What’s Wrong Mr. Poong-sang: Episodes 1-2
KBS’s recent family drama, What’s Wrong Mr. Poong-sang (alternate title Liver or Die), brings us the story of five siblings who were raised by the eldest brother when their parents dropped the ball. This family has more than their fair share of black sheep, creating some interesting dynamics among the siblings. It’s a silly, quirky show on the surface, but there are clues that we’ll be delving into some dark places in the heart before it’s all over.
NOTE: This is just a first-episode recap.
A man opens his family’s convenience store early one morning, and steps out to sweep the snow off the sidewalk. He finds the body of a man lying on the ground, and his screams alert his mother, who turns the dead man over and recognizes him.
The man who found him calls his friend, LEE POONG-SANG (Yoo Joon-sang). All Poong-sang can hear is his friend’s mother screaming that his father is dead.
Poong-sang and his four younger siblings are relatively calm at the funeral, and Poong-sang asks why he doesn’t see any of their friends there. Middle son JIN-SANG (Oh Ji-ho) says that Chil-bok, the guy who found their father, is his guest, and daughter HWA-SANG (Lee Shi-young) doesn’t even look up from her phone as she says that she’s close to Chil-bok’s mom.
Hwa-sang’s twin sister, JUNG-SANG (Jeon Hye-bin), complains that it’s not a party, so she didn’t call anyone. Jin-sang and Hwa-sang start posing for selfies, causing Poong-sang to snap at them, but youngest child WAE-SANG (Lee Chang-yeop) just sits silently.
A guy in a leather jacket comes in and gives a sloppy bow to the deceased, then another one to Jin-sang. Jin-sang also bows, and while they’re down there, Jin-sang asks why he’s is here. HAHA, he owes the guy money, and he promises, in front of his dead father, to pay up next week. Jin-sang stands to walk him out and gets a fist in the family jewels, ouch.
Suddenly they hear sirens, and outside, two people lie on the ground bleeding while a man with blood all over his hands is taken away in handcuffs. Apparently the three are siblings who were fighting over their inheritance, and the younger brother stabbed the older.
The Lee siblings are just hoping that their dad didn’t leave any debt — no hope of any inheritance. Jin-sang and Hwa-sang sigh that they wish they had an inheritance to stab each other over, but Poong-sang tells them to knock it off.
Before long the mourners are mostly gone and the siblings get a chance to eat. They try to think of happy memories of their dad, but Hwa-sang has to go all the way back to tenth grade to remember that time he took her and Jin-sang to a club with the older lady he was dating at the time.
Poong-sang entertains some visitors, and when he returns, almost everyone is gone. His wife BOON-SHIL (Shin Dong-mi) tells him that Jin-sang had an appointment and Jung-sang, a doctor, had to go perform a surgery. Hwa-sang is still there laughing and having a ball with some loud friends, but Chil-bok’s mom kicks them out for their shameful behavior at a funeral
After Jung-sang’s surgery, one of her colleagues, doctor JIN JI-HAM (Song Jong-ho) asks to speak to her in his office. He tells her that another doctor is returning from the States, and he’s surprised at her lack of reaction. Jung-sang tells him not to worry, that she can be professional — hmmm, this other doctor must be an ex.
Jin-sang’s “appointment” is apparently a high-stakes game of Go-Stop, and it looks as though he loses pretty big.
Hwa-sang leads a man into an apartment, both of them saying this is the first time they’ve ever done this. She lets him think that she’s the owner of the expensive place and invites him to stay for ramyun, making his heart pound with excitement.
He notices that all of the books on the shelves are medical texts, and Hwa-sang claims that she dropped out of medical school. The man is enchanted by her, and he awkwardly carries her off to the bed.
When Jung-sang arrives home to her apartment, it’s obvious that someone was there by the rumpled bedsheets. Hwa-sang takes her paramour to the funeral home and introduces him to her two older brothers, and she waggles her pinky finger to Jin-sang as if to say, “Only this big.” LOL, wow.
Her date introduces himself to Poong-sang as GONG MOO-YEON, a public official, and Hwa-sang chirps that he’s her fiance. Poong-sang introduces Jin-sang and Boon-shil, but when he calls Wae-sang over to say hello, he just walks away. Interestingly, Chil-bok watches Hwa-sang from around a corner, a longing expression on his face, until she waves at him to get lost.
Hwa-sang doesn’t seem to want anyone to talk to Moo-yeon, saying that they can get to know him at their wedding. But Moo-yeon asks stiffly about the missing fifth sibling, Hwa-sang’s “unruly” twin, ha.
When Jung-sang arrives at the funeral home, she’s introduced to Moo-yeon, and she asks a petulant-looking Hwa-sang if she was honest with him. Moo-yeon says that Hwa-sang proposed to him a week ago, and Jung-sang asks him to sign a document promising not to back out later, but Hwa-sang snaps that it’s none of her business.
Moo-yeon says stiffly that he can see through them all, and he orders them to stop leeching off of Hwa-sang. LOL! Jung-sang asks if Hwa-sang sold him the same old story — she dropped out of medical school, made billions in real estate, bought Poong-sang a car repair shop, and supports all of her siblings with plenty of money left over.
Jung-sang tells Hwa-sang that at thirty-five, it’s time to grow up. Moo-yeon yelps, and Jung-sang says that Hwa-sang always scams some guy whenever the family is in an uproar and gets bailed out by Poong-sang (Boon-shil gives him a You are so dead face).
Jung-sang tells Moo-yeon that Hwa-sang is divorced, and he shrieks at Hwa-sang that she’s a piece of trash and shoves her to the floor. Hwa-sang comes up screaming, but she’s not after Moo-yeon — she attacks Jung-sang, while Chil-bok trips Moo-yeon on his way out (and does the splits and rips his pants, hee).
As the siblings wrestle and scream at each other, Chil-bok’s mom calmly tells curious onlookers that they’re fighting over their huge inheritance, PFFT.
Poong-sang finally bellows at them all to stop, reminding his siblings that their dad may have been a lousy father, but they’re still in mourning. Jung-sang snaps that she’s ashamed to be Hwa-sang’s twin, which sets off Hwa-sang again. She bursts into tears, wails that she hates them all, and storms out (whacking poor Chil-bok with her purse on the way, just because).
A woman in flashy clothing has been hanging around the funeral home all day, but never going inside. She hides when Poong-sang comes outside with a man who gives him an IOU written by his father, and says that he won’t ask for the interest if he just pays what his father owed. Poong-sang runs inside to get the funeral money from Boon-shil, showing her the IOU. She throws the money at his feet, furious.
The next day, Hwa-sang yells at her phone when Moo-yeon isn’t answering her texts, while Poong-sang’s daughter Joong-yi complains that she’s trying to study. Hwa-sang throws Joong-yi’s books and notes around the room, angry at her disrespect, then storms out (this seems to be a theme in her life).
Jin-sang appears to have a sugar mama, who leers at him in his black suit and asks him to spend the night with her tonight. She says her husband will die soon, leaving her all his money so that she can buy him a car and a business, and Jin-sang’s eyes light up.
He says he’d rather just have the money, and she gets handsy as she promises him several billion won. She claims a headache and says she needs to lie down, and how convenient! There’s a hotel right across the street. Jin-sang says nervously that he’s got some family stuff going on, but she promises not to touch him, so he goes with her.
Of course, she pounces as soon as they get into the room, and Jin-sang squeals when her hands dive right down his pants. She swings him onto the bed, and he weakly protests that there’s been a death in his family, which finally gets her off of him.
At the funeral, Poong-sang is startled by a man who walks in, saying that his boss sent him. Poong-sang flies into a rage and yells at them to get out. They leave calmly, the leader stopping to set down an envelope bursting with cash.
When Jin-sang reaches for it, Poong-sang screams at him not to take it. He chases Jin-sang around the room yelling that taking that money is like selling their brother Wae-sang. He head-butts Jin-sang in the nose, making him drop the money, and it’s Wae-sang who picks it up.
Poong-sang asks angrily if Wae-sang called them, and he says he didn’t. Poong-sang grabs the envelope and runs outside to tell the thugs that they won’t take their boss’s dirty money, and that if he tries to take their brother again, he won’t forgive him.
Wae-sang throws out the flowers the thugs brought, remembering when he was a kid and dreamed of being a baseball player. He’d overheard his father telling Poong-sang that he couldn’t afford to support Wae-sang’s dream. When he was older, his father yelled at Wae-sang for acting like a thug when his family spent so much money supporting his playing baseball. He’d called Wae-sang trash and useless, and he’d told Poong-sang not to let Wae-sang come to his funeral.
Wae-sang tells his siblings that they may as well end the funeral, because nobody else is coming. Poong-sang asks why he can’t just do his duty for a couple of days, but Wae-sang argues that he barely even knew his father.
He says that the person he feels sorry for is their mother, who left after being beaten by their father, and they don’t even know if she’s alive. He declares that he won’t mourn for the man who chased their mother away, who he’s only met five times in his life, and who swore at him and beat him.
He grabs his father’s photo and smashes it to the floor, and Poong-sang slaps him hard across the face. As Wae-sang runs out, Poong-sang yells after him never to do such a disrespectful thing in front of him again.
Jin-sang and Hwa-sang both admit that they don’t want to be there either, and Jin-sang backs them up. Poong-sang calls them all selfish, saying that the man was still their father, but they all agree that he’s the only one who feels that way. Poong-sang yells at them to leave, so they all go.
A young woman, who we’ll come to know as JO YOUNG-PIL (Ki Eun-se), proposes to her long-time boyfriend SANG-KI (Kim Ki-ri) unceremoniously in a bar. He laughs like she’s making a joke, then asks if she’s pregnant, but remembers that they haven’t slept together in years. How romantic.
Young-pil reminds him that he said he’d marry her when she turned thirty-five, and tells him firmly to keep next weekend open. He stops her, and when they leave the bar later they’re both pretty drunk.
Wae-sang is their hired designated driver, and when they drop Young-pil off, Sang-ki slurs at her not to call him for a few days. Wae-sang mentions that Young-pil doesn’t seem okay back there, but Sang-ki isn’t concerned. She’s arguing with her front gate when they drive off, and Wae-sang gets to listen to Sang-ki calling one of his side pieces.
Annoyed, he slams on the brakes and gets out of the car. He tells Sang-ki that he refuses to drive for a drunk, cheating jerk, and Sang-ki takes a swing at him. Wae-sang easily dodges and slams Sang-ki face-down on the hood of his car, and he tells him to stick to one woman at a time. He walks away, fake-tossing Sang-ki the car keys and grinning at him not to drive drunk. Awesome.
Chil-bok and his mother feel bad for Poong-sang, left to mourn his father all alone. They tell him to go home and rest, but he says he’s got friends coming, so Chil-bok makes him at least sit and eat. Chil-bok’s mom says it was horrible that his father died in the street, but Boon-shil quips that his life was worse.
Poong-sang tells Chil-bok’s mom that his father had liver cancer, and she says it was better that he didn’t die sick in bed, because Poong-sang would have been stuck caring for him alone. She feels bad for Poong-sang, who pretty much raised his four younger siblings, but he says they all went through hard times.
She tells him not to be mad at his siblings, because their father was terrible and doesn’t deserve their respect. Even Poong-sang has to admit that it’s been a year since he saw the man, and even then they barely spoke. Chil-bok’s mom wonders if their mother will show up at the funeral, but Poong-sang shushes her.
Eventually even Chil-bok’s mom falls asleep, so Chil-bok piggybacks her home (and awww, when Poong-sang wishes Chil-bok good luck, he says he’s carrying his on his back). Poong-sang’s friends finally arrive, and while Boon-shil is setting out more food, she gets a call that her own father was in an accident.
Thank goodness he only fell off his bike, and he’s fine other than a sprained ankle. He whines adorably that he almost died, and makes a huge fuss about never riding that bike again.
Jin-sang visits Chil-bok, who’s been helping Jin-sang find someone. Chil-bok tells him to let it go, because finding the person won’t do him any good anyway, but Jin-sang vows to ruin the life of the person who made him the way he is.
Poong-sang goes to the restroom feeling a bit sick (oh no), and when he comes out, he hears a woman wailing loudly. It’s the flashy woman who’s been hanging around the funeral home, finally come inside to mourn, though her cries are obviously fake. When Poong-sang sees her, he yells at her to leave and physically drags her out.
He tries to shove her into a taxi, but she goes comically boneless and just lies on the ground refusing to get up, HAHA. Poong-sang walks away and she follows him, asking why he’s always so cold to her.
Poong-sang tells her to just say what she came to say. She says she’s getting old and wants to get along with him and his siblings, and when Poong-sang goes quietly furious, she tells him not to be that way to his mother. Ah, I thought so.
He says he hates the thought that she’s his mother, and that he’ll accept whatever punishment comes his way for feeling that way. His mother asks if his father left anything behind, and Poong-sang tells her incredulously that all he left was debt.
But he won’t listen to her badmouth his dad, saying that if she hadn’t left, his father wouldn’t have died of liver cancer, alone in the street. He accuses his mother of making his father that way, yelling that he knows what she did, because he saw it all. She asks what he’s talking about, and says that she gave up a lot after having him at only eighteen.
She changes the subject, asking if he’s seen a gold bar anywhere, knowing that there’s been one passed down for generations in his dad’s family. He growls that there’s nothing, so she asks about condolence money, but he says he used that to pay off the IOU. Mom says that’s not the only reason she came — that she also feels something like motherly love.
But Poong-sang scoffs that you have to actually raise your child to feel love. He points out that she’s asked about money several times yet not once about her children, but she just says that he takes good care of them and asks for taxi money.
Poong-sang throws all the money he has at her (while she scopes out his wallet) and orders her never to show her face to his brothers and sisters, because they don’t know the truth. His mother is happy to have his money, but a man grabs it from her, complaining about the paltry amount.
Poong-sang goes back inside and stares at his father’s photo with resentment. Later he can’t even pay for the funeral because he’s broke, but luckily Jin-sang sends him the money just in time.
Boon-shil takes her dad back to the hospital with a tummyache, leaving Poong-sang to escort his father’s body to the crematorium alone. Other families weep and wail for their lost loved ones, while Poong-sang silently stands vigil for his own father.
As he’s leaving with his father’s ashes, a woman pulls up, asking for him by name. She tells him that his father refused to ask his children for the liver transplant that would have saved his life, thinking it too shameless of him. She says that on that final night, he was trying to see his children one last time, insisting that he had to tell Poong-sang that he was sorry before he died.
Poong-sang thinks about the last time he saw his father a year ago. He’d seemed as if he had something to say, but when Poong-sang asked, he’d been interrupted by a work call before his dad could answer. When he went back inside, his father was gone.
Back in the present, Poong-sang stumbles out to the middle of a river to scatter his father’s ashes. He cries as he does, thinking about his father being unable to apologize before he died.
Then he trips on a rock and drops the entire box of ashes in the river, watching in horror as it merrily sails away. Poong-sang goes splashing after it, calling, “Father! FATHEEEEER!!” He almost catches the box, but he loses strength and sinks under the surface of the water.
He almost gives up, but something gives him a renewed burst of strength. He pops his head out of the water, screaming for help.
Very cute show! I didn’t really hear much about it before airing, so I’m pleasantly surprised by how much I like it. I know the drama has been airing for a few weeks at the time of this recap, but I’ve only seen this one episode, and I like the way it balances the funny and heart-wrenching moments. I found Poong-sang and his siblings endearing, and I enjoyed the slightly-overblown humor that makes everything seem just a teeny bit ridiculous, but in a cute way. I love shows like this that come across at first to be light and fluffy, but you know that later the characters will have a lot of dark, emotional stuff to unpack, and that you’ll just love them all by the time the show ends.
This episode didn’t give a lot of backstory other than what we can infer from the conversations among the siblings, but it still managed to give a pretty bleak picture of Poong-sang and his brothers and sisters’ lives. Evidently something happened that made their mother leave, something that Poong-sang witnessed that paints Mom in a very bad light, but he’s let his siblings believe that it was because their father abused her (and he probably did, based on what we know of him, but it’s obviously not the whole story). And it sounds like their father just checked out, only coming around occasionally and leaving Poong-sang to do all the raising of his siblings alone.
I’m intrigued by the way the five siblings feel so differently about their father and mother — none of it is healthy, as they seem to feel one extreme or the other, but extremes are almost never the truth. It’s interesting that they all grew up together, but see the situation in such wildly different lights. There’s no doubt that Dad was a shitty father and mostly left Poong-sang to raise the rest of them, yet it’s Poong-sang who feels that they still owe him respect. It’s probably his way of protecting himself from his own feelings of resentment and anger — if their dad deserves basic respect, then he doesn’t have to face his true feelings. But the others are comfortable putting their negative feelings towards their father out there, admitting honestly that he was both abusive and neglectful.
But their mother is a whole different can of worms… Poong-sang is the one who resents and blames her for leaving them alone with their father, while youngest Wae-sang sees her as a victim who was forced to give them up to save herself. No doubt the truth is somewhere in between, although from what we’ve seen of her, Mom seems pretty grasping and self-centered since she showed up asking if there was an inheritance before the body was even cold. Whatever Poong-sang saw must have been terrible (my guess at this point is infidelity, but it could be anything), but for some reason, he’s kept it a secret from his brothers and sister for all these decades. This is not generally my kind of drama, but I’m interested enough after this first hour to want to see more.