Memorials: Episode 1
Kicking off the summer with a strong premiere, Memorials introduces us to a spunky heroine and quirky hero that promise to make a dynamic duo you can’t help but root for. Political dramas are always touchy for me since the topic can quickly become more frustrating than entertaining, but this first hour presents us with a world populated with colorful characters and I find myself excited to see what happens next.
EPISODE 1 RECAP
A determined parade of people rushes through town as a man we’ll come to know as SEO GONG-MYUNG (Park Sung-hoon) watches the clock tick down for the Mawon district representative candidate registration. Gong-myung and his team start to pack up when the desk starts quaking and they look up to see the parade burst through the doors. The crowd parts to make way for our heroine, GU SE-RA (Nana). Slapping her registration in front of Gong-myung, she announces, “Let me give it a try.”
2 months ago Gong-myung eats his lunch in the cafeteria as his coworkers Lee Dae-cheol (an unwilling superior) and Jung Yong-kyu gossip about his demotion. Yong-kyu thinks Gong-myung could rise again, but Dae-cheol tsks. We flash back to a budget meeting as Chief Won So-Jung chides the group for unsatisfactory results. While the rest of the members hang their heads in shame, Gong-myung impatiently taps his fingers as the clock winds down. He pops up when it turns over and announces he submitted his best work and sweeps out of the room without a backwards glance.
Dae-cheol tuts Gong-myung will never get his job back. Yong-kyu balks surely Gong-myung was discouraged after 2 weeks at the service center. With a snort from Dae-cheol we cut to Gong-myung sitting at a service desk. A woman sits down for assistance and he motions to the sign declaring him at lunch and she leaves in a huff. The phone rings and tapping his fingers as he watches the clock, Gong-myung doesn’t answer until the hour turns over. The caller demands to speak to the chief but Gong-myung coolly replies his office isn’t located in the service center and the caller angrily hangs up on his offer to send their information over.
A ruckus draws Gong-myung’s attention and he tells the irate citizen to watch his language. Holding his phone, Gong-myung states everything will be recorded and may be used to take legal measures. Enraged, the man swings his cane but Gong-myung sidesteps and pins the cane to the floor with his foot. Stumbling backwards, the man claims abuse. Gong-myung says he can’t return the cane for safety reasons, moving it away when the man lunges for it. Coworkers escort the flailing man away as he wails about his aching back.
Afterwards, Dae-cheol chides Gong-myung for his conduct. Thinking Gong-myung unfit for face-to-face service, he moves him to online complaints. The complaints are dominated by a citizen known as “Garden Tiger Moth” who’s been plaguing the office with grievances for the past 15 years. To make matters worse, GTM won’t give up until the complaint is solved, resulting in multiple resignations from those in charge of their submissions. Gong-myung scrolls through a seemingly endless list of GTM’s complaints and Dae-cheol reminds him of 3 key phrases: “I understand, I apologize, and I wish you a happy and healthy future.”
Gong-myung dies a little inside as he types out the response only to get an immediate reply that this isn’t the end. We see flashes of an individual overhearing concerns in the neighborhood only for emails on those subjects to pop up in Gong-myung’s inbox. Dae-cheol guides him through placating responses and when we finally see GTM’s face, it is hardly surprising it’s Se-ra. The office is empty by the time Gong-myung gets Se-ra’s latest complaint about a defective sign and he wonders what she does for a living. Hee.
In an elaborately decorated apartment, Se-ra fusses over how to best wear her boyfriend’s shirt sexily and strikes an awkward pose when he enters. He’s KIM MIN-JAE (Han Joon-woo) and he barely glances at her or the décor as he shuffles inside. His tone is bored as he asks why there’s a cake when he doesn’t like sweet things. Se-ra says she does, asking if he knows what day it is. Min-jae guesses her birthday and Se-ra’s smile disappears as she corrects it’s their 9th anniversary.
It makes little difference to Min-jae and he waves off his forgetfulness as a consequence of being so busy. Eyeing the photo of the couple on the mantle next to one of Min-jae and his boss, Chairman Jo, Se-ra wonders if she and the chairman are equals: “Can love and respect be equal?” Min-jae is nearly falling asleep on the couch and Se-ra worries he’s tired but Min-jae says he needs to leave again for a funeral, suggesting they celebrate their anniversary with her birthday later. He asks if she can get home and hiding her disappointment, Se-ra nods.
Arriving home, Se-ra’s anxious mother doesn’t bother with why she’s upset before asking how much money she’s saved. Springing up, Se-ra is appalled to learn Mom was conned into buying a store at a gathering after having done the same thing 10 years ago. Se-ra demands where she got the money and Mom mutters she took out a loan on the house. She begs Se-ra not to tell Dad, again asking if Se-ra has any money.
Se-ra wails that in addition to student loans and rent every month, she’s been paying off the plastic surgery Mom got on Se-ra’s credit card. They hear the door open and the women exchange a look before slapping on smiles to greet Dad. He shuffles into his room and Mom warns Se-ra to keep quiet. When Se-ra heads to work that evening, Mom grumbles at her for caring about everyone else’s business except hers. Se-ra quips if she could make money by being nosy, she’d have done it.
Telling Mom she can’t help, Se-ra hangs up but pulls out her bankbook and sighs at the paltry amount. She tearfully posts her scooter, Sebastian, for sale and drops her head into her hands. Meanwhile, Gong-myung crosses another of Se-ra’s grievances off his list and Dae-cheol suggests he meet with Garden Tiger Moth, holding out their number. Gong-myung starts to argue giving out personal information is against the rules but Dae-cheol feigns a distraction and leaves the number.
Leaving work, Se-ra gets a text and about Sebastian and lovingly bids the scooter goodbye only for a passing driver to throw a lit butt on the seat. She frantically pats out the embers and looks up to see the driver toss a plastic bottle out the window as well before driving away. Enraged, Se-ra gives chase and finds the car parked outside a building. Seeing it’s blocking a fire hydrant, Se-ra reports it and recognizing the phone number, Gong-myung asks where she is.
When a man approaches the car, Se-ra spooks the daylights out of Gong-myung by appearing beside him. She mistakes him for the driver and lunges as a patrol car stops at the commotion. Se-ra grabs Gong-myung’s wrist and is embarrassed to realize he’s wearing a different watch from the driver. The officers walk up as Gong-myung pushes Se-ra off, wondering if she’s a pervert. She retorts he’s lurking around someone else’s vehicle like a thief.
Gong-myung snaps she called the office to report the driver and realizing the mix up, Se-ra apologizes for his wrist and turns to the cops to report the driver. The confused officers argue no one is here this late and Se-ra smugly points at a deliveryman walking towards the building. Inside, four men are gambling in the dark and jump at the sound of footsteps. Remembering they’d ordered food, one goes to greet the deliveryman only for Se-ra, the officers, and Gong-myung to pop out behind him.
Before they can figure out if he’s the driver, the lights flip on and the gamblers scatter. As the officers pursue two of the gamblers, Se-ra spots her driver and chases him around the kids’ café. He shoves her away, launching her into Gong-myung’s arms. She snaps at him to help and runs off, managing to corner the driver once more. He barks he’s friends with the police chief but when he places a hand on Se-ra’s shoulder, she flips him into the ball pit, snapping it doesn’t matter.
The next morning, Min-jae’s boss, Chairman of District Assembly, JO MAENG-DUK (Ahn Nae-sang) is informed by Gong-myung’s former boss, Chief Won, that Assemblyman Heo was the driver Se-ra caught. She worries they won’t be able to get their budget proposal passed without Assemblyman Heo’s vote, but Chairman Jo assures her Assemblyman Heo won’t be disciplined – in exchange, Chief Won should divert attention by rewarding Se-ra for exposing the gambling ring.
Gong-myung can barely contain his annoyance as Chief Won presents Se-ra with a model citizen award. Afterwards, Se-ra gets drinks with her coworkers and says she would’ve treated them to a meal if the award had been monetary. No one will meet her eyes as they assure her it’s fine and the team leader rises to announce a goodbye toast. Se-ra wonders who’s leaving just as the team leader tells her not to bother coming to work tomorrow. He says a former employee is returning and that Se-ra is still young and can use this experience to get another job.
Stunned, Se-ra declares it a wrongful dismissal, but her coworkers merely pull her back into her seat and the team leader tuts he’s disappointed. She tries to argue, but everyone ignores her as they return to their drinks. Meanwhile, Gong-myung is approached by district representative Yang Nae-sang on his way home about Chairman Jo. Sitting on the curb, Se-ra drunkenly tells Min-jae about her evening and how her plan to get revenge by ordering expensive drinks and dishes backfired and left her with a sick stomach.
Min-jae unsympathetically tells her to wait for a car and hangs up. Through her blurry vision, Se-ra spots a man slumped against a light post across the street and calls in a report. Time passes and eventually a taxi pulls up, announcing her boyfriend sent it. Seeing a patrol car finally arrive for the drunk across the street, Se-ra leaves in the taxi. An officer shakes the unresponsive man and he topples over, revealing a blood-covered Assemblyman Yang Nae-sang with nasty headwound.
Chairman Jo announces Assemblyman Yang is unconscious and therefore will be replaced in an upcoming by-election. Assemblyman Bong thinks there should be another resignation and Assemblyman Heo flinches. Another assemblyman barks gambling can be considered a pastime while Assemblyman Yang allegedly received bribes. The room erupts into shouts until Chairman Jo slams the gavel down, bellowing Mawon District can’t afford more bad press and they should focus on choosing a representative.
Se-ra is locked in a staring contest with neighbor boy Choi Ja-ryong. She finally breaks and introduces herself as his afternoon helper from now on. They head over to a bar run by Se-ra’s friends Woo-young and Han-bi. The women guess Se-ra was fired again, recalling previous firings where Se-ra cursed out a handsy coworker or reported a boss for using the company card at a shady noraebang. Laughing nervously, Se-ra turns to Ja-ryong and hopes they get along well.
Woo-young sets Ja-ryong up in a study nook as Se-ra scans through job listings and finds one for a Mawon district office service center assistant. Woo-young warns her not to be hasty but Se-ra says she’s desperate. Cut to Se-ra smiling at Gong-myung in an interview room. Dae-cheol flips through her job experience – which is numerous, but short-lived – and notes she’s a tad old (born in 1992, same as Gong-myung). He starts to politely dismiss her but before Se-ra can argue, Gong-myung tells her to report to work tomorrow. Se-ra can hardly contain her excitement.
The next day, Se-ra finds her position is directly under Gong-myung and he begins his petty revenge by assigning 13 drafts for the Culture Center webpage. Se-ra’s first attempt is quickly shot down and Gong-myung provides contradicting guidelines for what he wants. With a weak smile, Se-ran returns to her desk and writes “die!!!!” repeatedly in her notebook while Gong-myung checks his inbox and smiles to see no new complaints from Se-ra.
After work, Se-ran vents to her friends about Gong-myung’s unreasonable demands. She grumbles that he leaves work on the dot and Woo-young coolly suggests she should also work as much as she’s getting paid. Se-ra agrees and the next day Gong-myung is dismayed to see her complaints have resurfaced. He spends the morning attending to her grievances as Se-ra works quietly at her desk.
When he notices Se-ra with her phone, Gong-myung anxiously asks about the drafts. Se-ra passes the remaining 12 to him before her alarm declares it’s time for lunch and she leaves. Hee. In the cafeteria, Se-ra thoughtfully pockets her tangerine as her female coworkers ask about working with Gong-myung. Se-ra replies vaguely and the other women start to gossip that Gong-myung was demoted and his rigid personality isolates him from the rest of the office.
Back at her desk, Se-ra eyes Gong-myung with sympathy and starts to slide her tangerine to him… only for him to slap her hand without even looking. Heh. Answering a call, Dae-cheol asks Se-ra (who’s grumpily peeling her tangerine) to be a stand-in stenographer as she has a license. Gong-myung goes with her, warning her she’ll likely see Assemblyman Heo. Se-ra wonders how such a jerk can be a district rep. Gong-myung muses that people aren’t interested so a district rep can rake in $50,000 a year with only 90 days of work and Se-ra balks.
They’re interrupted by the arrival of Chairman Jo and Min-jae and Gong-myung averts his gaze when Chairman Jo looks at him. Chairman Jo starts to pass, but Se-ra greets him cheerfully, explaining she’s Gu Young-tae’s daughter. He breaks into a smile and asks why Min-jae didn’t tell him his girlfriend worked there as Gong-myung’s eyes widen in surprise. The men pass and Se-ra explains Dad and Chairman Jo were old friends. Gong-myung retorts she knows a lot of people between her dad’s friends and her boyfriend.
Inside the meeting room, Se-ra looks around nervously. Spotting Assemblyman Heo, she quickly draws a mole on her face to avoid recognition. The meeting regards a plan to build a new distribution center and Se-ra notices the build site is near where an elementary school should be. Chairman Jo calls for a vote and starts to declare it passed. Before Assemblyman Bong can argue, Se-ra pops up. She glances at Gong-myung and he frantically shakes his head… but Se-ra points out it’s unsafe to have truck traffic so close to a school.
While Gong-myung massages his temple, Assemblyman Bong and Chairman Jo look at Se-ra with interest as Min-jae hangs his head. Afterwards, Se-ra is told not to come back and Gong-myung unhappily tells her the audience is prohibited from speaking out. She argues she wasn’t in the audience and felt it only right to point out something wrong. She demands how firing her is reasonable and Gong-myung says it isn’t pleasing to watch her act out. “’Pleasing?’” Se-ra repeats, “Pleasing my foot.” Holding back tears, Se-ra says, “I’ve been fired many times… but today’s the worst moment ever.” As she storms out, Gong-myung kicks himself for his poor wording.
Se-ra vents to Min-jae and he orders her to just focus on finding another job: “That’s how you win.” Se-ra says it’s not about winning – she feels wronged. She points out there’s 100 things she wants to say to him and yet only says 1. Min-jae chides her for raising her voice, adding he may be nominated in the next by-election. Realizing he was ashamed of her causing a fuss in front of his boss and possibly jeopardizing his nomination, Se-ra asks why he never sides with her. She suggests they break up and when Chairman Jo calls, she warns they’re over if he answers. Min-jae pauses only a moment before taking his call outside.
That evening, Dad attends a gathering and turns away as the room erupts when Chairman Jo enters. Some other men ask if Dad and Chairman Jo are still close, but Dad says they only exchange holiday texts. The men laugh Chairman Jo only found success by following Dad to Seoul. Afterwards, Dad finds Chairman Jo outside. Dad can’t meet his eyes as Chairman Jo greets him cheerfully and asks about Se-ra. Dad grumbles she’s his greatest headache and Chairman Jo guesses he came to ask for a favor. Dad looks ashamed but Chairman Jo smiles and urges him to talk.
The next morning, Se-ra sees her old job posted on hiring boards. Thinking her predecessor isn’t taking over after all, Se-ra calls to apply. The person on the other end tells her she was fired because the CEO is friends with Assemblyman Heo and they’ve already selected the new hire anyway. Se-ra is still steaming by the time she’s watching Ja-ryong and he pouts at her for not letting him win at the arcade game they’re playing. She warns him society is cruel and he asks why she’s blaming society. Calling her a coward, Ja-ryong declares her fired and storms off.
At work, Gong-myung scrolls through all of Se-ra’s complaints he’s addressed and Dae-cheol muses she’s been quiet lately. He asks Gong-myung to clean up her desk since someone new is coming in and he turns to find Se-ra forgot her journal. Flipping it open, he sees it’s a meticulous diary of every grievance she’s filed. Meanwhile, Se-ra is kicking a can grumpily across an overpass and stops at a row of posters. Inspecting the one for the by-election, she thinks back to Gong-myung saying representatives get 50k a year for 90 days of work.
Thinking a lottery ticket would be quicker, Se-ra goes back to kicking her can. That evening, however, she continues to mull over the prospect. When Dad comes in, she tries to feign sleep, but he gruffly tells her to stop faking. Handing her a slip of paper, he says he asked a friend for a favor. Looking down, Se-ra sighs this was the job she was just fired from and they already picked someone… and then it dawns on her. Dad nods and tells her it’s a sure thing and warns her not to be late for her interview.
The next day, Se-ra nervously cycles through the revolving door, debating whether or not to go in. Seeing a missed call from “Jerk” (Gong-myung) she steels herself, deciding she’s already hit rock-bottom and should grab hold of the lifeline presented. The team leader that fired her has changed his tune and waves off her portfolio and the executive interview, saying she never mentioned her father was friends with Chairman Jo. Se-ra is thrilled she’ll be returned to her old desk tomorrow.
As Se-ra’s leaving, however, the team leader tells the woman who brought tea to clear out her own desk today. The woman points out it’s wrongful dismissal to fire someone the same day and Se-ra flinches when he says she’s young and can a new position easily. Grimacing, Se-ra turns back and corrects new jobs are hard to come by. She walks home disappointed and once again stares at the poster calling for candidates, startled when Gong-myung appears next to her.
He holds out her diary and denies it when she asks if he looked. Pulling it back, he says it read like a district representative’s diary: “You’re nosy in a very detailed and systematic way.” He adds he stopped when he read her entry calling him a jerk. Noticing the posters, Gong-myung asks if she’s planning to take TOEIC classes and Se-ra asks why he doesn’t think she’s looking at the candidate poster. He shrugs it doesn’t make sense and Se-ra snatches her journal back, glaring at him as he walks away.
Determined, Se-ra slams a stack of cash in front of her friends. She says the registration fee is comparable to the cost of building up a resume. Rolling her eyes, Woo-young tells her to get a job, not gamble. She leaves in a huff and once she’s gone, Han-bi says she’s in. With 24 hours left, the women get to work gathering the proper documents for the application. The final step is to get 50 recommendations and Se-ra cackles it’ll be easy… only to find herself with less than half the needed signatures and less than 3 hours.
Han-bi gets a call and tries to decline joining an outing when Se-ra gets an idea. We find ourselves at the top of the episode and now can recognize the leader of the crowd headed towards the district office is Han-bi. Storming into the room, Se-ra submits her application with a determined smile as Gong-myung scoffs in disbelief.
Epilogue When Gong-myung left Se-ra on the overpass, he paused to look at her glaring at the poster and flashed back to 2001. Young Gong-myung sits next to young Se-ra in class. When he looks away, she swipes a handful of pens from his pencil box and gleefully writes in her journal, unaware of Gong-myung’s moony smiles beside her. In the present, he muses she grew up well.
Awwww, now that is what I call a premiere! Childhood connections may be cliché, but that epilogue made me insanely happy. Perhaps Gong-myung isn’t such a curmudgeon after all? I certainly love Se-ra ruffling his feathers and am excited to watch their relationship develop. As I said at the top, I tend to be wary of politics-heavy dramas because they often veer into very frustrating territory, but the glimpses of Se-ra and Gong-myung in the teasers was enough to convince me to give the drama a shot and if the rest of the show is as good as this first episode, then this is gonna be a blast!
I took a liking to Nana when I saw here in Roommate back in 2004 and there’s always something appealing about idols who take on such quirky roles. Se-ra was immediately endearing and while she’s down on her luck, she manages to subvert the “Candy” trope by her strong moral code and spunk that makes her so hard to bully. My heart breaks for her struggles because despite what Dad thinks, I believe she would be able to support herself… she’s just been repeatedly derailed by Mom’s messes. Still, he clearly loves her enough to swallow his pride to get her a job.
Aside from our adorable leads, I’m also thrilled with our supporting characters! Se-ra’s friends are fantastic and checking off that strong female bonding box. Does anyone else want to hang out in their bar all day, every day? And I am so curious about our villain, Chairman Jo. From what we’ve been told, he used to follow Dad around like a lost puppy until they came to Seoul and something soured their relationship. Chairman Jo seems oblivious to the rift, but his congenial smiles wreak of a politician’s mask and I suspect he may be involved in Assemblyman Yang Nae-sang’s “accident.” Not to mention, a weird energy passed between him and Gong-myung when they crossed paths in the hall and Gong-myung was the one Assemblyman Yang approached with whatever he knew about Chairman Jo. It’s all very mysterious and I’m so excited for Se-ra and Gong-myung to team up and start cleaning house!