Cafe Minamdang: Episodes 1-2
Things are off to a quick start in the endearingly quirky world of Cafe Minamdang. As an allegedly omniscient shaman continues to gain popularity by solving criminal cases, an up-and-coming detective relentlessly pursues every suspicious lead she can, and we happily bear witness to a whole lot of hilarious shenanigans.
EPISODES 1-2 WEECAP
We first meet our suave swindling shaman NAM HAN-JUN (Seo In-gook) showing off his “spiritual” abilities at MK Hotel’s open recruitment, “reading” the candidates through a TV screen while jumping around chairs.
Despite his eccentricity, MK Hotel CEO LEE MIN-GYEONG (Hwang Woo-seul-hye) absolutely trusts him, even allowing him to barge in and conduct a shaman ceremony, complete with a huge fan and brass bells. After “sensing” a vengeful spirit, Han-jun zeroes in on the MK Hotel president. It turns out the president is guilty of sexually assaulting a former secretary until she took her own life.
Everyone’s in awe of Han-jun’s skills, but behind his shamanism is a hardworking team. His younger sister NAM HYE-JUN (Kang Mina) is a genius hacker always gathering intelligence, while former detective GONG SU-CHEOL (Kwak Shi-yang) takes care of on-ground investigation. Finally, as a former profiler, Han-jun can fill in the blanks and paint a complete picture of their clients’ lives.
On regular days, Han-jun sees his clients at Cafe Minamdang, which is always filled to the brim with fans hoping to see him and people seeking his advice. Good thing they’ve got part-time employee JO NA-DAN (Baek Seo-hoo) helping out. He’s not as in the loop as the other two, but he does occasionally assist the crew with their schemes.
Despite their small size, the Minamdang crew has a lot of power. For example, they can easily monitor if someone is fleeing the country, like the MK Hotel president plans to do. Hye-jun tips off Daeun Police Team 7, and the recently appointed leader HAN JAE-HUI (Oh Yeon-seo) answers the call. She gives chase, fights off armed gangsters, and successfully apprehends the escaping criminal.
After being mistaken for a rookie, Jae-hui finally gets to introduce herself. Her much older teammates DETECTIVE JANG DOO-JIN (Jung Man-sik) and KIM SANG-HYEOP (Heo Jae-ho) recognize her as Han the Ghost, who became infamous for allegedly taking down a drug cartel without any weapon or back-up. While gossiping about their new leader, the team gets shocked — the first of many — as she sneaks up on them like, well, a ghost. Lol.
Back at Cafe Minamdang, Han-jun gets a call from hotel CEO Min-gyeong, who is worrying about the weird behavior of her husband, Chairman SHIN GYEONG-HO (Kim Won-shik). Han-jun assures his VVIP client he will “consult the spirits” — by which he really means he’ll watch CCTV and dash cam footage.
As the Minamdang crew retrace Gyeong-ho’s trail, they learn that he was driving drunk, crashed into a motorbike, and buried the man’s body. The crew searches for the hit-and-run victim’s body, and after getting scared of a “zombie” at a cemetery, they find him alive — but barely.
Jae-hui decides to take on the case. Detective Jang warns her to be careful since many eyes are on her, but she shows little care about the higher-ups who want her out. After uncovering Gyeong-ho’s involvement, Jae-hui learns this isn’t his first rodeo with the police. According to Detective Jang, Gyeong-ho has already been accused of murder before, but after some bribery, his case was ruled as an accident.
This just encourages Jae-hui to continue pursuing the investigation, so she enlists the help of prosecutor CHA DO-WON (Kwon Soo-hyun), a.k.a. the Chatterbox, to secure a warrant, and he easily agrees.
Unfortunately for Jae-hui, Han-jun is out to foil their plans to take care of his VVIP chaebol client and her husband. After accurately deducing the events of the first murder, Han-jun tells Gyeong-ho to follow his instructions if he wants to be saved.
Using the technicalities of the law, Han-jun renders Team 7’s hard evidence illegal and useless after rookie detective NA GWANG-TAE (Jung Ha-joon) received the dash cam footage just one minute earlier than the warrant’s arrival. Even through the screen, I can feel the frustration coming off Team 7, especially Jae-hui.
After getting his client out, Han-jun smiles mockingly at Jae-hui. Yet outside the police station, he berates Gyeong-ho, kicking his shins and ordering him to help his victims instead. Angry and frustrated, Jae-hui follows Han-jun out to confront him, asking him if he’s doing this for money. He simply replies: “Who doesn’t like money? Why can’t I live chasing my base desires?”
Disappointed, Jae-hui is losing hope in the current Han-jun. She remembers how a younger Jae-hui inspired her to be a cop who protects both civilians and criminals within the rules of law. She reminds him of his own words (with a judo throw just for good measure) and demands that he stop what he’s doing — or else. “I’d rather crush you myself than see you end up being arrested by someone else.”
Feeling guilty, Han-jun tosses and turns at night. He resolves to hand over Gyeong-ho to Jae-hui, petulantly justifying to himself that that was his plan in the first place! He brainstorms with Hye-jun and Su-cheol to use National Police Agency Internal Inspector JUNG CHEONG-GI (Kwon Hyuk) as bait to lure Gyeong-ho out.
The Minamdang crew recalls how they’ve already failed to intimidate Cheong-gi before. In a flashback, we see a bound and blindfolded Cheong-gi kneeling on train tracks. Han-jun and Su-cheol threaten to leave him to the train’s mercy if he doesn’t answer their questions. But despite their threats, Cheong-gi stays mum and even triumphantly cackles after realizing there’s no actual train. It was just Hye-jun and Na-dan simulating one. LOL.
That’s why, in the present, a disguised Hye-jun approaches Cheong-gi to offer a huge bribe if he follows CEO Min-gyeong’s orders, while the crew leaves the cafe to put the rest of their plan into motion.
Unbeknownst to them, Jae-hui breaks into the cafe, where she finds their collection of dossiers. According to the files, her older brother Han Jae-jeong is a victim and a former prosecutor who released arsonist Choi Yeong-seop (this name again!) and was eventually murdered by him. Previously, Jae-hui was also shown investigating Choi Yeong-seop’s case, which seems to be the same case that got Han-jun kicked off the force.
Jae-hui’s realizations come to a halt when the Minamdang crew return. Hiding in the closet, she ends up accidentally peeking at Han-jun changing clothes (which includes him wiggling in bright red boxers). When it seems like she’s about to get away, her phone suddenly starts ringing, alerting Han-jun to her presence. As he’s about to open the door, Jae-hui throws a towel at him — and we end with that cliffhanger.
Clearly there’s a lot that connects our two leads, and in our epilogues, we get even more hints — but both bring tragedy, albeit on different levels. In the first epilogue, Han-jun sobs in the middle of a house destroyed by fire, while Jae-hui tears up upon seeing a heavily burnt body being carried out.
The second epilogue deals with lighter but still painful events for the young Jae-hui, who experiences her first heartbreak after realizing Han-jun is already in a relationship. More questions arise when her brother Jae-jeong approaches her, calling her Jang-mi. Uhm, what? Keep us hanging, why don’t you…
Before starting this drama, I didn’t have a lot of expectations. I watched the trailer, found the sneak peek hilarious and Seo In-gook still handsome and charming, and promptly forgot about it until release day. Now, I’m pleasantly surprised as I found myself giggling throughout; I didn’t even notice the two hours passing by. Whenever Seo In-gook brings out the fan and the brass bells while chanting or laughing maniacally, he never fails to make me laugh. He’s overly confident and adorably ridiculous as Han-jun, and I love it.
I also enjoyed the imagery of Jae-hui as a ghost complete with all the blurred surroundings and eerie murmurs. Paired with shaman Han-jun, I feel like it could be some sort of foreshadowing of how she’ll continue to ~haunt~ him as their relationship develops further.
The part I wasn’t prepared to see was the assault/murder reenactment. I’m not sure it was entirely necessary, since all it did was show how quick Han-jun’s mind works — but the show already did that so many times before. Still, I’m eagerly waiting more episodes and honestly can’t believe I’m looking forward to Monday again so soon after Business Proposal ended. But Cafe Minamdang definitely has me hooked right now.