The Law Cafe: Episodes 3-4
If you thought The Law Cafe threw a lot at us during its premiere episodes, then sit tight, because this week our supposed rom-com said, “Hold my soju,” and came at us with even more antics and a surprisingly dark twist. The face behind our big bad corporation is nastier than expected, and he sends a violent warning message to our leading lady.
EPISODES 3-4 WEECAP
Last week I compared The Law Cafe to the love child between Our Beloved Summer and Vincenzo, and the first two episodes left me thinking this rom-com took after the former more than the latter. Well, as this story ages out of its infancy and enters the awkward prepubescent phase, I’m starting to see a stronger resemblance to Vincenzo. Our villain is not as campy and unthreatening as I was initially led to believe, and Yuri’s latest investigation tackles a heart-wrenching case of child abuse. (So, you’ve been warned.)
Before we get into the nitty-gritty of our drama’s shift to the dark (themed) side, we pick up where we left off, with Yuri feeling a little…funny after watching Jung-ho successfully talk Suk-joon down from the ledge of his building. Her heart’s racing, but her extensive history with panic attacks — which we learn (through flashbacks) that Yuri has consistently suffered from since her father’s death — assures her that she’s experiencing something else. But she’s unable to recognize her symptoms for what they really are: a growing attraction to Jung-ho.
Her complete denial and inability to recognize her feelings are a running joke this week, and her confusion is only exacerbated by Jung-ho’s constant hot and cold behavior — which seems plucked straight from the lyrics of a Katy Perry song. One moment he’s offering to help her fight against Dohan Construction on behalf of the building tenants, and the next he’s dismissing her lawsuit as a lost cause that will prolong her clients’ pain and suffering. Then he does another 180 spin and reminds Yuri of her law cafe’s original, founding purpose: resolving her clients’ problems before they ever reach a courtroom.
Yuri’s clients aren’t interested in sticking it to the big bad corporation. No, they want relief from the excessive noise caused by their building’s cheap construction, and the most expedient way they can receive restitution is by forcing Dohan Construction to settle quickly — and quietly — outside of court. To do that, Jung-ho says, they have to think outside the box, and the plan that he comes up with is both ingenious and toe-tappingly catchy.
Inspired by Suk-joon’s past stint as a professional guitarist, Jung-ho recruits his cousin PARK WOO-JIN (Kim Nam-hee), Yuri’s new employees BAE JOON (Kim Do-hoon) and SEO EUN-KANG (Ahn Dong-goo), and Suk-joon to be a part of a band. The twist is that they aren’t practicing in the same room together. Instead, each member is stationed in a different apartment, and as they play, their ability to hear each other and stay in sync measures the quality of the apartment complex’s soundproofing.
The team filmed their unconventional concert and uploaded the video to the internet, adding commentary that clarifies that they performed the same test in a variety of buildings that were constructed by different companies, and so far their findings have demonstrated that the apartment complexes built by Dohan Construction created the most noise pollution. They end their video by gently guiding their viewers to speculate and draw their own — but obvious — conclusions.
The video sends Pyun-woong into a tizzy, accomplishing exactly what the Law Cafe rock band wanted. Dohan Construction contacts Yuri, demanding that she take the video down, so Yuri and a sharply dressed Jung-ho — lol at everyone’s reaction to seeing him in a suit — then meet with Dohan Construction’s lawyers. It is during their mediation that Yuri hands them the terms of her lawsuit. Sure, she’ll take down the video, but in exchange she wants compensation for her clients.
Dohan Construction (reluctantly) settles with Yuri and provides the tenants — well, those that were brave and agreed to file a lawsuit — with enough money to renovate and soundproof their homes. The tenants who feared that a lawsuit would go public and cause their apartments to depreciate in value, however, are SOL, and Yuri smuggly hands them her business card so they can contact her if they ever need a lawyer for a different matter.
Yuri and Jung-ho celebrate their victory with their mutual friends and Yuri’s flower boy employees. While Jin-ki does his best Salt Bae impersonation at the grill, everyone else eats, drinks, and toasts to their success — completely oblivious to the creepy onlooker spying on them. This is the first sign that our story is about to get dark, but for now the party continues on with the group deciding to play a truth-telling game.
It is during this drinking game that a tipsy Yuri finally decides to ask Jung-ho why he (fake) broke up with her in college. As Yuri continues to air her grievances about the past, Se-yeon gives the uninitiated members of their party a quick run-down of Yuri and Jung-ho’s fake college relationship, but everyone goes quiet when Yuri makes a vaguely suggestive demand of Jung-ho: “Stop pretending you don’t like me!”
She then promises to take good care of him if he comes to her — but does she mean romantically? Everyone holds their breath… Annnnnnd the moment is interrupted when Se-yeon goes into labor — wait, what?!
I had to go back and revisit the first couple of episodes to confirm that I did not miss something obvious, but a casual rewatch confirms that the writers were intentionally discrete about Se-yeon’s pregnancy. The signs were there: excessive snacking, complaining she was uncomfortable, the way she held her belly in the wedding photo on the side table, and the glass of juice she held up while everyone else toasted with wine. Unfortunately, as amusing as this reveal was in hindsight, it was a massive missed opportunity for the writers to keep the gag going until the end of the drama.
After bidding Se-yeon and Jin-ki goodbye at the hospital, Yuri walks Jung-ho back to his building and clarifies that her earlier proposal was a business proposition. They work well together, and she wants him to be a partner in her law cafe shenanigans. He coldly rejects the offer, though, harshly and abruptly rebuilding the wall between them — spackling the bricks one-by-one with his noble idiocy.
And this is when things turn dark, Beanies. After Jung-ho’s rejection, Yuri finds the door to her cafe unlocked and ajar, and the place has been ransacked. But that’s not the worst of it. No, the adorable neighborhood dog was slain — a violent warning from Pyung-woong.
Jung-ho tries to shield her from the sight, but it’s too late. She’s traumatized and rooted to the spot, so he has to scoop her up and carry her to his apartment. Jung-ho the Curmudgeon is quickly replaced by Jung-ho the Protector, and when Yuri wants to return to her apartment the next day, they publicly argue in front of Joon, Eun-kang, and the neighborhood ajummas over where she should stay until the culprit is apprehended.
The ajummas squee when Jung-ho suggests that Yuri should stay with him, but she balks at the inappropriateness of it. Jung-ho argues back that they’re like family — like brother and sister! — and their relationship is so platonic they could sleep in the same bed together. That last bit is overheard by Yuri’s mom (Hwang Young-hee), and while she acts maternally scandalized at first, she — like the rest of the neighborhood shippers — would be fine with them sharing a bed if it means Jung-ho is going to be her son-in-law.
Instead of gaining a son-in-law, though, Mom gets a new houseguest. The compromise for Yuri’s current living predicament is to have her stay a few nights with her mother and step-father, and I appreciate that they chose to have Mom get remarried after Yuri’s father died. Although Yuri describes her relationship with her stepfather as being a bit awkward, the quietly harmonious glimpse into her present-day family life provided a foil for Yuri’s next case, which featured a significantly more troubled household.
A woman comes to the law cafe to inquire about the possible legal measures she can take against her neighbor. She claims he’s stalking her family and staring inappropriately at her daughter, but after speaking with the neighbor and inquiring with police, Yuri learns that the woman has a history of child abuse. She’s been neglecting her oldest daughter YOON SOO-AH (Kim Tae-yeon) and punishing her by locking her in a cupboard.
At night, Soo-ah has been sneaking into the law cafe, which explains all the ghostly noises Yuri has been hearing. Soo-ah’s mother is arrested, but Soo-ah is missing. She hasn’t been seen since the night the dog was murdered, which was the night Yuri mistook Soo-ah for a ghost.
Once Yuri realizes Soo-ah stole her wallet and used her credit card, Yuri and Jung-ho are able to pinpoint Soo-ah’s last known location, which is near the former home of the foster family that took care of her and her sister the last time their mother was arrested. After a night of searching the nearby area for Soo-ah in the rain, Yuri and Jung-ho return to the cafe. There they find a starving Soo-ah raiding the refrigerator.
She’s heartbreakingly skittish, as her years of abuse have conditioned her to expect punishment instead of caring and understanding, so it takes a little bit of coaxing for Yuri to assure Soo-ah that she’s not upset she stole her wallet. Once Soo-ah finds the courage to come closer, she tragically admits that she wants to return home because she’s worried that her younger sister will take the brunt of their mother’s punishment if she’s not around — ooof! Right in the feels!
After reuniting the two girls with their former foster parents, Yuri is understandably emotional, and as she watches Jung-ho walk ahead of her, she’s overcome by the urge to hug him. She caves to the impulse, runs to catch up with him, and latches her arms around his waist, but that isn’t enough. She looks up, and tells him that she wants to kiss him. And so she does.
He’s so shocked that he forgets to close his eyes. But after she pulls away and explicitly tells him that she doesn’t want to be his “family,” he regains his senses and initiates their next kiss.
Woo wee! Things are moving really fast! I had to double-check to see how many episodes this drama is supposed to be because I was not expecting the romance to progress this quickly. Personally, I’m not a fan because my favorite moments have been rooted in their bickering, and I don’t know if that chemistry can be maintained if they start making goo-goo eyes at each other instead. Then again, the source of Jung-ho’s noble idiocy has not been resolved, so he could very well kiss-and-run, which would bring us back to the beginning of their crazy emotional roller coaster.
Overall, though, this drama has me feeling like I accidentally stumbled across a furry convention. My first instinct is to just walk away, but then I realize I have soooo many unanswered questions, which makes me want to take another look and gawk at the chaos.
Some of this drama’s chaos is Pyun-woong. As far as bad guys go, I’m still on the fence with his character. Part of me thinks the role — and all its daddy issues — would have been better conveyed by a younger actor. On the other hand, there’s something engagingly unpredictable about a forty-something villain whose evil persona is akin to a powertrippin’ child killing a bunch of ants with a magnifying glass.
Heroes and villains aside, though, there are currently a lot of under-featured characters that I would like to see more of going forward. Obviously, Se-yeon and Jin-ki are two of them, but now that they have a newborn, real world logic would dictate that means we’ll see them less. I guess there is still hope for Joon and Eun-kang — especially, Eun-kang. They can’t keep teasing us about his six-years in prison stint and not tell us his backstory. I’m right there with Joon, wanting to know every juicy bit of gossip about this mysterious keyboard-playing barista with a criminal past.
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