Delightfully Deceitful: Episodes 3-4
Against his better judgment — and others’ advice — our overly empathetic lawyer can’t help getting closer to his unempathetic former client. When a new case hits a little too close to home, will (legally obtained) justice win the day, or is conning the crooks the only way to bring the truth to light?
Almost immediately after Ro-woom fires Mu-young as her lawyer, she has a run-in with a fellow probationer who has a habit of making and selling hidden camera videos of unsuspecting women. Yo-han can’t be bothered to mediate — he’s off to meet “a female family member who absolutely is not my wife” — so he calls Mu-young to deal with the problem. (Side note: the “female family member” appears to be Yo-han’s wealthy mother, who has an odd fixation on one of Yo-han’s probationers.)
Ro-woom doesn’t care about the hidden camera victims, but she does have her hacker friend Da-jung set a malware trap that will not only leak the illicit videos, exposing the guy who took them, but will also corrupt his other devices.
Mu-young is naturally conflicted about the illegality of this. But he eventually caves and corners the guy into recording a testimony that Ro-woom didn’t steal his phone (so he can’t walk it back later and implicate Ro-woom for the malware), then reports him to the police. Then Mu-young pays Da-jung to scrub the victims’ footage and personal information from as many online databases as she can.
Ro-woom may have fired Mu-young, but he’s determined to help her anyway as a “friend.” So when she turns up on his doorstep because her apartment flooded, he lets her stay in his guest bedroom for free (and pays for the fruit she steals from the neighbor’s deliveries). It’s not long before she’s asking about the case he’s working on, and they’re debating whether revenge or a trial is a better means of achieving justice.
The case in question is that of impoverished mother SEO GYE-SOOK (Jang Young-nam), who adopted her son out to rich friends, only for her son to end up dead. Gye-sook is certain the couple killed him for insurance payouts, but there’s no evidence, and they’ve turned around and sued her for defamation. If she won’t settle, she’ll face prison time.
The case hits home for Mu-young, and not just because of his empathy powers. As a teenager, he’d watched his own mother struggle to scrape by and spiral into despair until she finally left. Feeling that he had no right to claim he understood her pain, he’d told her to go, hoping she would find peace on her own. Now, seeing his mother in Gye-sook, he pulls long hours trying to find a solution for her, on one occasion rushing over in the middle of the night to stop her from committing suicide.
Ro-woom, miffed that Mu-young isn’t interested in her… less than legal… suggestions, decides to show him up. She pulls an elaborate con over the adoptive parents by posing as a psychologist and making them believe their biological son is a genius in need of elite schooling. By the end of it, they’re eating out of her hand and eagerly hand over their money.
Needless to say, Mu-young is not thrilled to come home and find Ro-woom sitting on her spoils. He’s terrified she’ll be caught and jailed again, but she flippantly dangles a cell phone in front of him. It has something important stored on it, she says, but if he insists she return the money, the phone will go away, too — and he’ll regret that. Mu-young resists for a while, but again eventually caves.
The important file is a video that clearly shows the adoptive parents ignoring Gye-sook’s son as he drowns in the river. Mu-young, outraged, turns it over to the prosecution and the news. Then he comforts Gye-sook with her son’s diary and the assurance that he didn’t resent her for doing what she felt she had to.
While all this action unfolds, Ro-woom’s con team deals with a high-stakes case of their own. Errand boy Ringo has been acting as a middle man for a voice phishing scam that went south, making him the scammers’ prime target. They beat him within an inch of his life, then kidnap him from the hospital, intending to sell his organs to recoup their losses.
Ro-woom’s plan is straightforward: nab the high schoolers who ran off with the money and hand them over to the scammers in exchange for Ringo. But there’s a weird tension between her and Da-jung, the latter of whom gets Mu-young involved.
He’s at the police station, having just watched the video of Gye-sook’s son dying, and he gives Ro-woom an ultimatum: he’s reporting Ringo as missing, which means the police are on their way to find him. So she’d better figure out a way to 1) rescue Ringo, 2) keep the high schoolers out of harm’s way, and 3) return the stolen money to its rightful owners, all before the police arrive.
Ro-woom pouts, but complies. With her team’s help and a little voice acting, she uses the scammer’s own voice phishing scam to secure the money (which she returns to the victims), the scammer’s personal information, and Ringo’s safe release. Only after it’s all over does Da-jung realize Mu-young pulled one over on them. He never called the police. Right on cue, Mu-young shows up at their hideout, announcing that he wants to join their fraud team.
While I still have a lot of questions about these characters and the story this show is telling, I think the biggest question mark right now is Yo-han. Sometimes, it feels like he’s supposed to be comical and almost endearing, like the sequence of him getting drunk and crashing pantsless in Mu-young’s living room. But other times he ranges from annoyingly pushy to downright creepy. Like that same drinking scene, wherein he forces his way into Mu-young’s home and insists they stay up drinking, and also tries to convince Mu-young to switch psychiatrists for some reason.
And on that note, I’m not sure I like the message of Mu-young tossing out his medication so he can operate as his full, empathetic self — especially since he does it without consulting Jae-in. It may turn out fine for him, but in real life that can be extremely dangerous.
Something I did like this week, however, is a dynamic that I kind of wish had been built into the show from the beginning as a consistent framing device. In these episodes, we had Mu-young and Ro-woom both acting as slightly unreliable narrators at times — her in describing her cons, and him in sessions with Jae-in — as we watched the events unfold. It’s an interesting way to explore them as characters, and it also helps make the fourth-wall breaking less jarring. But since it’s not used consistently, the show’s tone is still kind of all over the place.
That said, while I wouldn’t say I’m particularly attached to any of these characters yet, I’m definitely intrigued by them — especially Da-jung and whatever has been going on with her and the team while Ro-woom was in prison. Now that we’re past the setup, with Mu-young deciding to side with the con artists instead of sticking to legal avenues, I’m hopeful we’ll be able to dig a little deeper into everyone else’s motivations.
- Premiere Watch: Delightfully Deceitful
- Meet the con artists of tvN’s Delightfully Deceitful
- Cat and mouse dynamics in tvN’s Delightfully Deceitful
- Fraud and freedom in Delightfully Deceitful’s teaser
- Chun Woo-hee is tvN’s Delightfully Deceitful con artist
- Chun Woo-hee is Delightfully Deceitful for Kim Dong-wook
- News bites: March 9, 2023
- News bites: March 1, 2023