Cafe Minamdang: Episodes 11-12
Our heroes spend this week mostly in denial of their feelings for each other, while making a lot of progress in their investigation. But a past tragedy comes back in an uncanny parallel, putting our profiler-shaman between a rock and a hard place.
EPISODES 11-12 WEECAP
After Jae-hui’s offer and identity reveal, Han-jun vehemently protests against working together, especially knowing she’s his best friend’s sister. Jae-hui is unbothered, even threatening him with arrest over Cafe Minamdang’s real purpose.
Jae-hui drags him through the cafe to prove just how serious she is. Though the rest of the Minamdang crew tries to save him, they quickly backtrack after Jae-hui also threatens them with arrest. Every man for himself!
Han-jun reluctantly agrees to work together, and they all sit down to plan their next step. Han-jun wants to follow the lead on Director Park. Despite letting Jae-hui in on their side of the investigation, Han-jun tells the others that he still won’t work with her. He claims he doesn’t want to see her in danger because she’s Jae-jeong’s sister.
In their respective rooms, our two leads reflect back on their previous interactions in light of what they learned. At first, Han-jun is horrified by their interactions. But when he digs up old mementos from the younger Jae-hui, he smiles warmly — all while justifying himself to Jae-jeong’s photo. Han-jun seems surprised about her identity, so I guess he really didn’t know? I thought he already knew way back in Episode 4 when he visited Jae-jeong’s ashes…
Meanwhile, Jae-hui is equally horrified to remember all the times she hit him (finally!), but it doesn’t last long because she quickly shifts her focus to the more romantically inclined memories where they held hands and accidentally kissed. Sigh, and I really thought this was going to be the start of a redemption arc for this rather violent detective.
The next day, Jae-hui heads to the cafe to meet Han-jun, and she even wears color and puts on extra makeup. Is this really the same ghost-like detective we’ve been seeing these past weeks?
When Jae-hui arrives at Minamdang, Han-jun is dismayed to find Do-won tagging along. The prosecutor gets accused of being the shaman’s fanboy after getting caught holding one of the banners from Han-jun’s many fangirls: “Together forever, Nam Han-jun.” Both Han-jun and Do-won become even more indignant after noticing they are wearing matching suits. LOL.
Han-jun really doesn’t want to work with Do-won. In response, Do-won only shows Han-jun the back of the banner: “Refusal means death.” Oof!
When that doesn’t work, Do-won brings out his final card: he has a list of Joyce Entertainment’s secret investors. So Han-jun begrudgingly accepts him into the Minamdang operations. Upon reviewing the documents, they find many big names, all of whom have invested in the company in return for sexual favors, gambling events, and more corruption.
Meanwhile, Director Park is getting anxious. He has been flooding Han-jun with messages but getting no response. So when he finally receives a text, he heads straight to Cafe Minamdang.
During their consultation, Han-jun implies there’s an “evil spirit” around Director Park’s father. His efforts get him a name: Auntie Im, who is described as a shaman providing guidance to society’s elites. Director Park begs for the shaman’s help, offering a staggering amount of money to exorcize the “evil spirit.” Our money-loving Han-jun can’t say anything but yes.
In his office, Do-won finds more information on Joyce Entertainment and its numerous affiliated companies, and even suspects one of them is a paper company. He calls Jae-hui to give her an update, but he quickly drops everything to join the police team on a trip to the mountains. Turns out the team found a lead on Assistant Gu standing as a witness for the victim in a firearms accident years ago. So they’re heading to a mountain lodge to meet their next lead.
After a slight mishap with some poisonous mushrooms, the lodge owner warmly welcomes them and freely talks about Assistant Gu. But the police team is surprised to learn that Assistant Gu has apparently been missing for years. Oh no, he’s not really Assistant Gu, is he? When the owner shows a photo, the man they know as Assistant Gu is revealed to be formerly known as IM YEONG-JOO. And the plot thickens. Who is this guy, really?
Back at Cafe Minamdang, the place is all decked out and the crew is dressed in clothes described as “the modern reinterpretation of shamanism.” Apparently, Han-jun has rented the cafe to the Taekseong Shaman Association to find more information on Auntie Im.
Han-jun learns that all Taekseong members have some sort of beef with Auntie Im, even calling her a quack. One shaman in particular is extra furious. Apparently, when they were disciples, Auntie Im murdered their shaman mentor. She’s always been evil, hasn’t she?
A fight suddenly erupts between two feuding shamans. While Han-jun, Hye-jun, and Su-cheol try to hide, Na-dan takes the stage to announce a surprise performance — by none other than the beloved Minamdang crew! LOL.
While the crew is entertaining their guests, a spy takes a photo of Han-jun and sends it to Assistant Gu, who reports to Auntie Im. She only tells her assistant to keep an eye on him, because they just need to wait for him to fall into their trap.
A few days later, everything comes to a head at the signing ceremony of the Sinmyeong land redevelopment agreement. Han-jun and Su-cheol sneak in as waiters, unaware that Do-won has received an actual invitation as a family member (though he does sneak in a date with Jae-hui in the guise of investigation).
At the party, our shaman is taken aback by Jae-hui all dolled up. They try to hide, but an excited CEO Min-gyeong, accompanied by Director Park, bumps into them, putting them in direct confrontation with Jae-hui and Do-won. After Min-gyeong lays claim on Han-jun as her fiance, we witness an exaggerated stand-off between the ladies, fighting over our shaman. LOL.
Han-jun only escapes once the waiters are called to welcome the party’s guest honor: Cha Seung-won, whom Han-jun recognizes due to his expensive perfume and immediately identifies as an insecure man obsessed with pride and privilege.
As Seung-won mingles with other important-looking people, Do-won approaches to greet him, but is forced to leave after Han-jun “accidentally” spills a drink on him.
While the brothers seem to be civil with one another, Seung-won’s face quickly darkens after a tactless Director Park talks his mouth off. Apparently, Do-won is considered the better, favored brother and was even first in line to succeed the Choekang conglomerate until he chose to be a prosecutor. Ouch?
After all contracts are signed, all the important-looking people (a.k.a. the powers that be) head to a secluded area to meet Auntie Im. Han-jun and Su-cheol pose as chefs to plant a bug in the meeting. It’s Han-jun’s first face-off with Auntie Im, who unflinchingly stares at him and gives him loads of ominous warnings.
After escaping the dining area, Han-jun and Su-cheol sit down nearby to eavesdrop. They confirm that these people were involved in Eun-hye’s murder and even hear Auntie Im’s plan to get rid of Assistant Gu to silence him after.
Seung-won finally joins the meeting, but as he starts speaking, Auntie Im shushes everyone. Oh no, she finds the bug! In a rare instance, someone has finally one-upped our Minamdang crew.
Though Su-cheol repeatedly gets back up, he and Han-jun are essentially kidnapped. A worried Hye-jun enlists the help of the police team, while Director Park and a drunk Min-gyeong witness the kidnapping. They’re able to provide the license plate to the police, who quickly chase Assistant Gu across the city.
In an abandoned warehouse, Assistant Gu interrogates Han-jun. In between numerous attempts to wake up a knocked out Su-cheol, Han-jun is forced to spill what he heard, including how Auntie Im plans to get rid of Assistant Gu after. This seemingly doesn’t faze Assistant Gu, who simply orders his goons to cut up the dynamic duo.
Unfortunately for the goons, Han-jun finally succeeds in waking up Su-cheol by bonking him on his head with a stick. He just blames it on them (LOL), so Su-cheol gets mad and effortlessly fights off each one.
Arriving just as the fight ends, Jae-hui saves Han-jun from a knife to the gut, showing off her supernatural physical strength. She makes doubly sure her crush isn’t in danger by beating up the goons even more.
Do-won and Detective Jang catch up to Assistant Gu, but after a brief scuffle, the suspect once again escapes. He does seem rattled after Detective Jang brought up his old name.
As the dynamic duo returns to Cafe Minamdang, Hye-jun cries in relief, rushing to hug… Su-cheol and not her brother! An indignant Han-jun asks her why she’s more worried about Su-cheol than him, but it only ends with Hye-jun taking Su-cheol to the hospital and Jae-hui staying behind to take care of Han-jun.
Left alone, Jae-hui and Han-jun reminisce over shared memories. Jae-hui even expects a kiss, except Han-jun backs out at the last minute, probably remembering she’s his best friend’s sister. Then they get another moment and Han-jun finally nearly leans in — except a call from Hye-jun interrupts them. Then a third moment, which yet another call interrupts. They’re never gonna kiss this week, no?
Then we cut to the love line I’m honestly more interested in: Su-cheol and Hye-jun, yay! At Su-cheol’s apartment, Hye-jun gets frustrated that he can’t pick up on the hints that she likes him. So she straight-up asks him if he likes her too, and after getting confirmation, she pulls him in for a kiss!!! Then another!!!
But a nervous Su-cheol backs away until she pulls a confession right out of him. And cue another kiss!!! I’m so happy for the two of them. Plus, it’s just funny how these two gave us the kisses we didn’t get with the main leads — but Su-cheol and Hye-jun have better chemistry than them anyway, to be honest.
The next day, back at Minamdang, Su-cheol and Hye-jun catch Han-jun and Jae-hui on the couch… cuddling? Well, if you consider Jae-hui nearly choking the life out of Han-jun cuddling.
But becoming suspicious of the new couple’s whereabouts last night, Han-jun activates overprotective brother mode. Since Su-cheol can’t lie to save his life, Hye-jun just makes up excuses. Still, Han-jun keeps a really close eye on them as the two send hearts at each other. They do need to continue working on the investigation, so Hye-jun hacks into Assistant Gu’s credit card history and finds a hip and high-end restaurant as his last transaction.
Han-jun decides to go solo this time and leaves the Minamdang crew behind at the cafe. But he does invite Jae-hui for a date in the guise of asking for her assistance in the investigation. He pulls out all the stops, ordering steak and wine and giving Jae-hui flowers.
To Han-jun’s dismay, Do-won butts into the date-slash-investigation, prompting a brief bickering between the two rivals. So they just get right to work. After interviewing the bartender, they learn Assistant Gu is a regular at the restaurant. After getting more clues, they figure out that Assistant Gu is probably hiding out at some camping grounds.
Meanwhile, Do-won has left to confront his brother about his involvement in the dark dealings, promising to send him to jail like Do-won has already done with other members of their family. I guess this confirms that Do-won is a good guy, then?
During the brothers’ confrontation, we get a hint of a previous incident involving Seung-won, which their father apparently covered up. And we also get a hint that Seung-won (perhaps along with other members of Auntie Im’s clientele) is addicted to an unknown red drug.
Elsewhere, the Minamdang crew and the police team work together to find Assistant Gu’s hideout amid a wide camping ground. They all split up to cover more ground.
Deep into the night, Jae-hui finds a lone RV in the dark. After a little snooping, she confirms it really is the bad guy’s. But Assistant Gu has been watching her, and once she’s inside, he locks her in, preparing to burn her alive. Oh no, this is just like Jae-jeong’s murder!
Han-jun arrives just in time to apprehend an escaping Assistant Gu as the RV burns in the distance. So Han-jun is forced to make a choice: apprehend the bad guy, or save the sister of his best friend? Unfortunately, we won’t know until next week what he chooses.
In this week’s final epilogue, we see why Assistant Gu has been rattled by hearing his old name. Detective Jang visits a burnt, dilapidated home in the mountains, where he finds a photo of a young Assistant Gu and his mother — who looks uncanningly similar to sewer murder victim Kang Eun-hye.
Despite uncovering a lot this week, we’re still left with a number of questions about the true motive of Auntie Im and her clients, though with the cliches in the world of K-dramas, it’s safe to infer that it involves money, corrupt chaebols and politicians, and a whole lot of power.
After being sidelined in the first half, it seems Do-won will finally take centerstage in the next episodes. We’re seeing more threads around him and his family, and as we continue to uncover the truth behind Assistant Gu and his bosses, I hope Do-won continues to be on the side of Han-jun and the rest of the good guys. In fact, the rivalry between Han-jun and Do-won is the highlight of this week. Every time they share a scene, they end up bickering like an old married couple and it’s hilarious. I’m hoping for more in the next episodes!