighs that at least it’s something, and Dong-hoon can stop worrying about them now. He gets another text from Ji-an demanding food, and when he ignores it, she starts calling.
He gets an advance on his credit card of a million won (just under $1000 USD) and gives it to her over dinner, promising the other nine million she asked for over time. She asks if he’s afraid people will talk if they eat together, and that she thought he would find it fun.
She asks if he’s worried he’ll like her, and he changes his mind. He takes back the cash and tells her to confess that she’s the one who turned in the bribe money, because he doesn’t want to be dragged around by a kid.
He leaves, and Ji-an follows him out. She tries to kiss him, but Dong-hoon shoves her off. She walks away, and we see that she had listened to his conversation with Sang-hoon about having willpower against temptation. He’d said that he didn’t know if he got where he is by his willpower, because he’s never truly been tempted.
Nearby, Ki-bum sends Ji-an the picture he took of her and Dong-hoon, which makes it look like they were making out in the street.
I have no idea what’s happening. Seriously, not a single clue. I don’t know what Ji-an’s plan is or whether she’s on Joon-young’s side, Dong-hoon’s, or what. I have no idea what her relationship is to Ki-bum, or how they seem to work together so well to accomplish things like tracing someone’s phone or drugging a drink. I don’t know what Kwang-il wants from Ji-an or why, since it seems to be more about control than the money. And I certainly haven’t got a clue what, if anything, Dong-hoon is going to do to save himself. Whatever Ji-an’s plan is, she’s obviously got everything mapped out already, especially since she tried to bug Joon-young’s office as well as Dong-hoon’s phone. At least she’s covering all of her bases, not trusting anyone but herself to look out for her own interests.
And yet, I don’t mean any of this as a complaint, because even though I’m confused as hell, I’m loving every minute of it. I honestly didn’t expect to like such a stark, bleak show, but I really do, even though each episode leaves me feeling as though I mostly have a grasp on things, but there’s still something eluding my understanding. I think it’s because I can sense that I’m supposed to feel this way at this point, because none of this feels like a mistake. It’s as though the story has me right where it wants me to be at this point, and that it’s completely certain of the story it’s trying to tell, and that all I have to do is hang on and watch and everything will be explained in time.
Something I admire about My Ajusshi so far is how it tells a rich, compelling story without feeling the need to make things too detailed or complicated. I mentioned last week that I actually enjoy the office political maneuverings (which usually leave me bored to tears) for exactly this reason, but everything in this show is straightforward, without unnecessarily convoluted situations. The writer knows how to use the characters to draw us in and keep our interest, while the actual events are just backdrop. The focus is on the people, not the circumstances, and I just love that.
I find Yoon-hee, Dong-hoon’s wife, a very fascinating character, full of contradictions. She confuses me, but at the same time, I understand her. She’s a person who’s weak enough to give in and have an affair, but she feels guilty and keeps saying that she wants to come clean and get a divorce, eager to make things right even if it’s late. I do think she feels remorse for her behavior, and I also think she bears no ill will towards Dong-hoon, because she consistently argues his side whenever Joon-young talks about him. But she’s not so remorseful that she’s willing to break things off with Joon-young and be faithful, either. At some point she’s going to have to pick a side, and I’m afraid she’ll choose with her heart rather than her head.
But the fact that her chosen paramour is her husband’s boss makes things much more complicated, as Joon-young well knows. Even if Yoon-hee divorced Dong-hoon, and even if it were never known that their relationship started before that, it will reflect very badly on him the moment it comes out that he’s dating an employee’s ex-wife. Now things have gotten even more complicated with the bungled bribe attempt and Dong-hoon’s supposed ethical choice of throwing the money away, gaining him Chairman Jang’s admiration and support. Right now, there’s just no good way to handle things that ends up with Yoon-hee and Joon-young still together (not that there should be).
I think that Dong-hoon knows full well that Yoon-hee is unfaithful, though I’m not sure he knows who her lover is. He seems like the kind of guy who wouldn’t want to know, although he figured out that Joon-young did something to him that he’s unaware of, so it won’t be long before he connects the dots. But I think that he’s choosing to ignore it for now, especially after that quip he made to Ji-an about not wanting to think about why you don’t like a person.
I particularly appreciate how Ji-an and Dong-hoon are kept interacting with one another — she’s using the fact that the company thinks Dong-hoon threw out the money to not only get some free meals, but to spend more time with Dong-hoon so she can gather information to fulfill her deal with Joon-young. She’s whip-smart, and I admire her ability to size up a situation and figure out the best angle for her benefit — sometimes even multiple angles. I think that Dong-hoon is smart, too, but he’s been complacent for so many years that it’s taking him some time to wake up. I was glad to see him fight back, and I’m eagerly awaiting Ji-an’s next move, now that Dong-hoon is no longer playing along.
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