My Fellow Citizens: Episodes 31-32
With two more episodes to look forward to, our con artist duels with a snake of an assemblyman who’s determined to succeed at Jung-gook’s expense. Committed to live as a righteous assemblyman in spite of his past, Jung-gook fights for the people, unaware that his mission will endanger someone that he cares about. While Jung-gook’s future hangs in the balance, one man must decide whether he’s a friend or foe.
EPISODE 31 RECAP
With Hoo-ja in jail, Jung-gook meets Joo-myung at their usual spot to ask for his help in protecting the Interest Regulation Act. Jung-gook explains the reason he decided to defy Hoo-ja, “If that regulation gets taken away, people who are struggling will struggle even more. An assemblyman shouldn’t do that.”
Even though a repeal of the regulation is practically guaranteed, Jung-gook plans to fight it with Joo-myung’s connections, intel and strategy. Once Joo-myung begrudgingly agrees to help, they meet with Jung-gook’s team.
Joo-myung points to a whiteboard where all of the assemblymen have been sorted into three categories — those in favor of the repeal, those who want to keep the regulation in place and a small pool of members who are neutral. Joo-myung wants the team to prevent the neutral assemblymen from attending the general meeting.
Joo-myung selects an assemblywoman from that neutral group and soon Jung-gook and Seung-yi are at the ping-pong club that she frequents. Seung-yi hits a “wild” ball towards their target which gives Jung-gook the chance to introduce himself.
Jung-gook asks for a game and we hear Joo-myung’s advice, “She’s very competitive…So don’t go easy on her.” The assemblywoman proves to be a formidable opponent and when she laughs at Jung-gook after winning a hard fought point, his competitive spirit is awakened. Jung-gook insists on playing game after game until the poor woman collapses in exhaustion.
Jung-gook is beside himself when he learns that the assemblywoman will be in the hospital for a month. Joo-myung figures that Jung-gook met his objective and selects their next target, an assemblyman who loves to drink.
Charles joins Jung-gook for this assignment but their target soon has them both drunk. Whenever Jung-gook mentions the regulation, he’s told that business can wait. Eventually the assemblyman leaves when Jung-gook and Charles get goofy drunk and want to play some drinking games.
After that failure, Jung-gook strikes out with every other assemblyman until there’s only one neutral member left. Jung-gook attends a denuclearization meeting to get close to him but makes a fool of himself when he argues in favor of banning nukes in the gaming industry.
The assemblyman takes time to speak to Jung-gook after the meeting. He explains that the Interest Regulation Act will be repealed because the rumored successor to lead the People’s Party, Assemblyman Kim, supports it. Any assemblyman who needs Kim’s help to pass a bill has to support the repeal.
Jung-gook can’t understand how Assemblyman Kim can become party leader when he’s under investigation for accepting bribes. The assemblyman educates Jung-gook on the best excuse that a representative can make, that it was all a set-up (in this case it really was).
Assemblyman Kim uses that excuse when he’s confronted by reporters, coolly explaining, “This was staged. It’s political manipulation.” Once he’s alone in his office, Assemblyman Kim clears the top of his desk in rage.
Assemblyman Kim’s mood worsens when Gwi-nam calls, demanding to know how he plans to get Hoo-ja out of jail. Assemblyman Kim barks that all he can do is get the Interest Regulation Act repealed and warns her not to call him again.
Jin-hee walks into the office and when she sees Hoo-ja’s nameplate still sitting on the desk, asks, “Why is this still here? I said to get rid of it.” When Gwi-nam protests that Hoo-ja hasn’t even been sentenced, Jin-hee slaps her and by the time that she’s done, Gwi-nam’s lip is bleeding.
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Big Sis is here and she’s no Hoo-ja
Jin-hee takes her place behind the desk and informs Gwi-nam that she’ll be made the new chairman at an upcoming shareholder’s meeting. Jin-hee warns Gwi-nam that it’s time to listen to her.
During a prison visit, Gwi-nam informs Hoo-ja about what’s taken place in her absence. The sisters realize that Jin-hee secured the support of the old fogies (their father’s colleagues) and then waited for the right time to oust Hoo-ja. When asked about Jung-gook, Gwi-nam reports that he’s working to protect the Interest Regulation Act, not repeal it.
Hoo-ja figured out that Jung-gook and Jin-hee must have partnered together to get her out of the way. She decides that it’s time to call Mi-hee, sister #3, even though they haven’t been in touch since she married someone wealthy.
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Hoo-ja calls No. 3
In his office, Jung-gook points out to the team that the repeal of the Interest Regulation Act will fail without Assemblyman Kim. Unfortunately, Kim’s connection to Hoo-ja’s case caused no damage to his career because he knows how to use appeals to stall the investigation. Once Assembly Kim is elected party leader, he’ll be untouchable.
Fueled by his interest in Mi-jin, Wang-go suggests giving her a call but Seung-yi shuts him down. Joo-myung knows that to topple Assemblyman Kim they need direct evidence acquired through proper channels, such as detectives like Mi-young.
With no other options, Joo-myung offers to find dirt on Assemblyman Kim himself. Unfortunately, Joo-myung is no longer relevant and is completely ignored during a party dinner.
Jung-gook decides to bring in someone else, “…someone who’s kind of close, but not really. Someone comfortable, but not really.” Jung-gook finds Sang-jin living a rustic, simple life to ask him to dig up some dirt on Assemblyman Kim.
When Sang-jin refuses to betray his party, Jung-gook argues that’s exactly why Sang-jin must help, party members care more for the party than the people. Jung-gook remembers Sang-jin’s thoughts on politics and offers a variation of his own, “The biggest punishment for shunning politics is you must live the same way for the rest of your life.”
Jung-gook describes how citizens are disappointed by their self-serving representatives every four years. He makes a plea for Sang-jin to join him in cutting out the bad assemblymen to create an Assembly that truly cares about the people.
Back in the city, Jung-gook tells a freshly shaven Sang-jin that it’s time to “run” into Assemblyman Kim. Sang-jin surprises Assemblyman Kim in his office and accepts his awkward offer of tea. Over dinner at Joo-myung’s hangout, Jung-gook has to explain that “having tea” is something that people say but don’t really mean.
Jung-gook wants Sang-jin to meet Assemblyman Kim often, even though his socially challenged brother-in-law isn’t sure how to accomplish that.
EPISODE 32 RECAP
In the following days Sang-jin intercepts Assemblyman Kim several times — he even showers alongside him at a public bath and makes quite an impression. Ahem. Sang-jin “runs” into Assemblyman Kim at a restaurant and exclaims, “Why do we keep running into each other? It’s so funny.” When he sits to eat by himself, Sang-jin recalls Jung-gook’s advice, “Keep showing my face, but don’t ask him to meet with me.”
Jung-gook predicted that Assemblyman Kim would invite Sang-jin out for drinks because he needs him to oust Jung-gook in the next election. Assemblyman Kim does just that and the men meet for drinks at an upscale bar.
Assemblyman Kim apologizes for ignoring Sang-jin after the election. Confused about Jung-gook’s sudden appearance during the campaign, he asks Sang-jin if Jung-gook actually attended Seoul University. Sang-jin protects Jung-gook’s secret and carefully changes the subject.
When Sang-jin and Jung-gook strategized, Jung-gook suggested bringing up the hiring of relatives and friends. Sang-jin brings up the subject but Assemblyman Kim scolds, “You don’t talk about things like that in places like this where there are so many people.”
Jung-gook advised that if that tactic failed, Sang-jin should mention the rumor that assemblymen use their budgets for personal use. Sang-jin attempts to discuss the practice but Assemblyman Kim won’t take the bait.
Jung-gook’s final piece of advice was for Sang-jin to cry like a baby if everything else failed. He reasoned that Assemblyman Kim would say something useful while offering comfort.
Sang-jin admits to Assemblyman Kim that he punished himself with a self-imposed exile after losing the election to someone like Jung-gook. Sang-jin sobs that the party should dump him and rests his head on Assemblyman Kim.
Jung-gook’s strategy works because Assemblyman Kim offers Sang-jin some advice, “When I first started…I paid the party dues for other members to win the primaries….” Sang-jin wipes his eyes as Assemblyman Kim explains, “You need to win over your party members first.” Gotcha!
Sang-jin excuses himself to call Jung-gook. When they meet, Sang-jin explains to Jung-gook that paying members’ dues violates election laws. Jung-gook turns to Mi-young, who’s confident that she can get a search warrant for Assembly Kim’s office thanks to Sang-jin’s efforts. Jung-gook tells Sang-jin, “That’s how we catch the bad guys.”
Team Three serves a search warrant at Assemblyman Kim’s office and a news report details that thanks to a whistle blower, it was discovered that he paid the dues for over 300 party members. After looking over the seized documents back at the station, Mi-young reports to Jung-gook that she uncovered additional criminal acts.
While Jung-gook’s team enjoys their victory, Hoo-ja meets with Mi-hee, who gets right to the point, “What do you want from me?” Mi-hee laughs when Hoo-ja sweetly asks, “Please get me out of here.”
Hoo-ja wants to live at home during her trial and reminds her sister, “Your husband is powerful enough.” When Mi-hee informs Hoo-ja that times have changed, Hoo-ja retorts that in the old days she would have expected to have her charges dropped.
Hoo-ja insists that all she wants is to be released until she’s sentenced. In exchange for her help, Hoo-ja offers Mi-hee half of her shares in Baekkyung Capital and finally gets her sister’s attention.
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The elements of a good partnership: money and a mutual enemy
Hoo-ja needs to get out of prison so that she and Mi-hee can take the company for themselves instead of it letting it go to Jin-hee, an inevitability that neither of them wants. Hoo-ja argues that they have no choice but to fight together.
The leader of the National Assembly meets Assemblyman Kim in a private dining room and assures him, “It’ll all work out.” Kim doesn’t want platitudes, he wants his problems to go away. Out of options, Assemblyman Kim proposes, “We’ll go with plan B.”
The National Police Agency (NPA) surprises Team Three when they take over Assemblyman Kim’s case and all of the seized documents. We hear Assemblyman Kim’s plan — he would use his connection to the former police commissioner to get his case sent to the National Police Agency and delay the investigation until it’s forgotten.
The National Assembly leader worried that Jung-gook might call a press conference to bring all of Assemblyman Kim’s scandals to light. He pointed out, “If he uses his position as assemblymen to apply pressure, the NPA won’t have a choice. They’ll have to investigate properly.”
After hearing about the loss of the case from Mi-young, Jung-gook arranges a press conference for the next day. Assemblyman Kim walks into Jung-gook’s office after overhearing the call and makes it clear that if Jung-gook holds that press conference, someone close to him will get hurt.
We see Jung-gook on his way to meet Joo-myung at his favorite restaurant as Assemblyman Kim elaborates, “Hiring corruption? Siphoning budgets? Do you think I did all of that by myself?” As soon as Jung-gook sits down, Joo-myung admits, “I didn’t know that jerk had proof against me.”
Joo-myung admits to several illegal acts as an assemblyman, including using some of his budget to buy his wife a mink coat. Shocked and disappointed, Jung-gook scolds Joo-myung for not disclosing his connection to Assemblyman Kim’s corruption.
When Joo-myung inquires about the press conference, Jung-gook explodes, “He must have thought I couldn’t do it if you were involved, but he misjudged me completely.” Jung-gook tells Joo-myung that he should pay for his crimes and gets up to leave.
Joo-myung threatens to tell everyone that Jung-gook is a con artist. Unfazed, Jung-gook tells him, “If you want to stop me, call the cops. I’m going to live like this (the people’s assemblyman) until the day they put handcuffs on me.”
As soon as Jung-gook leaves, Assemblyman Kim calls Joo-myung. They meet in Kim’s office and Joo-myung fumes that Jung-gook is an ingrate. That makes him receptive to Assemblyman Kim’s proposal, a press conference held right before Jung-gook’s, where Joo-myung can tell the world about Jung-gook’s dirty secrets.
Assemblyman Kim calls his plan the only way to avoid an investigation. He can count on his immunity to stay out of jail but Joo-myung is sure to end up in prison. Assemblyman Kim argues that if they strike first, Jung-gook’s claims won’t be taken seriously.
After the meeting, Joo-myung can’t get a cab and sits on the curb across the street from the Assembly building. We hear the rest of Assemblyman Kim’s tempting pitch, “You need to…return to politics…to serve 5th and 6th terms.”
Joo-myung pulls out his phone to give Assemblyman Kim his answer, “Call the reporters tomorrow.” His decision made, Joo-myung turns his back on the Assembly and walks away.
In the morning, Assemblyman Kim guides Joo-myung to his office for the hastily arranged press conference. Jung-gook and team arrive at the Assembly but Jung-gook comes to a stop just outside of his press conference.
Joo-myung is about reveal the truth about Jung-gook when his phone rings. Joo-myung excuses himself to answer the call and asks Jung-gook why he’s not in his own press conference. An emotional Jung-gook tells Joo-myung, “I can’t do it.” Fighting tears, Jung-gook tells his mentor, “You took this con artist and made me an assemblyman. I can’t send you to prison.” A somber Joo-myung tells Jung-gook, “Let’s talk later.”
When Joo-myung returns to his seat, Assemblyman Kim coaches, “Just give them something for the headlines.” Speaking about himself and Assemblyman Kim, Joo-myung reveals, “During our twelve years in the Assembly, receiving bribes, nepotism, and granting favors were a given.”
Joo-myung continues even though Assemblyman Kim tries to stop him, “Assemblyman Kim had documents seized from his office. I beseech the detectives who took those documents to investigate the crimes fairly and thoroughly, without succumbing to external pressures.” Assemblyman Kim tries to end the press conference gone horribly wrong while Joo-myung drops into his chair with a bittersweet smile.
A prison guard escorts Min-hee to Hoo-ja’s cell. Min-hee announces, “I got your detention order withdrawn,” and walks away as Hoo-ja gazes out a window.
I have to confess that I was confused throughout what I expected to be the final episode. With Assemblyman Kim taking up so much screen time, I was left wondering what happened to Jung-gook’s team, his family and Mi-young and Team Three? It turns out that there are two more episodes to go, so there’s still time to reconnect with some of the characters that we know and love. But there were some big shakeups this hour, promising a showdown between Jung-gook and some very dangerous enemies.
The hour focuses on Jung-gook and Joo-myung, deeply flawed men who have broken the law for their benefit. But a strange thing happened to Jung-gook during the campaign. He welcomed the chance to live a different kind of life, one where he could make a difference and help people, and he embraced it. On the other hand, Joo-myung longs to return to the Assembly, but not to serve the people. Joo-myung wants to be part of that club of representatives who use their positions to better themselves. Throw Assemblyman Kim into the mix, and Jung-gook’s and Joo-myung’s showdown was inevitable.
In the end, Jung-gook chose to sacrifice his goals to protect his friend and when he told Joo-myung that he abandoned his press conference, I had a lump in my throat. Jung-gook’s loyalty surprised Joo-myung, who then had a decision to make — reveal Jung-gook’s secret and ruin his life, or protect Jung-gook and ruin his own (Joo-myung’s) life? Joo-myung made the heroic choice and I seriously wanted to cheer. In spite of their flaws and questionable pasts, Jung-gook and Joo-myung demonstrate that it’s possible to turn the corner with one good decision. Yes, the past makes a difference, but it doesn’t have to define a person’s future. It was an inspirational moment, but now Joo-myung can’t be counted on to be by Jung-gook’s side just as Jung-gook will have to face Hoo-ja’s wrath.
It looks as if the Park sisters are going to war. Mi-hee used some powerful connections to get Hoo-ja out of prison and I can’t wait to learn more about her and her network. Jin-hee makes Hoo-ja look like a marshmallow, so her fight for the chairmanship promises to get ugly and Jung-gook is sure to find himself in the middle of that fight.