Run On: Episode 1
What sounds like a typical love story between a runner and a translator turns out to be quite atypical in this first episode of Run On. The cold rich boy is actually a crazy person, and the spunky poor girl is a loser. However, these characters are much more than their labels, and as their paths cross, it feels inevitable for them to fall for each other.
EPISODE 1 RECAP
A man and a woman start off their day running, and though there are parallels, their lives seem to vastly differ. Our male protagonist goes out for a morning jog, stopping to pet an adorable dog, and our female protagonist rushes through the streets, avoiding a yapping pup from biting her heels. While she applies makeup in the back of a taxi to attend a film festival, he goes to a salon dressed in a suit to walk the red carpet.
This is KI SUN-KYUM (Im Shi-wan): a handsome young man whose accomplishments as a track and field national representative are overshadowed by his more famous family members. Today, he escorts his mom, Actor YOOK JI-WOO (Cha Hwa-yeon), to a festival, and as soon as he completes his duties, he leaves to meet his teammates.
As the renowned “Queen of Cannes,” Ji-woo attends a radio interview, and the host asks about her partner this morning. She describes Sun-kyum as the man she loves the most, though it’s probably because he resembles her.
When asked about her next project, she explains it as a typical love story. She lists the different types of characters she might play, and the scene flashes to each of the four leads: the crazy person, the loser, the psychopath, and the piece of trash. At the end, Ji-woo adds, “To someone, a first love.”
Stumbling across the open radio event, OH MI-JOO (Shin Se-kyung) catches a glimpse of Ji-woo and immediately cancels her plans with her friend, PARK MAE-YI (Lee Bong-ryun). She finds herself a seat in the front and displays a message to the actor on her phone. To Mi-joo’s delight, Ji-woo reads her note out loud and calls her adorable.
While Sun-kyum’s teammates wait for him at a café, the youngest member, KIM WOO-SHIK (Lee Jung-ha), asks for permission to buy tickets for a movie. Another member scolds him for wasting money, but Sun-kyum arrives and offers to pay. Woo-shik practically has hearts in his eyes as he gets Sun-kyum a straw and praises his red-carpet look, but Sun-kyum hardly reacts.
Team ace KWON YOUNG-IL (Park Sung-joon) comments on Sun-kyum’s photos from the festival with Ji-woo. He calls him a slang term for attention seeker, but his criticism falls flat since Sun-kyum doesn’t understand him.
The three of them watch the movie Woo-shik wanted to see, and just two seats down the row is Mi-joo’s empty chair. Once the end credits roll, Mae-yi takes a picture of the screen with Mi-joo’s name listed as the translator.
Though she missed the first screening, Mi-joo doesn’t regret her decision since she saw Ji-woo, and she’s content with the photo Mae-yi took for her. However, her good mood sours when Director Han Suk-won casually greets them, and she wonders if he forgot about how they broke up.
Contrary to Mi-joo’s hostility, Suk-won appears to have no qualms about chatting with his ex and her best friend. He complains about one of her translations in his movie, and Mi-joo scoffs, defending her creative choices. Unfortunately for Mi-joo, their meeting doesn’t end there since she has to see him again at the after-party.
As Mi-joo trudges alone to the party, along the same street is Sun-kyum and his teammates at a restaurant. Though he notices the odd dynamic between fellow athlete Gyu-duk and Woo-shik, Sun-kyum stays silent.
Meanwhile, Mi-joo sits at the opposite end from Suk-won, but her attempts to remain inconspicuous fail since he calls her over to his side. Their university professor is here as well, and maintaining social niceties, Mi-joo thanks him for recommending her to translate the movie.
The professor huffs since he was actually against the idea and accuses Mi-joo of pandering to Suk-won now that he’s an up-and-coming director. Of course, the one brown-nosing is the professor who promises to write a glowing review.
Sun-kyum looks up the word Young-il used earlier and frowns at the results. He shoves his phone in his face, wordlessly demanding an explanation, but Young-il just sighs and feeds him more food.
After one too many drinks, the professor rambles on about movies, and Mi-joo blurts out her desires to go home. He gets offended and orders Mi-joo to pour him a drink. She suggests ending for the night and points out that he can’t even stand properly.
The professor flings a glass of water into her face and then lambastes all female translators for relying on their looks. To everyone’s shock, Mi-joo grabs a bottle, but instead of attacking the professor, she pours even more water over her head.
She demands an apology and derides him for his Joseon-era comment. The professor argues that she humiliated him first since she said it couldn’t stand up. He flails around, causing his toupee to soar through the air and land in Mi-joo’s hands.
As the others erupt into snickers, the professor threatens Mi-joo, but she’s had enough and storms out. She chucks the toupee to the ground, but picks it up again since littering is bad. Hearing a crash behind her, Mi-joo makes a run for it, and she bumps into Sun-kyum who’s standing in the street.
Her belongings scatter to the floor, and Sun-kyum helps pick them up. When he grabs her gun, she explains that it’s just a lighter, and he replies, “I didn’t ask.”
Suk-won runs towards them, and Mi-joo hides behind Sun-kyum, asking for just three minutes. Unsurprisingly, her hiding spot doesn’t work, and Suk-won drags her by her wrist to make her apologize.
Witnessing Suk-won’s blatant disregard for Mi-joo’s personhood, Sun-kyum points the gun at Suk-won and asks Mi-joo if the gun is real. She wonders if he’s trying to help her, and he tells her that the three minutes aren’t over yet.
His daring act only makes him look like a crazy person, but Sun-kyum cocks the gun and steps closer to them. In the distance, fireworks go off, and the sudden pop sends Suk-won sprawling. Using the distraction, Mi-joo makes her escape and leaves her gun behind with Sun-kyum.
After their training, Young-il and Sun-kyum bicker in the locker room, making sarcastic remarks about each other. When Sun-kyum leaves, a couple of younger athletes take Young-il’s side, but he bristles at their comments and reminds them that Sun-kyum is his friend, not theirs.
Woo-shik overhears the entire exchange and goes out to find Sun-kyum sitting on the track field. Sun-kyum already knows that the others must have talked behind his back, and Woo-shik doesn’t deny it since a lot of people hate him.
As a newcomer, Woo-shik turns to Sun-kyum for advice about his personality changes, but Sun-kyum tells him to blame others instead of himself. Woo-shik asks if that includes Sun-kyum, and he says that it does. Still, Woo-shik seems to like him and hands him a drink as thanks for the movie yesterday. He asks if he had fun, and Sun-kyum tells him that he did not. Ha!
Suk-won is surprised to see Mi-joo still at the festival since the professor took over her role as interpreter for his interviews. Swallowing her pride, Mi-joo stands outside the professor’s hotel room door with his cleaned toupee and asks to talk—unaware that no one is inside.
The professor and his wife find her leaning against their door, and he spares her a few minutes in the hallway. She pleads with him to let her act as Suk-won’s interpreter, and the professor agrees… if she can time travel.
She asks if he’s implying to the days when he had hair (pfft), and the professor nearly has a stroke. What makes her comment worse is that she’s sincere, and the professor shouts that he’ll never forgive her.
Mi-joo vents her frustration to Mae-yi and regrets her actions last night, especially losing her gun. She wonders if she should have brought something to the professor when she apologized, and Mae-yi scolds her for going empty-handed.
The next day at training, the coach praises Sun-kyum for lowering his time, and he scolds Gyu-duk and his friend for getting worse. The team moves on to weight training next, and Woo-shik arrives to the gym with a bandage on his face.
Connecting the dots, Sun-kyum follows Woo-shik to the locker room and shares his theory about what happened. He knows the coaches are careful with the athletes and Young-il only cares about himself. As for other sports, no one even knows who Woo-shik is, so that only leaves two people on Sun-kyum’s list: Gyu-duk and his friend.
Sun-kyum lifts up Woo-shik’s shirt, revealing bruises on his body. He presumes that the abuse has been ongoing since the three of them went to the same school, but Woo-shik denies it. When his lies fail, he blames himself for what happened and begs Sun-kyum to keep this a secret. Though frustrated with Woo-shik’s response, Sun-kyum simply advises him to see a doctor and take pictures of his wounds.
Mi-joo returns to the professor’s hotel room, but this time, she drags Mae-yi with her. She tells her friend to leave if she feels uncomfortable, and Mae-yi glares at Mi-joo since she could have said that sooner.
The professor’s wife answers the door and says that her husband told her to tell them that he isn’t here. (The wife hates him, too, doesn’t she?) Mi-joo mentions the red ginseng she brought, and the gift earns her a ticket inside.
The professor scolds Mae-yi for never visiting him after she started her own company, and she tells him that she felt no need to see him since she never learned anything from him. Caught in the middle, Mi-joo looks toward her friend then at the professor, and she jumps to her feet.
She screams at the professor, but it’s only to apologize for her behavior. She begs him to let her take over for the rest of the interviews at least, and he asks if she really wants the job that much.
Sun-kyum’s dad, Assemblyman KI JUNG-DO (Park Young-kyu), talks with the professor about an interpreter for his son. He requests for a poor individual since they usually don’t cause problems, and the professor says that he has someone in mind.
Mae-yi tells Mi-joo that the professor’s part-time job is a sham, but even if she isn’t being paid, Mi-joo thinks it’ll be a good opportunity to interpret for a national representative. Before heading back, she stops by a PC café to play shooting games and tells her online friend about her rotten luck. Another player posts in the chat about a limited-edition model gun he’s selling, and Mi-joo jumps at the chance to buy it.
Returning home, Sun-kyum finds a bag for him, and as he checks out the contents, he gets a call from his older sister, KI EUN-BI (Ryu Abell), who saved herself as “pretty sister” in his phone. She’s a professional golfer, and her plethora of awards and trophies line the walls of their house. She asks if he’ll be at the next family meeting, and he tells her that their mom’s manager already sent him clothes for the event.
As Eun-bi leaves the airport, an agent walks up to her and hands her a business card. They’ve met before, and Eun-bi allows her to take her bags. While the agent makes room in her trunk, she tells Eun-bi that she goes camping with her kids—hence all the gear—and Eun-bi comments on how she’s a good mom.
We’re officially introduced to our third lead, SEO DAN-AH (Sooyoung), the CEO of the agent with Eun-bi. She eavesdrops on their conversation through her phone and hears Eun-bi turn down their offer since she already has an affiliated club. She tells them to just take care of her brother, and Eun-bi turns off her phone.
The agent asks if she wants to be dropped off at home, and Eun-bi wistfully wonders if such a place even exists for her or Sun-kyum. She says that the two of them were always alone, and asks the agent to take her to a hotel.
Mi-joo arrives at the park to meet with the online seller, and one look at the creep hiding in the slide puts her on edge. In this case, first impressions turn out to be true as the seller comments on her gender and asks for the money first.
Seeing through his tricks, Mi-joo forces him to switch at the same time and successfully buys the gun. As she marvels over the craftsmanship, the seller offers to show her how to use it and wrestles the gun out of her hands. As soon as he has it, he pushes her to the ground and runs away with the gun and her money.
She chases the seller through the streets, and in her pursuit, she passes by Sun-kyum who’s on the phone with Dan-ah. In that moment, the world slows down, and Sun-kyum watches Mi-joo run past him.
He stops a passerby—our fourth and last lead, LEE YOUNG-HWA (Kang Tae-oh)—and borrows his tube art bag. Taking aim, Sun-kyum flings the bag at the seller and hits his mark.
Mi-joo runs to the seller, and after checking to see if the gun is safe, she calls the police. Young-hwa cautiously approaches the scene to pick up his bag, and Mi-joo asks if he threw it. See her pointed gun, he drags Sun-kyum over and explains that he did it.
Mi-joo thanks him for the help, but Sun-kyum asks her to forget what she saw. He then asks if Young-hwa’s stuff is fine, and Young-hwa shows them his unscathed thermos. They’re all so weird.
Since the problem has been resolved, Sun-kyum takes his leave, but the police arrive just then with their guns blazing—quite literally since they think Mi-joo’s model gun is real. She grabs Sun-kyum before he disappears and pleads with him to help her.
Despite his aversion to being caught up in this mess, he ends up at the station with Mi-joo and writes up a report. He asks if her gun might actually be real since there are perverts in the world who like breaking the law. She says that she isn’t a pervert, and he says that he didn’t call her one.
When he comments on how fake her gun looks, Mi-joo gets defensive and asks if he’s John Wick or something. Sun-kyum has no idea what that is, and his forthright confession of his cluelessness catches her off-guard.
Meanwhile, Dan-ah fumes in her office, wondering what’s taking Sun-kyum so long to see her. Secretary Jung informs her that he’s in police custody, but there’s another, more immediate issue on their hands… her brother, Seo Tae-woong, is here.
Tae-woong flounces into the office, ignoring Dan-ah’s belligerent greeting, and places a bag on her desk. She wonders why his fans like him and then asks why he likes her. He says that it’s because they’re family, and asks why she hates him. She answers, “For the same reason.”
Dan-ah tells him to beg for affection elsewhere, and Tae-woong breaks a pot to get her to stop. She doesn’t even flinch at his violence, and Tae-woong cries that he came to drop off some treats since they taste better fresh.
After he leaves, Dan-ah wonders out loud why her half-brother acts so dramatic, calling him either good-natured or plain crazy. She still eats one of the hard candies he brought for her, and asks Secretary Jung to reschedule her meeting with Sun-kyum.
When he asks if they should intervene in Sun-kyum’s case, Dan-ah tells him not to bother since the assemblyman will take care of things. Rather, she wants to know more about the interpreter the assemblyman hired without her consent.
The sun has set by the time Mi-joo and Sun-kyum exit the police station, and she apologizes for making him miss his meeting. She offers to buy him a meal, but Sun-kyum tells her that he isn’t hungry. She assures him that she isn’t flirting and just wants to repay him for his help.
He stares at her for a while—making her squirm underneath his gaze—and then asks for her number. She saves herself as “When hungry, tang” (which can mean “bang” like a gun or soup).
He becomes curious about her hobby, finding it strange that she values a fake. Mi-joo asks if only real things have meaning, then, and explains that she likes them just because. She wonders why he helped her, and he repeats her words back to her: “Just because.”
On his way home, Sun-kyum looks up what a “John Wick” is and discovers that he’s a killer. As for Mi-joo, she tells Mae-yi at home that she believes in destiny, especially when the guy is handsome. As if fate did exist, an unknown number calls her, but to Mi-joo’s dismay, it isn’t Sun-kyum.
The next day, Mi-joo arrives at the meeting place for her part-time job and stops to gape at an advertisement with Sun-kyum as the model. As his beautiful face stares back at her, she mutters, “Dang it. He’s not for sale.”
Dan-ah and Secretary Jung find Mi-joo loitering outside their building, and when Mi-joo introduces herself as the interpreter, Dan-ah gives her a quick scan. She thought the new hire had bought their way into the position, but one look at Mi-joo shows that this isn’t the case. She asks if she’s the gofer of the gofer then, and invites her out to coffee.
While they drink at a nice café, Mi-joo calls out Dan-ah for her rude behavior, and Dan-ah doesn’t refute it since she was mad about the situation. Mi-joo admits that she probably is the gofer’s gofer, but Dan-ah shouldn’t take out her anger on her.
Dan-ah agrees and tells Mi-joo not to worry about the job since they have interpreters at their company. Realizing that she just got fired, Mi-joo begs her to reconsider, and Dan-ah gasps at her sudden change in attitude. Dan-ah comments on how Mi-joo looks like she might even kneel, and then points to the grass. When Mi-joo stares at her in shock, Dan-ah laughs and gives her the job.
As Mi-joo turns around, the world slows down, and she locks eyes with Sun-kyum who walks towards their table. Hearing that he’s the athlete, Mi-joo calls it fate since this is already their third meeting. Sun-kyum corrects her, though—it’s actually their fourth.
During the film festival, he saw her fangirling over his mom and noticed her untied shoelace. In the present, he comments on her shoes again, but Mi-joo has no clue what he’s referencing.
She introduces herself officially as the gofer as well as his new interpreter and puts out her hand for a handshake. Instead of taking it, he makes a gun with his hand and shoots her. He mentions the lighter she left behind, and Mi-joo asks if he’s really crazy. He says that he isn’t and tells her his name.
Visually and on paper, the show comes across as a typical love story of two different and beautiful individuals crossing paths and falling in love. The general structure of the episode still follows this skeletal outline, but the tone of the show is something else entirely. The banter between the characters is at times predictable yet unconventional. All the characters (and I do mean that quite literally) seem to blurt out the first thoughts in their heads every time they interact. Consequently, conversations jump around and don’t fit a linear structure. Two characters might start off on one topic but then something else catches their attention, derailing the conversation for a few minutes until they get back on track. There are also moments were no sane person would utter those words in that situation, but in this world, filters don’t exist. In some cases, this can be a refreshing twist, but it does feel jarring if you haven’t adjusted to the show’s tone.
This sense of idiosyncrasy can really be felt when the two leads meet. Both Mi-joo and Sun-kyum have enough traits to be stereotypical—she’s the plucky poor girl who needs the job while he’s the standoffish rich boy who’s all alone—but these generic boxes don’t capture the essence of these characters. Mi-joo isn’t just taking the job because she needs the money (in fact, she thinks she won’t be paid for her work) but because she needs to get back into her professor’s good graces. She’s poor, but it doesn’t define her as a person nor does it dictate all her decisions. Also, she isn’t a spirited “Candy” who faces all her problems through grit but a stalwart believer in her own self-worth who’s dedicated to her career. She might grovel when the situation calls for it and feel frustrated with her life, but she never once doubts her abilities as a translator. As for Sun-kyum, he might be quiet, but he isn’t a pushover. He says whatever is on his mind, and though his words can come across as mean-spirited, they don’t feel unkind because of the way Sun-kyum presents himself. His face always looks devoid of emotions, but because of this, his inquisitive questions come across as innocent rather than malicious. Thus, when Sun-kyum asks why Mi-joo would risk her life for a fake gun, he is seen as generally curious rather than judgmental.
While Mi-joo and Sun-kyum are definitely odd, I wouldn’t call them the strangest characters in the show. That title belongs to Dan-ah and her brother who were bizarre from start to finish. As Dan-ah mentioned, her brother is either a really innocent kid who hasn’t mastered controlling his emotions or a psychopath who constantly needs affection. If he’s any indication of the rest of her family, then the whole Seo household is filled with egotistical and violent children playing grownups. Dan-ah is more interesting than her tantrum throwing brother, but she’s still just as weird and selfish. She didn’t help Sun-kyum when he was at the police station since his dad would take care of the mess, but when the assemblyman’s meddling involves her business, she reacts. Dan-ah only cares about herself so far which also explains her attitude towards Mi-joo. At first, she dislikes her because she was the assemblyman’s hire, but when she realizes that Mi-joo does not pose a threat, she readily hands over the job when she begs for it.
Overall, the first episode of Run On was an interesting introduction to this world and its characters. From the surface, the show looked like a glass of water—familiar, clear, and unassuming—yet with one sip, that impression changed completely. I can’t tell just yet if the show is a new type of drink that will quench my thirst or if it’s actually sparkling water that’s lost its fizz. Hopefully, the show can live up to people’s expectations and deliver a fun and unique story. At the very least, I’m sure the drama will be a feast for the eyes because no matter who you look at—either Mi-joo or Sun-kyum—the pretty is blinding.
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