Agency: Episodes 3-4
Now that our heroine is in it to win it, she goes all in and makes a bold wager to prove she’s more than just talk. She and her newfound nemesis one-up each other using whatever is at their disposal, including the employees they move like pawns in their high-stakes game. Meanwhile, a new executive is in town and ready to dazzle.
EPISODES 3-4 WEECAP
Last week Ah-in declared war, and this week she delivers. After learning of their demotion, Woo-cheol and his stooges are furious. But their backers can’t help them – Ah-in is fully within her rights to handle personnel matters within her department. As insurance, she manages to turn one of the contractors who then provides receipts from clubs the men visited using company funds.
Faced with proof of their indiscretions, the men have a choice: quietly accept the demotion or be fired. Chang-soo only cares about covering his own butt, so he sends the non-Woo-cheol directors (whose names aren’t important enough to remember) to the China branch. Round 1: Ah-in.
Now that the department is rid of a couple of its terrible directors, the regular employees are thrilled and Ah-in’s popularity skyrockets. But within the higher ranks, she’s ruffling feathers. Ah-in knows she can’t win over everyone, so she doesn’t try. Instead, she intends to create factions: hers and Chang-soo’s. Byung-soo is not onboard and suggests they focus on creating allies, not enemies. Ah-in is too hardcore for that and insists she needs to oust her enemies to replace them with allies where possible.
Her next move proves even more divisive. She orders a personnel evaluation for all the department heads hired through open recruitment. The HR director refuses to allow it, so Ah-in calls a board of directors meeting. She makes a convincing argument that due to poor performance and mismanagement by several department heads, talented workers are defecting to their competitors and contributing to massive revenue loss.
Ah-in surprises the room by putting her job up as collateral. If she can’t increase revenue by 50% over the next six months, she’ll resign. She challenges the other execs to put their money where their mouth is and risk their positions too, but no one has the guts. The ad agency president CEO CHO is impressed enough to greenlight Ah-in’s proposition, despite Chang-soo’s sputtering protests.
It’s satisfying to see Ah-in throw Chang-soo off his game, even if it is only briefly. When he confronts her angrily, she tosses his own words back at him: people make mistakes when they’re worked up, so maybe they should talk once he’s calmed down. Ah-in warns him that he’s about to see what makes a wildflower different from a pampered houseplant.
Elsewhere, pampered houseplant Hanna’s biggest concern is that her rival has more social media followers than her. She’s nothing if not proactive and immediately sets up a secret filming situation that shows her chaebol chairman father casually licking a yogurt foil like one of the peasants. It goes viral and not only does Hanna get her followers, but she causes a spike in global revenue for the relatable chairman video.
Chairman Kang is so used to her antics that he takes it in stride. She may be exasperating, but it’s clear she’s loved. Chairman Kang knows they can’t curb her ridiculousness, so he only asks that Young-woo keep her safe. Hanna’s grandfather and founder of the company KANG GEUN-CHEOL proudly notes she takes after him – business is all about instincts, not meticulous thinking.
Hanna gets along less splendidly with her older brother and his fiancée, the daughter of another chaebol family. The fathers Chairman Kang and Chairman Kim talk backdoor deals and the joys of melding your empires. Then, Chairman Kim gets arrested outside for financial crimes. Whoops.
The arrest brings about a problem for Ah-in’s plan to increase revenue since it largely depended on the advertising work for Chairman Kim’s company. Under a lot of stress, Ah-in stops by her psychiatrist OH SOO-JIN’s office for more meds. I’m assuming they must be friends because the “session” is bizarrely casual and not what I’d call professional.
Friend or not, Soo-jin gives it to her straight: Ah-in will never heal if she doesn’t address the root of her problem. She needs to forgive herself — the lonely, insecure woman who pushes people away because she’s scared to be abandoned. Ah-in does not take that well, lashing out that she’ll stop coming if Soo-jin continues “crossing the line” (which is sort of the whole point of mental health professionals).
While Ah-in contemplates her next move at work, Chang-soo prepares to strike back. He convinces the department heads to rally behind him and deals quite a blow. Suddenly, none of the clients are taking Ah-in’s calls. Thankfully, she’s got a friend in Jae-hoon who immediately calls her after being approached by Chang-soo and asked to decrease his ad spend for the year. Jae-hoon knew something was up because what advertiser asks you to give them less money?
Back at the company, Chang-soo takes things a step further and gets almost the entire department to sign a resolution calling for Ah-in’s dismissal. She sees it as confirmation that everyone is in it for themselves, but Byung-soo points out that all the regular employees are terrified of Chang-soo and trying to survive. Despite how bad this seems, Ah-in knows it’s just a power move – there’s no way the company would be okay with the optics of its employees dismissing their new female executive.
Ah-in regroups and takes inspiration from her talk with CEO Cho. Although he’s mostly taking a neutral position in this fight, CEO Cho does seem quietly on Ah-in’s side. Or, at least, not on Chang-soo’s side. He reminds her that internal fights cease when there’s an external threat.
The perfectly timed announcement of Hanna’s appointment as Chief Social Media Officer adds a new element to the equation. While Ah-in schemes about how to use Hanna to her advantage – she senses Hanna is smart underneath her cultivated ditzy image – Hanna stresses over how to dress like a real office worker. Young-woo talks her out of the Emily in Paris look, but he does encourage her to be herself.
Hanna appears to be taking her role seriously and gets frustrated when her father tells her she just needs to show up. It’s not like he’s sending her to work to actually, you know, work. Chaebol nepotism at play, folks.
Meanwhile, Eun-jung deals with her own personal crisis. She’s under pressure from her family to spend more time at home with her young son who doesn’t understand why only his mom isn’t home. Eun-jung is torn since she obviously loves her son, but she doesn’t want to have to choose between her family and her dream. And she shouldn’t have to since her husband is a stay-at-home dad and her mother-in-law lives with them, so it’s not like her son’s needs aren’t met.
I get that it’s hard to see her five-year-old son so upset that she’s always at work, but they don’t seem to talk to him about it. Plus, if she stays home, wouldn’t that mean her husband has to go to work? Will the kid be okay with his stay-at-home dad suddenly being gone all the time? Regardless, society treats mothers who aren’t primary caregivers as sinners for wanting a life outside of the home, so Eun-jung ends up giving in, despite being miserable about it.
Eun-jung doesn’t get a chance to tender her resignation, however, because work is a complete mess of power plays with new waves of panic every other day. The most recent fiasco is that Ah-in sent an email to their clients laying down some ground rules to root out inappropriate practices: no work submitted on a Friday that’s due Monday and no personal favors.
Employees are over the moon with this development since it means fairer work practices for them, but poor Byung-soo is about to have a nervous breakdown over Ah-in’s drastic measures. It does work, though, in getting the employees to withdraw their dismissal request.
But Ah-in isn’t done yet. It’s the day Hanna starts, so of course, all the exec suck-ups order everyone to greet her in the lobby with flowers and applause. Hanna is introduced to the executives one by one, and wow does Ah-in make an impression. She notes that it’s Hanna’s first time working, right? Rather than fumbling around and causing trouble, Hanna is free to ask Ah-in any questions she has. Whoa, now that is gutsy. Even Chang-soo’s mouth falls open at the blatant disrespect. We close the week as the women face off, Hanna seething and Ah-in smiling.
Okay, so I guess we’re going with Hanna and Ah-in being enemies. I’m not sure what Ah-in is trying to accomplish by making a public enemy of Hanna, but that was a power move for sure. It’s the first time we’ve seen Hanna look truly angry, and I’m curious how she’ll respond. Will she maintain her usual carefree persona or seek to make her own impression? While I was hoping they’d team up – and maybe they will down the line – watching these smart women scheme and engage in a clash of wills could be interesting.