Oh hot diggity. New crack drama alert! I just can’t wait for the next episodes, and yet I dread it. The end of episode 2 had a ‘D-14’ stamp in red across the screen, and it sure did make me excited for the next two long weeks to come. Not to mention, it’s by my favorite writer So Hyun Kyung (of Shining Inheritance, Prosecutor Princess, 49 Days). So I guess it’s no brainer I’d like this drama.
I personally won’t be doing recaps, but I will summarize the first two episodes in this ‘First Impressions’ post. We’ll see what happens later on.
It starts off with a bang. Seriously.
First Jang Tae San (Lee Jun Ki) has flashes of being next to a dead body, and someone – that we later learn is Senator Jo Seo Hee (Kim Hye Ok) – says to make sure he will never tell the truth. He’s already arrested for this supposed murder, and is driving away in a police van.
In the opposite direction drives a crying Park Jae Kyung (Kim So Yeon). We don’t know why she’s crying, but she’s a hard hitting investigator based on the little flashbacks we see of her. Slo-mo as her car passes Jang Tae San in the van, and her speeding causes a flurry of accidents to occur behind her.
Cars swerve as they try to beat the light and a truck doesn’t brake fast enough. It slams into the police van holding Jang Tae San, and the van flips over. A few cars screech to a halt, and a motorcyclist skids down the street, unable to turn away from the accident fast enough.
Flashback to several days prior. Tae San is a former gangster who’s lived a life of gambling, womanizing, and occasionally “manages” a pawn shop owned by his fellow gangster. All the gangsters work under Moon Il Suk (a terrifying Jo Min Ki), an unforgiving mob boss who deals drugs and commits murder – and the past couple of times, pinned the crimes on poor Tae San.
Moon Il Suk has a new lady by his side – one of his bar girls named Oh Mi Sook (Im Se Mi, That Winter the Wind Blows). An innocent little thing, she also harbors a huge crush on Tae San and goes to the pawn shop every day to pawn something just so she can see his cute face.
One day, Tae San is arguing with the pawn shop owner about one of the pay outs he made when Seo In Hye (Park Ha Sun) comes looking for him. She gets to the point: she needs him to take a blood test because she has a daughter dying of acute leukemia, and he might be a match as a bone marrow donor. Tae San’s confused as to why she’s approaching him after eight years of no contact. In Hye: “My daughter is eight.”
Aha. Tae San puts the pieces together and he goes into shock; eight years prior, didn’t he tell her to get an abortion? Didn’t he say he was leaving the both of them? Despite his demands, In Hye clearly didn’t get an abortion. But she doesn’t expect him to ever meet her daughter Soo Jin or be a father to her. In fact, she’s already got a fiance – detective Im Seung Woo (Ryu Soo Young), who also happens to be the son of the chief of police.
Of course, as we later learn there’s a story to his seemingly cold heart. Eight years ago, when In Hye got pregnant, Moon Il Suk forced him to go to jail for him. If he didn’t, then he and In Hye would have been killed. To spare In Hye the pain, Tae San told her to get this abortion and that she was a burden. As for In Hye – she told her daughter that her father was dead.
Tae San can’t get his newfound daughter out of his mind, and goes to get the blood test. While at the hospital, he sneaks into the pediatric wing to find his daughter Soo Jin (whom In Hye won’t let him meet), and accidentally finds her. He recognizes her foot tapping habit, and she recognizes him. She calls him “Daddy,” which confuses him because he thought he was dead to her. She latches on to him anyways, and gives him one of her stuffed monkey dolls to hold for her until she can be around fur toys again.
Turns out, Soo Jin has a photo of In Hye and Tae San, all ripped up but put back together with stickers. That’s why she recognized him. (Lee Chae Mi is. so. cute!)
Tae San ends up being a match, and he happily offers his bone marrow. The doctor sets a surgery two weeks later, on the 26th, as Soo Jin needs to go through some preparatory examinations and get irradiated to kill all the cancer cells. Tae San is instructed to stay healthy and don’t get any wounds or infections.
On to the other plot: Senator Jo is the face of humility and kindness in the political world, fighting for welfare families and disabled children. She keeps to a small apartment, and claims to have a son that’s sickly. But she’s a two-faced angel, as she makes a shady drug deal with Moon Il Suk. It’s a profitable trade – worth 400 million won – and it’s set to arrive on the day of her charity auction at the end of the month.
Senator Jo and Moon meet at Oh Mi Sook’s home, as he thinks that she’s trustworthy and won’t spill the beans. However, she’s actually artfully placed a digital camera with full view of her living room on a bookshelf, and remotely turns on the video camera before she leaves the house. She then emails Jae Kyung that Jo and Moon are in her apartment at that moment.
Jae Kyung has a list of people she wants to capture before dying, and Senator Jo and Moon are at the top of the list. A workaholic tomboy, she’s unfortunately on a business trip in Chicago when Mi Sook emails her. Because Senator Jo doesn’t trust Mi Sook, she has the girl followed and her phone wiretapped. And sure enough, when Mi Sook calls Jae Kyung with the code phrase “I miss you,” Senator Jo tells Moon of his gal pal’s betrayal.
Cue Moon storming into her home as she’s trying to leave, and stabbing her repeatedly until she dies.
How to get away with murder now? Frame it on Tae San. He tells Tae San’s boss to send him on a useless trip to a storage facility and then to Mi Sook’s home. As soon as Tae San arrives, he’s knocked out, drugged, and placed right next to Mi Sook’s bleeding body. When he wakes up, he has no idea what has happened, and is caught red-handed holding a knife by the police.
He’s immediately arrested, and Seung Woo is in charge of his case. All the hard evidence points to him, and the CCTV cameras that could have logged his presence at the storage facility and the pawn shop have all disappeared. The storage facility he was checking out hours ago was also cleared out. Tae San’s coworkers testify against him as well, and it really looks like a hopeless case for him.
Tae San realizes quickly that Moon is behind all this, but rather than telling Seung Woo that, he mulls it over, choosing silence as his only defense. He knows he needs to tell his lawyer, or the prosecutor, as it will help him get out in time of his surgery. He doesn’t know about the camera filming Senator Jo and Moon’s rendezvous in Mi Sook’s house; in fact, no one knows yet. However Mi Sook had pawned her camera to Tae San in an attempt to hide it and keep it away from herself, and Tae San in turn didn’t properly store it in the shop and brought it home. His friend/roommate finds the camera and thinks it’s something he could borrow for personal use with his girlfriend. The camera ends up in the girlfriend’s hands as she transfers the pictures to get them printed. Tae San does have his friend investigate Mi Sook’s ties to Moon, just to confirm if there are any.
When Senator Jo discovers that Moon framed Tae San, she gets even more pissed off. Does he think that just because it looks like Tae San did it, that Jae Kyung won’t figure out his ties to Moon? And soon enough, all threads will lead back to him (especially if Tae San says something) and Senator Jo. She wants him eliminated completely. So Moon sends a lackey to the same jail so that in the evening, he can strangle Tae San. That fails though, as Tae San punches the guy senseless (and is once again framed for beating an innocent man up).
With Chief Im’s influence, Seung Woo must transfer him out of his station and send him to the prosecutor to get formally charged. The evidence is all stacked against him, confession or no confession. At the same time, Jae Kyung returns from her trip in Chicago and discovers that Mi Sook tried to contact her. When Mi Sook is nowhere to be found, Jae Kyung has her assistant/paralegal-with-a-crush-on-her to go to Mi Sook’s house, and they both find out that she’s dead.
Jae Kyung cries with regret as she drives, because she feels completely at fault for bringing Mi Sook into this. Mi Sook was someone she had saved from a life of drugs, and was like a dongsaeng to her. Because Mi Sook owed Jae Kyung so much, she volunteered to help Jae Kyung on her vendetta even though she knew it’d be dangerous.
Meanwhile, In Hye and Soo Jin celebrate the news that someone will save her soon. They vow to get through the next 14 days together, and to stay strong. Crikey.
Back to the beginning of episode 1, where Jae Kyung’s reckless driving leads to a car crash. Tae San ends up being the only survivor in the police van, and so he crawls out and covers his handcuffs with a towel. The motorcyclist’s bike is left on the street, and while everyone is fussing over him, Tae San steals the motorbike and runs for it.
He’s never felt more reason to be alive than now, for his daughter.
I swear this drama gets my heart pumping. Knowing the premise makes every scene and dialogue loaded with meaning, which adds to my anxiety when I watch this show. This feeling of apprehension makes me look forward even more to this show, and has an exciting feeling that none of So Hyun Kyung’s previous dramas had. I’m glad she’s foraying into action/thrillers, but one theme has remained the same: the father-daughter relationship.
This father-daughter relationship is unique because this time the father doesn’t know his daughter exists. But that bond of knowing you’re blood-related is undeniable, and it draws Tae San to her. (It’s similar to the mother-daughter relationship in You’re the Best Lee Soon Shin, where Mi Ryung had an undeniable attraction to Soon Shin even though she didn’t know it was her daughter.) I would love to see how this plays out because I want him to develop a stronger bond to his daughter, and yet I know it’d be asking too much for him to reunite with In Hye. In a way, I don’t even want them together – I just want Tae San to be able to see his daughter every weekend. That’s how important their relationship is to me, and I hope that So Hyun Kyung will focus on that. After all, in the past three dramas (except for My Daughter Seo Young, which I haven’t watched and therefore don’t know anything about) the drama eventually focused on a daughter’s relationship with her father.
And then we have another type of father-daughter relationship brewing: Seung Woo and Soo Jin. He acts as a stepfather to her, and yet loves her as if she were his own. Though he loves the mother first and foremost, it’s clear that he cares about Soo Jin and wouldn’t be a dismissive stepfather.
The scenes between Tae San and Seung Woo were tense and painful for me to watch because it would be between two men who love one little girl dearly and want her to live, but are seemingly on opposite sides of good and evil, and yet really are on the same side. I wanted to scream at Tae San and say, “Just tell him the truth already! He’ll be on your side! He’ll believe you!” but I also knew that wasn’t going to be true. It’s a tough hurdle for these two men, and no doubt jealousy and rivalry over In Hye will make it a tougher hill to overcome.
Lee Jun Ki’s performance had a dash of what I thought I saw in Time Between Dog and Wolf and My Girl, but it’s certainly matured. He still manages to bring out a very very nuanced performance. Camera can just focus on him all day and just feed him lines to react to, and you can read every single expression on his face. Drool… But other than wanting him as my baby daddy, he really makes me feel his hopelessness and his desire to save a girl he’s only known for 24 hours. I believe it. He makes me believe it. And boy am I relieved that he’s a smart cookie too. I hope his pairing with Jae Kyung will help bring down Moon Il Suk and Senator Jo.
Now for my girl Kim So Yeon – it was refreshing to see her in this character. It’s like how she was in Doctor Champ except she’s a prosecutor now. I think she’s perfectly cast because she plays spunky so well – it rings true for her real personality as well based on what I’ve seen in interview clips. (Side note: I’d love to see her on variety like Running Man because I think she’d be competitive, but a total klutz.) It was brilliant to cut her hair too; though I like her with long hair, it would not have suited the character at all.
Jo Min Ki on the other hand is absolutely terrifying. He makes me feel sick inside, and I think that’s brilliant acting on his part. He’s so greasy looking that he could be a Korean Snape – except I wouldn’t love his character in any way. Him and Kim Hye Ok make a foreboding pair. She maneuvers smoothly between innocent and kind to scheming and evil. I love the nice touch of her owning an old flip phone as her character is supposed to be the epitome of humility. It wouldn’t be right to give her a Samsung Galaxy Note II or S4 just for product placement.
And now – I will have to listen to Nell on repeat until the next episodes air.